Rome's 4th Rione, Campo Marzio or, as we might say, the Field of Mars was its most populous in the middle ages. North of it is Flaminio; the ancient Roman Via Flaminia passed through the Porta del Popolo and ended at the Via del Corso, once the Roman Via Lata, a street of expensive things these days.
And that's the joy of this unheralded rione. It's old, it's new, it's been re-used and modified. Poke around for a week. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
You can, for example, find all manner of wines at Buccone, which puts on a face that only Rome would dare showcase. Screaming scooters blat and snarl past old men in doorways. Piazza del Popolo makes our hearts swell with pride at the idea of the common man celebrated in a gigantic piazza, until we hear that the whole deal was named after a stand of Poplar trees which stood before their fall in the face of Roman glory.
Ever see a successful modern building in the middle of Rome's historic center? Well, in Campo Marzio you can. Sort of. At least it's one of Rome's most successful museums: The Ara Pacis Augustae, an altar dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace, commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 BC to celebrate Augustus' return to Rome is sheathed in a modern glass and metal building designed by American architect Richard Meier, and Romans haven't stopped complaining about how it doesn't fit the neighborhood ever since. If it hurts your eyes, you can always glance across the street towards the sadly neglected Mausoleum of Augustus,
Over the centuries, the funeral complex where the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nerva were buried, was – not following a precise order – a quarry, a fortress, a circus, a vineyard, an arena for hunting and bullfighting shows, a theater, a construction site, a roof garden, a concert hall. In this latter shape, the Augustus building, in November 1921, hosted the Fascist Congress which marked the crucial transition from movement to party. And it will be Mussolini in person, in the '30s, to order the demolition of the theater to get back to the glorious Mausoleum. But the work failed miserably and a radical refurbishment is currently trying to put remedy to it. ~ Campo Marzio Market, Just around the Corner.
Let's see all this on a map
Open air modern art? Yes, you can see clever little displays and assemblies, usually set up on the sidewalk between the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus. These are the found art or "forced donations" as poet, artist and curator Fausto Delle Chiaie calls them.
The house and studio of artist Antonio Canova is situated at the corner of Via Antonio Canova and the Via delle Colonette. You'll know it by its decorated wall with a bust of the artist surrounded by fragments of ancient statues and such. He was one of the greatest Neoclassical sculptors, known for his work in marble. The nearby Galleria Borghese exhibits his work, "Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix". Just down the Via Antionio Canova is a Mailboxes Etc. shop. Even if you aren't looking for their services, you might find some of the interior interesting. It was once a studio of a man who made Roman art reproductions and some of the work is still there.
Also a popular attraction for those who like to sit on marble in the sun are the 138 Spanish Steps that link the Piazza di Spagna and the late Renaissance Trinità dei Monti church and square. Unfortunately for the sitters, it's now against the law to sit on the steps. Walk up them if you have the energy--or, take in the views of the steps from the bottom and, if you can wedge yourself between tourists, take a gander at the 17th century fountain, Fontana della Barcaccia, and then turn and face the next wave of tourists who flood the Via dei Condotti where all those great Italian designers have shops on one of the richest streets in Rome. If you are shopping-adverse, you can take refuge in the Keats-Shelley House at the right foot of the Spanish steps (26 Piazza di Spagna). It holds 8000 volumes, making it one of the best libraries of Romantic literature in the world.
Climb the steps in the northeast corner of the Piazza del Popolo to arrive at the Passeggiata del Pincio. From here, you can hug the walls and your sweet honey while looking down on Rome and across at the sea of domes crowned with crosses.
A little walking tour that can be taken from Campo Marzio if you're ready for some legwork involves heading up the hill to the Galleria Borghese, then heading east to the Quartiere Coppedè, Catacombs, & Villa Torlonia. See Rome Coppede Itinerary.
You're not too far from the Borghese Gardens, so you can climb the stairs and get a fine view of the Piazza del Popolo below and continue on to observe the green space on the perifery of the Eternal city and the art gallery. You may prefer to have a guide here to tell you the history, and we recommend the Borghese Gallery Tour & Tickets: With Bernini, Caravaggio & Raphael from Walks of Rome.
If you're planning your first trip to Rome, a benefit would be that you can eat the foods of regions other than Lazio in such a large city. Our favorite meal was at the little Trattoria Gran Sasso at Via di Ripetta 32. The name would imply that it serves the food of the Abruzzo, but it largely dishes out the specialties of Roman cuisine, with occasional "excursions" into the foods of the famous mountain region to the east.
The block the Sasso sits on includes three other little restaurants. We didn't try Ristorante Ad Hoc at 43 Via di Ripetta, which gets great reviews.
Near the Gran Sasso is the Grocery Store Valeri Alimentari, which looks like just another small Roman store where one might get some industrial cheese and a carton of milk when it is needed, but the deli and bread sections provided many of our non-cook dinners taken on the patio of our apartment. The selection is quite large and of high quality--and the employees are pleasant and quite patient with folks searching for good food in Rome.
Our favorite local bar in the vicinity of the Piazza del Popolo was Bar al 99, marked on the map. The pastries were fantastic. I had to have several each morning, and I've never been tempted to do that in Italy before...or since. The bar sits in the shadow of one of the "twin" churches, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Campo Marzio market is on the south side of the neighborhood, marked in green on the map. It's small and surrounded by nice cafes, open Monday thorough Saturday, 9am to 3 pm. (more)
Campo Marzio practically calls out for you to stay in a vacation apartment--or at least a friendly B&B. After the shoppers have gone and the "day trippers" from other rione have returned to their hotels around the Colosseum, it's a quiet and pleasant neighborhood adequately provisioned with great food to take home to eat--and great restaurants. We usually like to eat our big meal out at mid day and return home with treasures of Good Roman Things to Nibble On for the evening repast. It's a great place for a balcony, because not once did the noise from the street bother us; no screaming drug addicts wailing through the night made us think we were locked in an asylum. Many of the noises were pleasant; the sound of singing and music often wafted by. Your mileage may vary, of course, especially if your lodging is up close and personal with the Piazza del Popolo.
Mood44 is one of the top Guesthouses in Rome, highly rated and near the Spanish Steps.
Ripetta Central Suites is a three-minute walk from the Piazza del Popolo.
The highly-rated Holidays at Rome Apartment is near the Spanish Steps and Piazza Barberini.
If you'd like to find a suitable hotel near a tourist attraction like the Spanish Steps, Borghese Gardens or Piazza del Popolo (the orange marker) in the Campo Marzio, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments.
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