If you are planning a trip to Rome, or have been to Rome, you need to know about this book.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings

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I have been reading, underlining, ear marking pages and sticking post it notes to this fabulous new book by Phillip Barlag.

The History of Rome in 12 Buildings: A Travel Companion to the Hidden Secrets of The Eternal City
is a fantastic way of exploring Rome, learning about its history and at the same time learning about some intriguing buildings.

Of the 12 buildings there are three of the usual suspects, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, but the author’s view of them and the information he gives shed another new light on them. Even if you have been to these buildings a hundred times over as I have (well, maybe not 100, but definitely more times than I can count) you will still gain something new from reading these chapters.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings



The remaining 9 buildings he takes you to are fascinating and although within walking distance of the Colosseum, quite possibly haven’t yet made it onto your itinerary. From the Mamertine Prison to the Mausoleum of Augustus to Ara Pacis, there is something new for everyone! If you are already familiar with all 12 buildings in the book you will still take away something new.

Rome is huge, and its sprawl can feel overwhelming to a traveler. There have been times when I haven’t ventured out to see a site or monument because it has just seemed too far, only to find later that it was in fact quite close. In the book Barlag uses a well known site, the Colosseum, as the starting point from which you head out to each of his buildings, telling you that with your back to the Colosseum this is a 15 minute walk. (Or however long it takes.) This gives you an easily understandable concept of where everything is.

He also gives you the metro stop for each site, and knowing that travelling is hungry work he gives you the names and addresses of his favorite restaurants close by.

As he closes each chapter he also gives you another building nearby that either bridges the story or the space between the one you’ve just read about and the next. It is fantastic!



If you’ve been following this blog for more than 5 minutes then you will already know that I love Rome. I adore Rome. I can’t wait to get back to Rome (in just a few weeks from writing this post) and will be taking this book with me when I go back.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings is available here on Amazon.com
Find The History of Rome in 12 Buildings on Audible here

Buy it for yourself if you plan on ever going to Rome or if you want to re-live memories of this magnificent city. Buy it for family or friends who are going to Rome.

Please also take the time to leave me a comment once you have read The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings – you will love this book, and I love hearing from you!


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.


Bargain Beauty products


Beauty products don’t always have to come with a big price tag. I love expensive makeup and skincare products as much as anyone, but I often find really great beauty items at places like Target very inexpensively.

For the Spring 2018 issue of Luca Magazine I charged our glam crew with finding fantastic beauty products that cost $20 or less. My task was to see what I could find at Target. I wanted to see if you could create all the new season’s beauty looks with bargain priced beauty products. Here is what I found:

Beauty On A Budget

This post contains affiliate links. See Disclosure Page for details on how this blog uses affiliate links.

I broke my beauty finds at Target into 6 categories


Most skin problems start with your choice of cleanser. A cleanser that strips the skin creates a dry and lifeless looking complexion for normal to dry skinned girls, and actually creates more oil for oily skinned girls! I found 2 of my favorite types of cleanser for bargain prices. Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water removes makeup and cleanses the skin and is good for all skin types. At $6.99 it is an absolute bargain!

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

My other favorite type of cleanser is an oil cleanser. Oil cleansers dissolve all makeup, even the most stubborn waterproof mascaras, and are extra gentle on the skin. Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil costs $15.99 and is worth every penny.

Burts Bees Cleansing Oil



No matter what is in your moisturizer or your foundation you still need to use a free standing facial SPF.

Neutrogena Dry Touch SPF 100

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 100 has a dry finish that keeps your makeup in place, feels light on your skin and gives you the maximum broad spectrum protection for only $9.99. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one product with me, this would be it!

Base Coat:

As the sun comes back out to play the last thing you want is a heavy foundation, but you’re not quite ready to go bare. The perfect cross season product is a BB Cream.

L'Oreal Skin Beautifier BB Cream

L’Oreal Skin Beautifier BB Cream gives you glowing, gorgeous skin, evens out your color and keeps you looking fresh! With a $7.99 price tag it is super affordable.


Eye Liner:

Every girl needs a killer eyeliner. Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel liner in black is the inkiest, glossiest black you will ever find, and at $7.99 it’s a bargain too!

maybelline lasting drama gel liner

If you prefer a pen eyeliner NYX Epic Ink Liner gives you a feline flick for the same price.

Budget Lipstick:

Cover Girl Colorliscious Lipstick

There are no end of bargain priced lip products. Some of my favorites are by NYX and cost $6.99. Their Butter Lip Glosses have a fabulous color payoff and stay nice and creamy. If you want a super saturated matte lip the NYX Full Throttle Lipstick in Firestorm packs a mega punch for the new season! My personal favorite, a lipstick that I have worn for several years now is Cover Girl Colorliscious Lipstick in shade 325, Spellbound. This is the absolute perfect fuchsia and you cannot beat it at any price point.



Target carries Essie Nail Polish, known for making the best nude tones ever. Minimalistic and Maintenance are gorgeous springtime pinky nudes and only cost $8.99.

Essie Nude Nail polish

Which bargain beauty products do you love?? Tell me in the comment section below!


Piazza Navona Rome

It’s no secret that Rome is one of my favorite cities on earth. My favorite days in Rome are the ones where I just wander aimlessly and don’t have any agenda or schedule to follow. I could spend forever exploring the Eternal City. They say one lifetime isn’t enough to see everything in Rome and I wholeheartedly!

One place that I take all of my tour groups to and that I always seem to meander through on my way to and from wherever I am going is Piazza Navona. This has to be one of the loveliest piazzas in Rome. In the early mornings Piazza Navona feels untouched – the tourists haven’t yet arrived and you can have the piazza almost to yourself.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Piazza Navona

In the evenings the piazza is not so busy and there are vendors selling laser pointers and bouncing light balls which make it fun for kids but also quite cool for adults to hang out.

restaurants Piazza Navona

The restaurants that line the piazza are bustling, and everywhere you look you are surrounded by beauty.

Piazza Navona

Sometimes while my tour groups are at the Vatican I will wander back to Piazza Navona and sit on one of the concrete benches eating a panino and watching the world go by. It’s lovely.

14 Fascinating Facts About Piazza Navona

1. It Started As A Stadium

In 85 A.D a stadium, the Stadio di Domiziano, was built at the site by Domitian. (who’s enormous palace is at the Palatine Hill, well worth visiting!) The rectangular stadium was used for contests of physical fitness, athletics and also of wit. At the northern end of Piazza Navona on Piazza di Tor Sanguigna there is a window through which you can look down and see some of the ruins of the original structure of the stadium.

 stadio domiziano ruins

For 8 euros you can take visit the ruins, and also learn about and see some other ancient Roman monuments too.

 stadio domiziano ruins

image via Classictic.com

2. Why The Name  Navona?

In Domitian’s time Romans went there to watch the agones or games, and it became known as the Circus Agonalis. Over time the name changed to in avone then to navone and eventually to Navona.


3. Baroque Piazza Navona

At the end of the 15th century the Piazza Navona became a public space and the city market was moved there from the Campidoglio. During his time as pope from 1644 to 1655, Innocent X transformed this market space into one of the leading examples of Baroque Roman architecture, employing the skills of Borromini and Bernini. His family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced the piazza.

Piazza Navona Rome

4. The Rivalry Of The Sculptors

I recently read a fabulous and hilarious autobiography called Four Seasons in Rome. The author, Anthony Doerr, was fascinated with the rivalry between Bernini and Borromini, which makes Piazza Navona even more interesting because both of them have an enormous presence in the piazza. The author was partial to Borromini, an artist sculptor that I had never really given much thought to, but of whose work I now have a big list to visit in future trips to Rome!

However the rivalry played out the result is stunning. The works of Borromini and Bernini make Piazza Navona one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Rome

5. The Fontana Del Moro

Fontana del Moro Pizza Navona

The Fountain of the Moor was originally sculpted by Giacomo della Porta in 1575 and featured a basin with four large tritons. In 1673 Bernini added the statue of the moor wrestling the dolphin. This is the fountain at the southern end of the piazza.

6. The Fontana Del Nettuno

fontana del nettuno piazza navona

Neptune’s Fountain is at the opposite, or northern end of Piazza Navona and was built in 1574 by Giacomo della Porta. It wasn’t finished however until 1878 when Antonio della Bitta carved the statue of Neptune, creating balance with the Fountain of the Moor.


7. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

The Fountain of the Four Rivers is the largest of the three fountains in Piazza Navona, and it sits in the middle of the piazza. It was originally commissioned to Borromini in 1651 but was later taken over by Bernini.

The rivers represnt the four major rivers of the four continents through which the papal authority had spread: Rio de la Plata represents the Americas, the Nile representing Africa, the Danube for Europe ad the Ganges for Asia.

8. The Obelisk

Rome is the city with the most obelisks in the world. It has 8 Egyptian and 5 Roman obelisks, as well as some more modern ones.

Obelisk Piazza Navona

The Obelisk Agonalis was originally commissioned by Domitian for the temple of Serapis, and was then moved to the Circus of Maxentius (by Maxentius). In the 1630’s there was an attempt to move it to London, but that was stopped by Urban VIII.

In 1651 Bernini had it moved (in pieces) to the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

9. The Bathing Piazza

Pope Innocent X created a tradition whereby in the summer months the drains of the three fountains were covered, allowing the water to pool so the people could bathe or at least cool off. The tradition lasted for 2 centuries until 1866 when Pope Pius IX put an end to the fun.


10. The Palazzo Pamphilij

The palace has a really interesting story. An ambitious social climbing vixen named Olimpia Maidalchini set her sights on and then married Pamphilio Pamphilj (30 years her senior), the brother of cardinal Giambattista Pamphilj, who went on to become pope Innocent X. She became very close to Giambattista, they were rumored to be lovers, and she began to influence his every move. Olimpia decided she and her husband needed a palace befitting her new status and pushed Giambattista to build her one. He decided to replace a building on their land (which was on Piazza Navona!) with the grand new palace, built by one of the greatest architects of the time, Girolamo Rainaldi.

The magnificent new palace needed more grandeur, so Olimpia had her lover-boy Pope commission the three fountains in the piazza. Innocent X wanted his favorite architect and sculptor Francesco Borromini to have the job. The Pope specifically disliked Borromini’s rival, Gianlorenzo Bernini, because Bernini had been the protégé of the previous Pope, Urban VIII who Innocent X couldn’t stand.

Bernini knew the way to get a piece of the action was to get the influence of the Pope’s girlfriend Olimpia, so he presented her with a silver model of his idea for the fountain. She loved it and had the Pope hire him.

Olimpia lived in Palazzo Pamphilj even after her husband died.

11. The Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone

As her palace was being built Olimpia decided she needed a family church as well, so Innocent X hired Rainaldi and his son Carlo to build it. Borromini built the gallery and took over the design for the façade of the church. His design was not only beautiful but also quite clever. He made the façade of the church, Sant’ Agnese in Agone, concave so that you could see the dome from below.

Borromini lost the commission after Innocent X died, and it reverted back to Rainaldi, who kept most of what Borromini had designed anyway. The church was completed in 1670.

The original structure of the church on that site was built in the 8th century and was dedicated to Saint Agnes who was martyred on that spot 2000 years ago.

Nuns in Piazza Navona

12. The Ghosts of Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona has two ghosts, and of course the ghosts have great stories.

The first is our friend Olimpia. Olimpia, was hated by the people and knew she would be defenseless once Innocent X was gone, so came up with an escape plan. As he lay dying on his deathbed, instead of staying by his side, she stole as many riches as she could from her palace and took off in her carriage over the Sisto Bridge (Ponte Sisto). When the Pope died neither Olimpia nor anyone from her family gave even one penny for his burial. After a few days of him lying there dead he was buried only because his butler helped pay for it!

The new Pope, Alexander VII had Olimpia banished from Rome and exiled to her family home in Viterbo, where she died two years later from the plague.

On January 7th, the anniversary of Innocent X’s death, the ghost of Olimpia rides her carriage from Piazza Navona over the Ponte Sisto.

The Ghost Of Costanza de Cupis

Piazza Navona’s other famous ghost comes from the same period.

In the 1600’s a beautiful noblewoman named Costanza de Cupis lived in a palazzo named Palazzo de Cupis, that backed onto Piazza Navona. She was known for her lovely, alabaster white hands. They were so lovely that an artist made a plaster model of them and put it in his shop. A customer saw the model and made the ominous prediction that whoever these hands belong to would lose them soon.

Costanza, who was in her early twenties, heard of the prediction and became so frightened she refused to leave her house. One day while she was sewing she pricked her finger and it became infected. The infection grew so bad that her hand had to be amputated in an effort to save her life, but still she died of sepsis.

When there is a full moon if you look up at the window of Palazzo de Cupis, just above the bar on via dell’Anima you can see Costanza’s hand pressed against the glass. Or so legend has it…


13. The Market Moved.

After centuries of being in Piazza Navona, in 1861 the market moved to nearby Campo di Fiori, where it remains today. In December there is a lovely Christmas market in the piazza.

Musicians Piazza Navona artists Piazza Navona

On any given day you can find artists and musicians in Piazza Navona.

14. The Vandalization Of Fontana del Moro

On September 3rd 2011 a madman vandalized one of the statues in the Fontana del Moro. Security video footage caught him climbing the statue and then repeatedly smashing the face of one of the masks bordering the fountain. Police caught him when he returned to the Piazza the next day, having been able to identify him by his sneakers.

Fontana del moro damage

Fontana del moro damage

The fountain was drained, the pieces recovered and the mask was repaired. Luckily this was a 19th century replica of the 1575 original, which is in the Borghese Gallery.

Do you know any cool facts about Piazza Navona not mentioned in this post? Please let me know in the comment section below!