The Best Things to Visit on the Via Veneto in Rome

The Aurelian Walls sit between Via Veneto and the third-largest public park in Rome
The Aurelian Walls sit between Via Veneto and the third-largest public park in Rome | © Raimund Kutter / imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Mark Nayler

Luxury hotels sit alongside celebrity haunts on Via Vento, one of the most expensive streets in Rome. Discover the must-visit sights in this historic part of the capital of Italy.

Via Vittorio Veneto was the starring location in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film ‘La Dolce Vita‘, in which journalist Marcello Rubini trawls louche bars and high-class nightclubs for celebrity gossip. Follow in his footsteps with our guide to the top attractions in this exclusive area, including a cocktail joint overlooking St Peter’s Basilica, a legendary cafe and a crypt decorated with human skulls.

1. Marvel at the Fontana delle Api

Architectural Landmark

Fontana delle Api at Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy
© Desislava Haytova / Alamy Stock Photo

The understated Fountain of the Bees marks the meeting point of Via Veneto and Piazza Barberini and dates from 1644. Originally intended as a watering spot for horses, it was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), a Neapolitan sculptor, architect, designer and painter who invented the baroque style of sculpture. Bernini’s more elaborate Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) is situated in the middle of Piazza Barberini and was completed the year before the Fontana delle Api.

2. Stroll through Piazza Barberini

Architectural Landmark

Berninis Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini
© Clearview / Alamy Stock Photo

A natural start or finish point for a stroll along Via Veneto, Piazza Barberini is named after an Italian noble family whose power reached its apogee in 1623, when cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. It’s dominated by three works by the pioneering sculptor Bernini: the Fontana delle Api (1644), the Fontana del Tritone (1643) and the Palazzo Barberini, which now houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art.

3. Ponder Renaissance art in Palazzo Barberini

Historical Landmark

National Gallery of Ancient Art with renowned collection of artworks in Barberini Palace
© Life Collection Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Two years after cardinal Maffeo Barberini ascended to the papacy in 1623, he bought a villa on Quirinal Hill. It was renovated by three of the top 17th-century architects: Carlo Maderno; Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who took over when Maderno died in 1629; and Maderno’s nephew Francesco Borromini. Today, it’s home to one of the most underrated art museums in Rome. Highlights include masterpieces by Raphael such as La Fornarina and Caravaggio’s Narcissus at the Source.

4. Explore the gruesome La Cripta dei Cappuccini

Cathedral

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini - Rome (Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins)
© Paolo Romiti / Alamy Stock Photo

The darkest attraction in Via Veneto is found at number 27, beneath the early 17th-century St Mary of the Capuchins Church. Built for Capuchin brother Antonio Barberini on the orders of his brother Pope Urban VIII, these underground chapels are decorated with the skeletal remains of around 3,600 Capuchin brothers. As well as walls plastered with skulls and bones, there are two complete skeletons clad, Halloween-style, in the hooded tunics after which the order is name. Not for the squeamish.

5. Sip coffee in Cafe Doney

Cafe, Restaurant, Mediterranean, Italian

Café Doney at The Westin Excelsior
Courtesy of the Westin Excelsior / booking.com
Occupying the ground floor of the Westin Excelsior Hotel, Cafe Doney has a lineage stretching back to 1850, when Gasparo Doney, a French officer discharged from Napoleon’s army, opened a pastry shop in Florence. By the 1930s this had become the Grand Cafe Doney, a high-society hangout that Doney’s son-in-law replicated in the Italian capital several years later. Recapture the Dolce Vita chic of 1960s Rome by ordering a cappuccino at the bar, or sipping a campari on the Via Veneto terrace.

6. Tuck into a steak at Girarrosto Fiorentino

Restaurant, Italian

Fine Italian wine and premier steaks headline at Girarrosto Fiorentino, a Tuscany-inspired celebrity haunt that opened in the 1960s. Loosen your belt before tackling the 1kg (2.2lb) T-bone (serves two), which is finished by the waiter at your table, as is the fillet steak tartare. For the ultimate Fiorentino experience, start with their signature ribollita, a warming black cabbage soup that’s only cooked during the winter. A 400-label wine list features varieties from the oldest winemaking families in Tuscany.

7. Visit Villa Borghese

Botanical Garden, Museum

Lake of the Villa Borghese gardens
© Hercules Milas / Alamy Stock Photo
The third-largest public park in Rome is found at the northern extremity of Via Veneto surrounding a 16th-century mansion built for cardinal and arts patron Scipione Borghese (1577–1633). The gardens as we see them now date largely from the late 1700s and contain attractions such as the Temple of Aesculapius (surrounded by a boating lake), centuries-old trees, playgrounds and, within the villa itself, an art collection that includes sculptures by Bernini and paintings by Caravaggio, Rubens and Titian.

8. Sip a cocktail in Il Giardino Bar

Restaurant, Italian

For an early-evening aperitif with a view, head to Bar Il Giardino, situated on one of the highest floors of the five-star Eden Hotel. Take a seat on one of the leather sofas by the oversize windows, order a Martini Trevi – a lavender and bergamot concoction inspired by the historical gardens opposite – and gaze over St Peter’s Basilica. Accompany with artfully presented cicchetti (Italian tapas) by chef Fabio Ciervo.

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Alessandra Palmitesta.

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