A Photographer’s Guide to Rome at Night

Without a shadow of a doubt, Rome is a beautiful city. With the perfect combination of elaborate monuments and ancient ruins, it’s one of the most photogenic places in the world. But when the sun goes down and the city is illuminated by a soft yellow light, it turns into something almost divine.

Capturing Rome at night is a dream and a definite must-do for any photographer. With the crowds of tourists gone, the experience feels almost spiritual: You’ll find yourself quietly, albeit intensely, peering into your camera—feeling small and insignificant—standing in front of a commanding ancient monument as it observes you right back.

GUIDE OVERVIEW

This map is an adaptation of Tripadvisor’s ‘A Walk Through Rome at Night’ but adjusted from a photographer’s perspective and created for anyone—amateur or professional—who wants to take the most stunning photos of Rome at night.

What to bring:  Apart from your camera, bring a tripod so you can take long exposure shots. Beware that you’ll be lugging around the tripod from end-to-end so bring your lightest one, or like what I did, a companion (my husband—God bless him) who can help you carry your gear. In the summer, bring water with you. In colder weather, bring an extra scarf or something that you can wear when it gets colder into the evening.

Tour Duration:  Tripadvisor’s estimate for this tour is 3.5 hours but it took me much longer—6 hours in total. Walking from points A to J, according to Google Mpas, takes 1.5 hours. My map has 10 stops and 4 points of interest in between some stops.  Assuming an average of 20 minutes per stop—20 mins x 14 sites = 280 mins—you’re looking at over 4.5 hours of shooting. Also, I started the route at the Pons Fabricius at sunset so that there’s enough light to capture the flowing water under the bridge.

Walking Distance:  From Point A to J, Google Maps estimates 7km. If you factor in walking around the monuments and wrong turns here and there, it’s safe to assume an actual walking distance of 8km.

Other tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes—8km of Rome’s notorious cobblestones will put your feet to the test.
  • If you have a point-and-shoot, find out how to turn off the Flash—shooting with your Flash will ruin your photos.
  • If you have a DSLR, learn how to shoot in manual mode in order to control your exposure and make the most of your camera.
  • Plan ahead on how you will go back to your hotel as you will most likely finish the tour past midnight. If you plan to take public transit, find out how late it runs, or have some cash ready for a taxi.
  • It’s easy to lose yourself looking through your viewfinder, but don’t foget to stop, look, and be awed by the sights in front of you.

Summary of stops:

A.   Pons Fabricius
B.   Temple of Apollo Sosiano
C.   Piazza Venezia
D.   Campidoglio
  Additional Stop 1: On your way down (to the right of the piazza) you will see a great view overlooking The Forum.
E.   Colosseo
F.   Foro Traiano
G.   Trevi Fountain
H.   Pantheon
I.    Piazza Navona
  Additional Stop 2: Walking along the stretch of the Tiber leading to Ponte di Sant’angelo, you will get amazing shots of the bridge leading to Castel Sant’Angelo.
  Additional Stop 3: When you’re crossing the bridge, look towards your left and take shots of Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II with St. Peter’s dome in the distance.
  Additional Stop 4: At the intersection of Via della Conciliazone and Piazza Pia, you’ll get a great view of St. Peter’s Basilica framed by street lights and some traffic—it’s a great shot with long exposure.
J.   Piazza San Pietro

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(A) Pons Fabricius. The oldest bridge in Rome. Start the tour here at sunset to have just enough light to capture the flowing water.

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(B) Temple of Apollo Sosiano west side.

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(B) Temple of Apollo Sosiano east side.

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(C) Piazza Venezia’s Altare della Patria. The gates are closed at night so you must take your shot between the rails.

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(D) This view awaits the winding climb up to Piazza del Campidoglio.

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Additional Stop 1: On the way down from Campidoglio, make sure to stop and take photos of The Forum from above.

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(E) Tripadvisor’s map ends at the Colosseo – to encourage tired legs to power through! Expect some crowd here even late at night and be ready to spend a lot of time looking for that perfect shot.

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(F) The illuminated Foro Traiano

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(G) Try to be creative at The Pantheon and capture the monument in different angles. There will always be a crowd in the piazza so use your wide angle lens to get as close as possible.

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Additonal Stop 2: Magnificent views of Castel Sant’Angelo from across the river

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Additional Stop 3: Once crossing the Ponte di Sant’Angelo, make sure to look left and capture this. This, for me, is the most beautiful ‘monument’ of Rome at night.

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Additional Stop 4 and (J): Enter the city/country of Vatican and appreciate St. Peter’s Square without the crowds.

Have you done this walk in the past? What was your favourite monument? If not, what are you most excited to see in your next visit?

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