Running has always been an integral part of traveling for me. It offers a mechanism for experiencing a new place – including it’s natural or urban landscape and people - from a perspective that is different than your typical tourist activity. In some cases, travel has been a means to run (i.e. for races), whereas in other cases, like my recent trip to Rome, running has been a means to travel. Nothing arouses the sense of curiosity and wonderment while traveling like running through a new city for the first time.
I put this post together to help inspire others who are looking for a similar running experience while in Rome. I didn’t do any exhaustive research, but i think I found a nice cross section of urban and trail running opportunities in and around the Eternal City that others might enjoy as well.
1. City Tour
If you only have one opportunity to run in Rome, it must be a city tour. You can see more sights in 2 hours than most tourists would otherwise see in several days. And that’s not to say that these sights aren’t worth spending several days enjoying (they certainly are), but there’s something very special about connecting them all together in one run that puts them all into context with one another and the city that they occupy. It also is a great way to get one’s bearings at the beginning of the trip, making subsequent excursions to the places of interest a little easier.
On our city tour we ran alongside the legendary Circus Maximus, circumnavigated the Colosseum, linked up the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, and finished by looping around the Vatican City with a pause in St Peter’s Square. On another we linked up the beautiful Villa Borghese and Piazza de Poppolo. We went back to each of these places during the rest of our trip to experience them with more time, but we both agreed the first impression we had on these runs were the most magical.
>> Strava Route 1: Colosseum, Trevi, Spanish Steps, Vatican, St Peters
>> Strava Route 2: River path, Piazza de Poppolo, Villa Borghese, Centro Storico
2. Villa Doria Pamphili
If I lived in Rome and wanted to run every day, this is the place I would do it. Villa Doria Pamphili is located in the southwest side of the city, easily accessible from Trastevre, and other adjacent neighborhoods. It used to be a massive estate for an uber-wealthy family but now is the largest landscaped park in Rome. The park features a nice variation of open space, trees, gardens, ponds, fountains and structures that remain from it’s original function as an estate. There is a nice combination of dirt roads and singletrack; a welcome break from the hard cobblestones of the City.
The network of trails, while unmarked, are quite logical in their layout, making it easy to cobble together a route of any distance from 1 miles to 10 miles. By staying to the perimeter of the park, a very nice 5 mile loops can be completed. Note that the park is bisected by a very busy highway, but a pedestrian bridge is located on the south side.
3. Via Appia Antica & Parco della Caffarella
Via Appia Antica (or Appian Way) is an historic road dating back to antiquity that connected Rome to the surrounding regions. It was home to many historic events, including the crucifixion of Spartacus’ army and more recently, the 1960 Olympic Marathon! There are many old tombs and catacombs that line the route, and there is certainly a sense of history that one feels when traveling along its cobbles. The first few miles are prone to traffic (except on sunday), but after that, it becomes quite peaceful and quiet and can be run for about 10 miles in each direction.
I highly recommend linking it up with the Parco della Caffarella as shown in my Strava route. The park is absolutely stunning, and has miles of singletrack on rolling grassy hills. There are also several archaelogical sites of interest within the park, but i was mostly captivated by expansive views, soft trails, and the herd of sheep we encountered (complete with a sleeping shepherd in the grass).
>> Strava route
4. River Path
Finally, if you just want to log some miles without leaving the city or having to think about route finding, the path along the Tiber River will certainly be of interest. The path is sunk below the elevation of the roads and the rest of the city, which has a nice effect of reducing noise and stress of the traffic, but it also has a bit of a “concrete jungle” vibe to it.