- The Colonna neighbourhood is one of the two most desired addresses in Rome. Located in the very centre of the city, Colonna counts fabulous shops, politerati bars and 1st-century monuments as its standard décor. In a nutshell, the area mixes business with pleasure as Rome’s best people-watching piazzas reside in its streets. Tony shops populate all of the piazzas and streets, while Italy’s parliament is busy at work in the very centre of Colonna.
Follow that column. . .
Colonna’s name comes from the tall Column of Marcus Aurelius in the centre of the bent elbow-shaped neighbourhood. Via della Fontanella di Borghese/Via dei Condotti make up the northern border. Via della Scrofa borders its west end and Via Sistina is on its eastern side. The intersection of Via del Corso and Via del Tritone creates the inner angle, hence the bent elbow shape.
Points of reference in the neighbourhood are the Pantheon, the Column of Marcus Aurelius and the simple phrase ‘Piazza di Spagna’. Piazza di Spagna, also known as the Spanish Steps, is nestled in the north-eastern corner, and it seems that all roads lead here.
Colonna is bordered by Campo Marzio, Trevi, Centro and Ludovisi. Campo Marzio is home to the large tomb of Augustus Caesar and the equally monumental Piazza del Popolo. The Trevi area is more business and noted for the Trevi fountain. Centro is where it is best to get lost in the picturesque alleys. Ludovisi is known for the elegant hotels on Via Vittorio Veneto.
Know your neighbours
Colonna is both a business and political district. Hotels, shops, restaurants, offices and bars are overflowing here, giving the area a more touristy air. But take a look around. The seat of Italian government is in the centre of Colonna, at Piazza Montecitorio, so it is not uncommon to be chatted up by an Italian senator or parliament member while sipping your cappuccino. There are also several public and private schools, which mean families. Your best bet for mixing with the locals is to hang out in any of the pretty piazzas or quaint bars.
Colonna itself is a shopping option. Via dei Condotti is the most recognised street name when talking about shopping in Rome. It’s lined with almost every luxury label, Italian and then some - Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hermes are just a few. Venture in and around the side streets where you’ll find even better established brands, along with some Rome-only boutiques. Heading opposite the Via dei Condotti/Piazza di Spagna area, the shops go down in exclusivity. Take Via Campo Marzio all the way to the Pantheon and you find unique shops, luxury boutiques and local favourites. Supermarkets and home good stores like hardware shops are dotted throughout the area.
Since Colonna is in the heart of the city, the neighbourhood is effortlessly linked to any part of Rome whether by foot or public transport. It is an easy walk to Prati, Trastevere, Centro, Villa Borghese and Ancient Rome. Likewise, ATAC (Rome’s public transport system) connects to everywhere you want to go to. Keep in mind that since you are in the city centre, ATAC is a true test of patience as the streets are narrow and the traffic is congested.
Buses 52, 53, 62, 63, 71, 80L, 85, 116, 119, 160, 630, connect the neighbourhood with Centre area, Trastevere and Testaccio as well as Parioli, Piazza Mancini (stadium), Nomentana, Termini and Tiburtina stations and Villa Borghese. Barberini and Spagna on Linea A (red line) are Colonna’s metro stop and connect to Termini and Vatican.
- Colonna is a daytime adventure. Whether uncovering its archaeological and art historical sites, or having cappuccino or lunch while people watching, you’ll find that the Colonna neighbourhood is most alive when the sun is up. When the sun sets, Colonna quietens down and families head home. Don’t let this discourage you - the best window-shopping and sightseeing is done at night.
Colonna’s not-to-miss site is the Pantheon, the famed dome of Ancient Rome. Nearby is Hadrian’s Temple in the quiet Piazza di Pietra. The Galleria Doria Pamphilj has a resplendent collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, in an equally amazing setting. Just up the street is the Fondazione Roma Museo (formerly Museo del Corso) which hosts temporary shows in addition to a permanent collection. The nearly 100-foot-tall Column of Marcus Aurelius has spectacular sculptural relief scrolling its shaft, and around the corner is an Augustan-era obelisk in front of the Italian Parliament, Palazzo Montecitorio.
Colonna claims one of Rome’s favourite coffee bars, Tazza d’Oro, as local. And interestingly, the touristy area also has several other excellent cafes such as Vitti, Antico Greco and Ciampini. Restaurants may be slightly harder to discern for quality, but reliable favourites include Pizzeria Leoncino, La Matricianella and Maccheroni. Colonna is also a hub for Rome’s most written about gelateria: Giolitti, Grom and della Palma. Food bloggers ParlaFood and Elizabeth Minchilli are constantly battling it out for the very best of the area so regularly review their posts.
Colonna’s nightlife can be found in its piazzas – like Rotonda, Pietra and Coppelle -where until 8:30pm cafés are still busy with the end of aperitivi (cocktails). After which, most head home or to restaurants. With the neighbourhood calm, most look to the Centro and Testaccio for nightlife, areas easily reachable by foot (Centro), bus and taxi. Our secret tip - head to a terrace or rooftop bar like the Grand Hotel de la Minerve. It may be less lively, but the Roman panorama cannot be beaten.
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