Rome neighborhoods: where to stay, what to visit

Published: April 02, 2013

This is a mini-guide of central Rome neighborhoods, with a description of each one's characteristics, points of interests, and of course my insider tips to find the best they have to offer.

Historical center. Most of the super-famous monuments of Rome are here: Coliseum, Pantheon, Roman forum, Altar of the Fatherland, Piazza di Spagna and the spanish steps, Piazza Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Trevi fountain, Piazza del Popolo.

You'll be literally surrounded by world's wonders: in a walk of a couple of hours you'l meet so many magnificent places that you'll be left speechless. And plenty of ancient Rome traces, of course.

I suggest to start your tour from the Coliseum (metro B station Colosseo), then move along Via dei Fori and reach first the Palatine Hill, then the Altar of Fatherland, then walk through Via del Corso and see (moving on its left/right branches) all the other spots that I listed (there are brown indications).

Saint Peter. Here is the Vatican, with its wonderful square (I haven't seen them all, but so far I consider it the most beautiful square in the world) and the Vatican museums. In this neighborhood there is also Castel Sant' Angelo, few steps from Saint Peter's square and in proximity of the river Tiber.

The area external to the Vatican walls (Borgo, Prati) is very nice, but still many apartments belong to the Vatican (they host religious organizations or they are private houses of clergymen who work/have something to do with the church). There are several shops with religious items and gadgets. It's no mistery with my friends that I dream to buy a penthouse in this area some day. With a direct wiew on Saint Peter's cupola, obvious!

You can arrive here easily with metro A Station Ottaviano San Pietro.

Trastevere and Testaccio.

Rome neighborhoods you can't miss? Definitely add Trastevere to your list.

Trastevere is a very old neighborhood, with characteristic buildings, and many (many-many) pizzerias, restaurants, bars, little shops. There's a fervent nightlife. It's absolutely the perfect place to have dinner. You'll find crowded, busy resturants and cozy small ones if you want more privacy.

Piazza Trilussa, a little square facing the river Tiber, is the ideal entry point to Trastevere. It's always crowded by youngsters who come at night to chat, drink beer outside, enjoy the summer nights, sit on the steps of the piazza. It's a common meeting point for friends.

In Testaccio (south of Trastevere) you'll find the popular street market Porta Portese, each Sunday.

There are no metro stops close, the nearest is metro B station Circo Massimo. From there it's a 25 minutes walk along the Tiber.

Termini station and, in its proximity, the neighborhood San Lorenzo and the Esquiline hill.

Termini is the main railway station in the City, connected with long-distance trains to all the major Italian cities (Florence, Naples, Venice, Milan...), with short-distance trains to the surroundings, and both the metro A and B can be taken here. There's a shopping mall inside the station, I go there from time to time for the very big bookstore.

San Lorenzo is the area between Termini, the first university La Sapienza and the Verano cemetery. It's full of students, and there are many pubs, bars and restaurants. It's very alive during nighttime but the place by itself is quite ugly.

The Esquiline hill is close to Termini too, but on its other side. You'll meet it if you do the walk from Termini to via dei Fori and the Coliseum. Don't miss the basilica Santa Maria Maggiore here. Beautiful!

Policlinico - Bologna. Two big things here.

Hospital Umberto I is the largest hospital in Rome. By getting off at metro B station Policlinico you'll see a big traffic of patients, nurses, doctors walking inside and outside the hospital.

Same metro station for La Sapienza of Rome, first and biggest university in the city. Here's where I took my degree. Most of the university is here: administrative offices, secretariat, classes, labs, teachers' offices. Then there are some smaller, detached sites in other locations of the city.

My advice: go have a sandwich at lunchtime inside the Città Universitaria, you'll join hundreds of students and you'll see them bite their panini while they study, worry for the exams, chat, flirt.

Aventine - San Saba - Piramide. It's the area that includes the Aventine hill, just close to the Circus Maximus, the residential neighborhood of San Saba and the Pyramid of Cestius.

There are a couple of places that I recommend not to miss in the Aventine: Parco Savello (popular in Rome are the "orange garden") which is a quiet, romantic garden with a nice view of Rome, and especially the Villa del Priorato di Malta where you can see St Peter's cupola through the keyhole of the Priory's front door. It's very suggestive.

Both places are within a 11 minutes walk from metro B station Circo Massimo.

Flaminio. This is the area that begins just outside Piazza del Popolo, and extends towards north. It includes piazzale Flaminio (you can get out metro A station Flaminio to reach directly Piazza del Popolo), and it's sided by two very interesting spots:

The Pincian hill stands just above Piazza del Popolo. If you take the ladders that start inside the piazza and climb, you can reach the balcony where you will have a wonderful view of Rome. You can watch the skyline here, included St Peter's cupola and the Althar of Fatherland.

If you're at the Pincian balcony, the garden of Villa Borghese is just at your shoulders. It's a big garden where you can walk, relax, or have a picnic.

San Giovanni - Re di Roma. Here is the huge piazza where you can find the big basilica San Giovanni in Laterano.

This is also the piazza where traditionally is held the concert of May 1st in Rome (it's a big free event in my city, there are always many thousands of people, but I've never been there so far). Metro A station San Giovanni.

Re di Roma in the near station on the metro A, there's a piazza with a small garden in the middle, shops, but it's not interesting for tourists in my opinion.

San Paolo. The area around the magnificent basilica San Paolo fuori le mura, that, in my opinion, can perfectly compete in beauty with the much more famous St Peter in Vatican. Not the external of the basilica, that is quite ruined and not meaningful, but the internal... it's breathtaking. Glorious place. Must see in Rome.

There's also the third university of Rome here, "Roma Tre". The neighborhood is residential, you'll see a traffic of insiders moving back and forth from here for their job, plus there is a number of pubs and restaurants.

Come here for the basilica during daytime. You can't miss it. Metro B station San Paolo.

Garbatella. Of all Rome neighborhoods this is the one I know better: I've been living for more than two years! It's a residential place, very animated during daytime, ideal to see insider life: housewives shopping in street markets, elders chatting in front of bars, parents bringing their children at school, and so on.

Buildings are very old (fascism period) but flats are quite expensive, and sometimes very expensive (especially in the old core of the district). My advice is to have a walk here at morning, or around 17-18 when people return from work: you'll see the rhythms of real romans.

Directly reachable with metro B station Garbatella.

Appia. In this area there's the Appian way, old Roman street that linked Rome to Brindisi, city in the very south of Italy. It's surrounded by a park and ancient ruins. Romans use it frequently for jogging or walking in the weekend. Very enjoyable in a sunny day.

In the same park there are the Catacombs of St Callistus, created at the end of II century, where lots of martyrs and religious people were buried.

This area is basically out of reach from the metro. You need to find a bus or get out metro A station Arco di travertino and walk for 42 minutes.

Trieste - Salario. There's a very uncharacteristic and enchanting Rome neighborhood close to Corso Trieste, it's called Coppedè, from the name of the architect who designed it. It's a set of less than 50 buildings, but many of them are super charming, like the House of the fairies, the Palace of the spider and the Palace of the embassadors.

Within walking distance from Coppedè (once crossed Via Salaria) is the entrance to the park Villa Ada, one of the biggest green areas in my city.

Coppedè and Villa Ada can be reached by getting off at metro B station Policlinico and walking for 25 minutes (opposite direction to the one you'd take to go to the university).

Eur. The business area on the city, located in the south part, but still easily reachable with metro B station Eur Palasport. Thousands of people from Rome and surroundings move here each day for their job (me included). It's quite an untypical place in Rome: usually my city is very old, with minuscule ancient buildings leaning one to the other; here instead there are big spaces, gigantic buildings and the few -the only- skyscrapers Rome has.

There are some nice gardens and a permanent small street market (cheap clothes, electronic stuff, gadgets) just outside the metro station. From a tourist viewpoint it's not super interesting (unless you want to see an uncharacteristic area of Rome or have a picnic in the gardens) but in Eur there are some big museums: Ancient Rome, High Medieval Age, Ethnographic Preistoric.

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