When in Rome… tour as Goethe did!

Posted on Aug 8, 2022 in On your own

Ah, the bygone days!

Those old times when people traveled for months… even years! It was the Grand Tour and the german writer Goethe not only experienced it between 1786 and 1788, but he also documented it with a lot of details in his famous journal “The Italian Journey”.

If you are looking for inspiration on what to do with your time in Rome, his diary is a great source… even if it is unlikely that you have the same time at disposal. So, what would Goethe recommend to visit in Rome ? (in the order he did)


  • Quirinale hill  (this was the first place he targeted in town, for the sculptures in the centre of the piazza)
  • Vatican collections where he went back again and again (he especially admired the Apollo of Belvedere, the Sistine Chapel where he also had a nap! And Raphael’s Transfiguration, when it was still in a church)
  • Palatine hill and the ruins of the imperial palace and the Forum
  • park of the aqueducts and the Ninphaeum of Egeria in Caffarella
  • Colosseum (he went back again, in a night of full moon!)
  • Frascati on the Castelli Romani
  • the church of S. Andrea della Valle and Palazzo Farnese for Domenichino and Carracci’s frescoes
  • Villa Farnesina in Trastevere (he went back twice)
  • the Domus Aurea
  • St. Peter’s basilica (he went back several times)
  • the church of S. Cecilia in Trastevere
  • Pamphili’s park and villa
  • Monte Mario hill with the beautiful villas (Mellini and Madama, one destroyed and the other not visible now)
  • Villa Ludovisi (lost forever, but he admired there the so called “Juno Ludovisi” above all, and that is now in Palazzo Altemps)
  • Ercole Farnese (now you have to go to Naples for this, at the MANN museum)
  • Velletri on the Castelli Romani
  • Tivoli
  • Galleria Colonna
  • the fountain of Acqua Acetosa
  • Augustus Mausoleum when it was a “plaza de toros”
  • Barberini palace
  • Trajan column (he climbed it!!!)
  • Palazzo Rondanini (now seat of a bank) and Villa Patrizi (now seat of the main railways company in Italy)
  • Capitoline museum, even at night with candle lights
  • Tre Fontane abbey and St Paul’s outside the Walls
  • Appian Way with Caracalla Baths, the church of St. Sebastian, the circus of Maxentius, Cecilia Metella’s mausoleum
  • the pyramid
  • Janiculum hill with the fountain of Acqua Paola and the church of S. Pietro in Montorio
  • the church of S. Maria della Pace
  • Borghese Gallery
  • San Luca Academy
  • Villa Albani (very hard to obtain a permit to enter this place now)
  • the botanical garden

Yes, I know, he was in Rome from October 1786 to February 1787 and than again from June 1787 to April 1788 and it’s hard to spend now 16 months in Rome, but this list can be covered in two full weeks of tours and you’ll really feel like a privileged connoisseur if you gift yourself with this opportunity once in a lifetime.

After the first two months spent in  Rome, Goethe wrote he believed he had been born a second time and his happiness was growing day after day with the growing familiarity with the city: why not to replicate this joyful experience?