The Via Nazionale is one of Rome‘s most important (shopping) streets and connects the Piazza della Repubblica with Trajan’s Forum. The street ends at Largo Magnanapoli. It cuts through two of Rome’s riones, Castro Pretorio and Monti.
Via Nazionale Rome
The Via Nazionale is a relatively recent street, constructed between 1864 and 1871 in order to create an easy connection between Roma Termini and the area around Piazza Venezia and Via del Corso, at the time the most densely populated part of Rome. After Piazza Venezia the also rather new Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (1886) continues in the same direction and connects Piazza Venezia to the east bank of the river Tiber and via the Via della Conciliazione to the Vatican City.
The Via Nazionale more or less follows the route of the old Vicus Longus, along what was then called the Valle di San Vitale. At the time few people were living in the area, but the Belgian minister of war for the Vatican, one François-Xavier de Mérode, had a rather acute eye for business. He had bought vast lots of land between Termini and Piazza Venezia, presuming that the area was going to be developed sooner or later. He himself ordered the construction of the Via Nazionale and sold the surrounding terrain at huge profits.
De Mérode had wanted to name the street after himself, but when the Italian troops conquered Rome in 1870 the street came to be called Via Nazionale.
There had actually been an earlier attempt to construct a street, which was to be named the Via Pia (for Pope Pius IX), but these plans were never completed.
Unfortunately ancient buildings had to be destroyed for its construction, as had part of the Villa Aldobrandini.
Nowadays the Via Nazionale is characterized by prestigious hotels (especially in the part nearer Piazza della Repubblica) and shops, catering mostly to tourists.
Via Nazionale Tourist Attractions
Saint Paul within the Walls Church
Saint Paul’s Within The Walls (Via Nazionale, 16a) is Rome’s episcopal Anglican church. It was the city’s first non-Catholic religious building constructed after the Unification of Italy. For the apse mosaic depicting Saint Andrew, the face of Abraham Lincoln was used.
San Vitale Church
The ancient San Vitale Church is located next to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. The picturesque façade is several meters below street level. At the moment it is being restored (2021).
Palazzo delle Esposizioni
The Palazzo delle Esposizioni is one of Rome’s best known modern art exposition spaces. Since its reopening after an extremely long renovation, it has hosted several prestigious exhibitions.
The enormous Palazzo Koch takes up an entire block on the left side of the street. Named after Gaetano Koch, the architect who designed it, the building is the seat of the Banca d’Italia. The courtyard is graced with a 2nd century AD statue of Hadrian’s favorite boy Antinoo.
The Villino Hüffer (Via Nazionale, 191) is the historical building to the left of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. It is the present seat of the Historical Archives of the Banca d’Italia. The bank acquired the building in 2001 and also had it restored. Most of the rooms still have the original decorations.
Just before the end of the Via Nazionale there is a long wall with just one central, rather dilapidated-looking, door. This door used to give access to the Villa Aldobrandini. The current entrance to this park is around the corner, in the Via Mazzarino. Climb the steps and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view over the Via Nazionale itself and the Largo Magnanpoli.
The remains of the antique Porta Sanqualis were found during the construction of the Via Nazionale and can still be seen in the central part of the Largo Magnanapoli.
Via Nazionale Rome Shops
- IBIS: Formerly MEL book store, with a small section of English books, a cafe on the top floor and used and half price books in the basement. Also CD’s and DVD’s, both new and used. A reasonable selection of Rome travel guides. There is a cafe on the top floor.
The nearest metro stop is Repubblica, at the beginning of the Via Nazionale. There are several bus stops along the street. The most central one is Nazionale/Palazzo Esposizioni (lines 64, 70, 170, H, N7, N8, N9, N15, N18).