Running Away: Rome, Italy

Running Away is a series of posts about running in popular vacation spots. (Previous destinations include Paris and Florence.) Highlights include where to run, what the local running culture is like, and best post-run indulgences!

All roads lead to Rome…so be glad you brought your running shoes along!

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Rome many times during several stints studying and living abroad in Italy, but I only brought my running shoes along the most recent two times, in the spring and summer 2012 when I was training for my first half marathon.

There’s a saying in Italian, “Roma, non basta una vita,” which means Rome, a lifetime isn’t enough. And it’s true. Rome is one of the most multifarious cities in the world, especially for someone who loves art, history, and food as much as I do. I know the city fairly well, and yet I feel like I could keep going back and never be able to take it all in.

Rome in the Rain

Like most European cities, a river (the Tiber) runs through the center of the city, and has a paved riverwalk path running along. For runners, this is one of the best places to start. You can cover a lot of ground running along the  Tiber River, and pass iconic sights like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Castel Sant’Angelo along the way.

When I visited Rome with my running shoes last spring, we were staying with a friend that didn’t live near the Tiber River, so for the 5 miles that I had to run, it didn’t make sense to run along the river. Instead, I just went out and ran, ending up with what turned out to be a very crooked yet scenic route. I’m sharing the photo below not as a route you should follow (I wouldn’t even be able to replicate it!) but as an example of how exploring a city through running can take you in twisted loops and turns, and not knowing the exact route can be really fun.

Running route in RomeI did, however, locate the Colosseum on the map before I went for a run, since I knew it was close by. Even though it was a rainy April morning, starting my day with a lap around the Colosseum was a surreal and incredible experience.

Inside the Colosseum

The largest public park in Rome is the Villa Borghese Gardens, which has many graveled paths and is another excellent option for runners, as well as walkers, bikers, and even go-carters. I didn’t go running there because it wasn’t close to where I was staying, but I did see many runners there. Going there for the view alone is worth it; this is what you see from the lookout on the Pincio Hill in the Gardens:

One thing about Rome: it gets HOT! When I was there in July, while training for a half marathon, and there were two days that I just had to skip because it was too hot outside and I didn’t have access to a treadmill. Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands in defeat and eat a gelato, you know?

Gelato at San Crispino

If you’re carb-loading for a long run, be sure to try a traditional Roman pasta dish, like Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Spaghetti alla Carbonara or Cacio e Pepe. Or Trippa alla Romana if you’re feeling adventurous!

The Mouth of Truth

Trevi Fountain

Did you see the 2007 documentary Spirit of the Marathon, about 6 runners training for the Chicago Marathon? They’re making a sequel, due out later this year, about the Rome Marathon! I’ll be first in line to see it and bask in nostalgia for The Eternal City, and maybe even be convinced to run the Maratona di Roma someday.

St. Peter’s at sunset

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4 thoughts on “Running Away: Rome, Italy

  1. This post made me miss Rome so much: I got to visit there in January of 2011 while on an espresso pilgrimage, and it’s true that running the city was one of my favorite things about that trip. You just see everything in a slightly different light when you’re wearing your favorite sneaks.

    Thanks for this! Love your blog, though I’ve been a lurker until now.

  2. Pingback: Spirit of the Marathon II and Running Medal Hanger | Marathons and Macarons

  3. Hi there, I’m also training for my first half marathon in March and going to be in Rome for Christmas. I enjoyed reading your article for research and will be running along the Tiber in between the pizza, pasta and gelato!

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