Via Giulia

Giulia Street
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This historic Roman thoroughfare, named after pope Julius II, was created in the early 16th century to connect the Vatican with the Ponte Sisto. It was long one of the city's most fashionable streets and wealthy citizens built impressive residences here.

Its Construction

Via Giulia, Rome
Via Giulia

Sculpture of a falcon head, Palazzo Falconieri
Palazzo Falconieri
The Via Giulia is a road that was laid out by Donato Bramante during the reign of pope Julius II, who ruled from 1502-1513. It is considered one of the city's earliest examples of urban planning. The miracle of Via Giulia is that it runs for a full kilometer in a straight line, a feat that was hard to accomplish in 16th century Rome. Indeed, it was the widest, longest, and straightest street in the city at the time it was built.

Meant to make access to the Vatican easier, the street quickly became lined with elegant churches and palaces. And though the pope's plans were only partially realized, it became an important thoroughfare, and a spot along the Via Giulia was long the prime choice of Roman aristocrats. Artists such as Raphael, Cellini, and Borromini made their homes along this expansive avenue and were joined by many others with equally impressive collections as the years passed by.

Julius II also commissioned Bramante with the construction of a massive central tribunal here, the Palazzo dei Tribunali. The ambitious complex, which was to become the street's most impressive building, was however never completed. Large travertine blocks that formed the basis of the palace are now used as the foundation for houses and can be seen between the Via dei Bresciani and the Via del Gonfalone.

What to See

While many lavish parties were once organized in the Via Giulia - with at one point wine flowing out of the Mascheroni Fountain - today the street is very quiet and lined with antique stores.

Farnese Arch, Via Giulia, Rome
Farnese Arch
A beautiful arch, the Arco dei Farnesi (Farnese Arch) spans the street. Allessandro Farnese, the later pope Paul III wanted to connect his Farnese Palace at the nearby Farnese Square with the Farnese Villa, located across the Tiber River. The arch across the Via Giulia, designed by Michelangelo, is the only section that was completed. Since the connection was never completed, the ivy covered arch serves no real purpose other than to embellish the street.

Fountain of the Mask, Via Giulia
Fountain of the Mask
Nearby is the Fontana del Mascheroni (Fountain of the mask), which was also commissioned by the Farnese Family. The curious looking fountain was created at around 1626 and replaced an earlier fountain. Its renaissance design integrates an ancient Roman granite bathtub and an ancient mask; the latter gave the fountain its name.

Across the street from the Farnese Palace is the baroque Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte (Holy Mary of Prayer and Death Church), an unusual church which bears stone images of skulls on its doors.
Skull on the facade of the Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte
Skull on the facade
of the Santa Maria
dell'Orazione e Morte
It once belonged to the confraternity that was charged with the task of burying unidentified dead.

More to the north of the street is the Palazzo Sacchetti, one of the finest palaces in the street. It was built in the mid-1500s by the Sacchetti family with designs by Vasari. It is said that inside are some of the greatest state rooms in Rome. Outside, visitors can photograph its grand stone portal.

At the northern edge of the street is the San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, a Florentine church built in the early 1600s. It is the result of a combination of ideas by rival architects Sansovino, Sangallo, and Maderno, each of whom added something to this ornate ecclesiastic structure.

Besides these highlights, many more noteworthy palaces, churches and private residences line the Via Giulia making a stroll through the street an interesting experience.

Between the Ponte Principe Amedeo and the Ponte Sisto
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