One of my new favourite things to do, when I’m up for it, is stroll through the centre of Rome at the crack of dawn. The city is clean and fresh and quiet. It’s also a totally different experience seeing the main sites. You get to actually SEE them in all their glory, without the masses of people covering them. Central Rome sightseeing at its best!
This last stroll started at about 5:30am. Sure, you don’t need to get up that early, but try and start at 6-6:30am.
5:30am: The Trevi Fountain
Arriving at the Trevi Fountain at 5:30am, I was almost by myself. Another young couple had got the memo, and was there taking photos. “Good for you!” I thought.
With an iPhone it’s not easy to capture the Trevi at this time, but you get the point.
The Trevi fountain is a huge – 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide. Early in the morning, standing at the water’s edge looking up at this massive baroque fountain, is quite something. It feels so much bigger when standing there all alone without anyone else around.
5:45am: The Spanish Steps
From the Trevi Fountain, I decided to pop over to The Spanish Steps and return a little later to Trevi when the light was a bit better.
The Spanish Steps at this time was magical. I never really visit this area, because it’s usually so overcrowded. And I must admit, I hadn’t been here in a little while.
How special is this?
Only me and a couple of friends getting their perfect Italy holiday pics. Clever travellers, coming so early 🙂
Gosh, these steps are truly a totally different experience compared to during the regular day. It’s normally a hive of activity, with people covering the fountain, the steps and the square. You don’t get to appreciate the grandeur of this place when it’s so crowded.
Can you see why it’s so worth it to get up early at least once on a visit to Rome?
The view from the top of the steps, looking down Via dei Condotti, one of Rome’s big shopping streets, was also pretty special. Pretty little golden lights still lighting up the slow-rising city.
Now it was time to head back to the Trevi fountain, and see what it was like just around 6am.
6:15am: The Trevi Fountain
There were only a handful of people now, about 20 or so. I was impressed by these savvy travellers for getting up so early to visit the Trevi. At 6am the light was so much better too!
Oh Trevi, you are spectacular!
The area on the bottom level around the fountain was so empty, compared to during the day when you can’t even see the floor. Taking time out to just sit on the bench and look up at the incredible details of this masterful fountain.
It was difficult to pull myself away, but it was time to visit my favourite building in all of Rome…
6:30am: The Pantheon
Wowza. I am used to seeing the Pantheon from about midday onwards. Very often I have strolled past in the evenings, and it’s buzzing with activity. Musicians playing sweet tunes, travellers getting in as many photos as possible, people hanging out on the steps. There are people everywhere.
At 6:30am it’s a different story altogether. Magic.
This was the first time I actually sat down on the steps at the central fountain. I never sit here because it’s usually very crowded. Now, clean and empty, chilling on the steps and marvelling at this almost-2000-years-old building was a must.
Okay, dear Pantheon, it’s time to move on. Let’s see how Piazza Navona looks early in the morning.
6:45am: Piazza Navona
A short stroll from the Pantheon is Piazza Navona. At this time of day, the sun was hitting the Sant’Agnese in Agone church. Bellissimo!
It’s interesting to know that Piazza Navona sits on top of the interior arena of the Stadium of Domitian (built in the 1st century AD and used primarily for athletic contests). It makes sense, considering the square’s long shape.
There were a few more people out and about by now. The wise ones!
This would be a great time to explore Rome on a bicycle. You could even hop on an OBike. You’ll see these yellow bikes dotted all over the city. You simply download the App, register, and then add credit to your account or connect a bank card. It’s well-priced and easy to use. Get more info here.
However, that said, Rome is rather chaotic during normal day hours. Riding a bicycle can be a little hair-raising during busy hours, dodging scooters and cars in the heat of the day. Very early in the morning though… bliss.
7:00am: Campo de Fiori
Just a 5-minute walk from Piazza Navona is the well-known Campo de Fiori market.
This market is open from Monday to Saturday, 7am – 2pm. I arrived at 7am, so it was setup time. Everything looked so clean and fresh, all the stalls getting ready for action.
Around the market are lovely little streets to explore.
When visiting Rome’s main sites like the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori, don’t forget to explore the side streets surrounding them. The Campo de Fiori market may be a tourist hot spot, but the area around it is a different experience. The little streets that run directly off the Campo square are all lovely.
Many of these little streets were named after the artisans who worked on them.
Via dei Balestrari (crossbow-makers), Via dei Baullari (coffer-makers), Via dei Cappellari (hat-makers), Via dei Chiavari (key-makers) and Via dei Giubbonari (tailors).
A nice little stroll would be to start in the Campo de Fiori square. Then stroll down Via dei Cappellari, and then right and up Via del Pellegrino, which will take you back to the square. Then stroll down Via dei Giubbonari. Lovely streets.
Stroll along Via dei Giubbonari
Via dei Giubbonari, the two images on the right of the picture above, is one of the most bustling streets. Of course, these photos were taken just after 7am, so Rome is still waking up. From about 9 or 10am it gets busier.
Along this street, you’ll find some cool clothing and shoe shops. One particular leather store that is amazing and worth a visit is Empressa. Beautiful leather jackets, coats, bags, belts, jewellery and more.
Visit one of the tiniest squares in Rome
Also along Via dei Giubbonari, you’ll find this little piazza, Largo dei Librari.
This is such a darling little square, don’t you think?
It has it’s own pretty little Roman Catholic church, Chiesa di Santa Barbara dei Librai – “Santa Barbara dei Librai”.
Also in this square is Dar Filettaro where you can get Baccalà, salt-dried and fried Codfish. Sit down and enjoy with some house white wine served in a carafe, or simply take away and eat while you stroll.
Next time you’re in Rome and visiting the Campo de Fiori market, take a little stroll down Via dei Giubbonari, and after 5 or so mins you’ll find this square on your left.
Darling little Cafe
While we’re talking about the area around Campo de Fiori, I must tell you about Barnum Cafe. This is a darling little cafe on one of the streets running straight off the market, Via del Pellegrino. This is a great cafe for many reasons. It has quality coffee and pastries in the morning and yummy food like Parmigiana Melanzane. It has good wifi and plug-points to recharge your phone. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. And… it’s simply adorable.
It only opens at 9 am, so you wouldn’t be able to visit it if you did a super early morning stroll like this. But you’ll likely visit the Campo de Fiori market at least once during your visit, so stop by Barnum for a coffee break or breakfast (sweet or savoury breakfasts are available). Or even one of their refreshing cocktails from around 6pm. Yum.
Happy sunrise exploring!
I hope you enjoyed this post and feeling inspired to get up early at least once when you go on vacation. I have done this in a few destinations including India, and experiencing the city in the early hours is a lovely change. You get to really see the city, that normally sits underneath layers of people and our ‘stuff’. In the early am it’s (almost) just you at the city baby 🙂
Let me know in the comments of any other destinations you’ve strolled through in the early hours, and what it was like. Would love to know!