Of all the cities in the world, there are few having more intriguing and rewarding areas than Rome’s neighborhoods. Standing proudly alongside such famous neighborhoods as the boroughs of New York City and the arrondissements of Paris, the neighborhoods Rioni of Rome are filled with historic sites and museums and each has its own style when it comes to hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs. See the neighborhood (rioni) map below.
Where to Stay in Rome: Rome’s Neighborhoods
The original geography of Rome had seven hills, and the earliest settlements, which date back to 1000 B.C., were built atop each hill. These hills rise around the city, and Rome’s neighborhoods are molded by these natural borders. The most famous is Palatine Hill, the most central of the seven hills. The Forum is on one side, Circus Maximus on the other. The famous story of Romulus and Remus, the brothers who founded Rome, begins here. Legend has it that a she-wolf raised the brothers in a cave on Palatine Hill. The majority of the most famous Emperors of the Roman Empire resided there as well.
Palatine Hill is located in the Historic City Center of Rome. The Historic Center is home to most of the city’s important sights, including Campo de’Fiori, the Coliseum, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.
Rome is divided by the famous Tiber River. The Vatican and Trastevere are to the west; the Historic Center, the train station, Monti/Esquillino, Villa Borghese, and Testaccio/Aventine are to the east. To make navigating the Historic Center easier, I have broken up the interior districts into four quarters: Campo Marzio, Trevi, Parione, Campitelli. Imagine a square divided into four quarters. Going clockwise, Campo Marzio is the top left corner, Trevi is the top right, Campitelli is the bottom right, and Parione is the bottom left.
The best way to navigate the Historic Center is on foot (so wear good shoes), and all of the major sites are within walking distance of one another.
Campo Marzio is home to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Ara Pacis, and Via Giulia. It is one of the most financially successful areas of Rome, and its ancient buildings are excellently maintained. Luxurious restaurants stand beside modest cafes, and for the most part, both serve authentic Roman food. If you get a hotel here, you will be close to everything. Most hotels retain the traditional architecture of the neighborhood.
Located to the east of Campo Marzio, the Trevi neighborhood is home to the Trevi Fountain, where actress Anita Ekberg famously waded in the film, La Dolce Vita. The Spanish Steps are located just north of this neighborhood.
Campitelli can be accessed by going south from the Trevi neighborhood and crossing Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (Rome’s main street). Campitelli is home to the Coliseum, The Forum, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Santa Maria in Campitelli or Santa Maria in Portico is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the Piazza di Campitelli which dates back to the 11th century. The quality of restaurants and hotels in this area is dodgy due to the large number of tourists visiting the area. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great place to stay if you want to be in the center of it all.
South of Campo Marzio and west of Campitelli, Parione is the section of the Historic Center where you’ll find some of the best food and markets. The famous piazza Campo de’Fiori serves as a beautiful flower market by day, and a lively hangout at night. The Jewish Ghetto is just south of Campo de’Fiori. The architecture no longer resembles the traditional Jewish style, having undergone impressive growth during the Renaissance, but the neighborhood is alive and bustling. In particular, the Jewish Ghetto is known for authentic Roman Jewish cuisine, much of which is fried, including carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes), which often look much like a blooming flower. Some of the most chic nightclubs are found here, and all bridges lead to the Trastevere neighborhood. Though the food and nightlife are exceptional, good luck finding a hotel in the Jewish Ghetto.
Piazza di Spagne
Just north of Trevi and Campo Marzio are the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. Filled with modern boutiques, movie theaters, and brand name stores, this is one of the modern sections of Rome. The city’s finest luxury hotels and restaurants are located around the Spanish Steps. Villa Borghese, Rome’s largest park and home to the Galleria Borghese art museum, is located to the northeast of the Piazza di Spagne neighborhood.
Just south of Campitelli, Testaccio is home to the Circus Maximus and is noted for serving unpretentious, truly authentic Roman cuisine. Circus Maximus is bound by Aventine Hill; a sophisticated residential area that continues south.
Technically its own independent state (not a neighborhood at all), the Vatican is on the west side of the Tiber River. Home to the largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican is primarily for site seeing and religious worship. The Vatican Gardens on Vatican Hill are worth exploring. There are few restaurants or hotels in this area, though some can be found within a 5-10 minute walk.
This is one of Rome’s newest neighborhoods. Located to the south of the Vatican, Trastevere has a reputation for being its own city within a city. Its origin dates back to 500 B.C., but it has only recently integrated with the rest of Rome (although hotels are still hard to come by). A neighborhood with even windier streets than Campo Marzio and Trevi, it is filled with outdoor cafes and restaurants. Via del Moro has a large number of artisan shops and boutiques.
Just east of Campitelli, this neighborhood is a mixture of modern and traditional, with a good selection of supermarkets, art galleries, and bakeries as well as decently priced hotels, wine bars, and restaurants. Here you’ll find the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore Church as well as San Pietro in Vincoli, the National Roman Museum and the Domus Aurea on Oppio Hill. You’ll also find some of the best pizza in Rome (try the excellent potato and rosemary pizza). If you’re passing through the neighborhood, be sure to stop by the Esquilino Market where you’ll find exotic foods and clothing from all over the world. Unless you are staying in the area, save your feet and take the Metro to the Manzoni or San Giovanni stops. Rome’s radiant Gay Street is located here, just a short walk from the Coliseum.
Rome’s primary train station is named Roma Termini, and the area around it is seedy during the day and down right sketchy at night. Hotels and restaurants in this area should only be frequented by seasoned budget travelers.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com