From Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of Rome's most important ones. Easy to reach, it makes a great base for exploring the Esquilino area. Also known as Saint Mary of the Snow, or as the Liberian Basilica r Santa Maria ad praesepium (due to the fact that it preserves those who are worshiped as the boards of the manger in which Jesus was laid on Christmas Eve) is one of the four papal basilicas of Rome.
It is the only one to have preserved the original ancient Christian structure, albeit enriched by successive additions. It was built by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), who dedicated it to the worship of the Virgin Mary.
From Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, dominated by the main facade of the basilica, just walk along the right side until you reach Piazza Esquilino, right on the back of the church.
Continue to the right on Via Cavour to a stop, to the delight of the palate, at the Ristorante Massimo d'Azeglio.
The restaurant Massimo d'Azeglio, with its wood paneling and original wine cellar used since 1878, preserves the style of of the last two decades of the nineteenth century. On the walls you can admire the beautiful mahogany paneled with artistic copper tiles from the early twenties. One of the most famous places since when Rome is a capital, it has hosted major Italian and international VIPs. They have a collection of prints and paintings of the Italian indipendence age and the memories of the two protagonists of that time: the self-portrait and a picture of Massimo d'Azeglio, who besides being a statesman and patriot was a famous painter and novelist, and a signature of the Count of Cavour. The restaurant Massimo d'Azeglio is owned by the Bettoja family for five generations.
Turning and going straight on Via Principe Amedeo we can not forget the remains of the ancient history of Rome, visible in Piazza Manfredo Fanti.
The city's oldest walls is known as the "Servian" from the second last king, Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, and dates back to the sixth century BC, although the remains of the walls of limestone blocks now visible here, are of a later period, about the first half of the fourth century BC . These are the remains of the so-called "Aggere Tulliano" the most fortified section of the wall that protected the weaker side of the city, facing the plains.
At the center of the square stands the Aquarium, a style building designed by Ettore Bernich between 1885 and 1887, as home to an aquarium. The large hall housed 20 tanks with fresh and salt water, in which were placed fish of every kind; The building also housed a lab of ichthyology and a library. The renovations caused it to move to a different exhibition.
Turn right and continue along Via Napoleone III to reach the largest square in Rome, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
The square was designed by the architect Gaetano Koch, named after the first king of Italy and it can be considered the symbol of the end of the 19th century. The garden was a masterpiece of landscape architecture: a ring of tall plane trees, cedars of Lebanon , magnolias and palms directly from Bordighera, a gift from Queen Margaret, helped to make the place a romantic green corner. The north-west corner of the gardens are the remains of the "Nymphaeum of Alexander Severus" , a water garden built by the Emperor from a branch of the Iulia aqueduct.
Hidden in a corner of the square with Via Napoleone III, is the ancient church of S. Eusebio, founded, according to tradition, on the house of the martyr Eusebius. The house, transformed into a "titulus Eusebii" by Pope Liberius since the fourth century, was turned into a church by Pope Zachary in 750. The church was incorporated as a result of a convent, given during the Middle Ages to the Celestine monks, who enlarged it in 1588.
Following Via Principe Eugenio, you can stop to try the exquisite ice cream at Fassi (Palazzo del Freddo Fassi).
The story of this famous ice-cream shop started when Giacomo Fassi and his wife Giuseppina arrived in Rome in 1880 opening a shop selling beer and ice. Some years later, their son Giovanni opened a coffee, ice cream and pastry shop in Piazza Navona, later to be moved on via Piave, reaching a wide fame in short time. Having grown on this experience and certain about the potential of expanding the ice cream business, Giovanni Fassi, his wife Giuseppina jr and son Salvatore opened the first company whose sole business was production and distribution of ice-cream; location was on the Esquilino Hill. "Palazzo del Freddo", the Cold Palace, anticipated by 50 years the success of the brick-and-mortar ice cream production, now famous by the name "Italian gelato".
Not far from the church is the temple of Minerva Medica, a Roman building of the IV century now located in via Giolitti. In reality it was not a temple, as had been believed for long time, but a precious hall within a luxury residence outside the walls dominating the area between the Santa Bibiana church and Porta Maggiore; probably, the establishment was the Horti Liciniani.
The Porta Maggiore, the Main Gate, is worthy a visit. To reach it, walk down via Principe Eugenio, then via di Porta Maggiore to end up impressed by the biggest gate of the Aurelian Walls, built by the Romans. It was built under the emperor Claudius in 52 AC to allow the Claudius aqueduct to pass over the streets "Praenestina" and "Labicana", so the gate would be a monumental part of the aqueduct.