This guide is to tell you that there is a lot more this gorgeous city than the Colosseum (though that is a huge part!). Rome is made up 19 neighbourhoods, all varying in character and charm. Many fly under the tourist radar, offering an authentic Roman holiday.
Here are a few of my favourite Rome neighbourhoods.
One of The Oldest – Piazza Navona
It doesn’t get more central than Piazza Navona, Rome historic, bustling, beating heart. This area is one of my favourites in the whole of Rome. A stay in this city district places you carefully within walking distance of the most famous sights of the centro storico (old town) – the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, to name a few. It’s one of Rome’s most beautiful and historic neighbourhoods. The atmosphere in this area is always buzzing, with a new ristorante, gelateria or café to try on each corner.
You may compromise on hotel room size around Piazza Navona, but the location (and character) will be hard to beat. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, tucked down side streets off the main piazza (so you won’t lose out on a good night’s sleep).
Piazza Navona itself is one of Rome’s most happening spots. Lined with restaurants and cafes, and filled with artists, fountains and musicians, it’s the perfect spot for an afternoon aperitivo.
Where to stay: Hotel Genio
Cultural and Vibrant – Esquilino
Esquilino is one of Rome’s original neighbourhoods. Rippling out from its namesake, Esquiline (one of Rome’s Seven Hills), its heart is the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s a bustling, palm-lined square edged with Torinese-era arcades, which acts as the neighbourhood’s meeting point. You’ll find plenty of osterie here for simple and affordable Roman classics (we love cacio e pepe, literally cheese and pepper spaghetti). Stop off at Nuovo Mercata Esquilino – the neighbourhood’s busy and multi-cultural market – for the best local food picks. You’re a couple of kilometres outside the famed centro storico, but with Termini station on your doorstep, every corner of Rome is within quick and easy reach.
Where to stay: Hotel Forum
More Than a Pretty Park – Villa Borghese
The renowned Villa Borghese gardens sit at the heart of this well-heeled neighbourhood, just north of Rome’s historic centre. The district borders Parioli, one of the city’s most elegant residential areas, which boasts an appealing collection of nightlife and restaurants.
It’s the ideal spot for returning visitors, and is popular with Italophiles who have stayed in the city centre before, and are now looking to the quieter outskirts. Its leafy streets and smart buildings centre on the Pincio Hill, and the attractions of the Villa Borghese; if you only make time for one museum this time round, make it Museo e Galleria Borghese for its era-defining private art collection.
The best bit? You are within a 10-minute walking distance from the Spanish Steps and just a few minutes from Piazza del Popolo (one of Rome’s largest squares).
Where to stay: Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel and Spa
The Green District – Montemario
Rome’s highest peak (though not one of its fabled Seven Hills), Monte Mario is perhaps the city’s greenest patch of space. On the outskirts of the city centre, the hill hits 139 metres and boasts one of the best views in Rome, teetering over the majestic Vatican that spreads out below.
Thanks to its location, the crowds fall away here – which means a peaceful stay, with the sights of the centro storico a half-hour by taxi. There are also lots of bus options available.
The Vatican district sits at Monte Mario’s feet – save a full day to explore its world-class museums. On a clear day, don your comfiest shoes and make the climb to Zodiaco, a spine-tingling panoramic viewpoint.
Get Connected – Termini Station
Termini Station is Rome’s best-connected district. Termini has the city’s major train station at its heart, with excellent transport links to the rest of the Rome and beyond – ideal if you’re planning on visiting another destination during your trip.
The Termini Station is also the capital’s main hotel hub, and has plenty of its own sights worth seeing, including the half-moon Piazza della Repubblica dominated by the iconic Fountain of the Naiads.
Where to stay: Hotel Ariston
The Lesser-known One – Trastevere
Once you’ve ticked off Rome’s biggest sights – toured the Colosseum, seen the Spanish Steps – it’s time to get stuck into the city’s lesser-known neighbourhoods. Cross the Tiber River across the Ponte Sisto footbridge into Trastevere, the medieval neighbourhood best-known for its buzz.
Head to the Piazza di Santa Maria – it’s Trastevere’s unofficial heart, crammed day and night with street performers, students, tourists and bohemian locals. Follow their lead and perch on the steps of the fountain for a spot of people-watching, or pick a pavement bar or gelaterie down vibrant Via del Moro.
In Rome, smaller neighbourhoods don’t compromise on culture – there are just as many snap-worthy sights in Trastevere. Piazza di Santa Maria is dominated by the 12th-century Basilicata di Santa Maria, filled with fascinating Cavallini mosaics, while the Renaissance Villa Farnesina features fabulous frescoes by Raphael.
Go off-piste into the neighbourhood’s quaint cobbled side streets, where well-weathered buildings and tiny shops retain the feel of Trastevere’s old soul.
For the best views around (in the whole city, some say) it’s worth the 20-minute climb up the Gianicolo, Rome’s eighth hill. On the way back down, pause for breath in the Orto Botanico (botanical gardens), a green lung home to a Japanese Garden and some 7,000 plant species.
Trastevere’s best after dark, when its picturesque piazzas and narrow alleyways fill to the brim with revellers out for aperitivo in Rome’s coolest venues. Pick from fine dining to family-run – everything’s open late, so do it like a local (that’s Trasteverini, not Roman) and grab a pizza bianca at an outdoor table.
Where to stay: Donna Camilla Savelli
The Cool Quarter – Monti
The Monti district of Rome has been around as long as the Roman Forum and is a cool place to be seen, boasting dozens of hip cafes and bars. Bookshops are rife here, too, so we recommend picking up a paperback and finding a cosy reading spot in a cafe one afternoon.
There are two main piazzas in Monti, Piazza degli Zingari and Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. At the heart here is the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti and it’s worth a little sneak peek inside as it’s very pretty.
Its location is pretty key, too, pretty much slap bang in the city, just a short walk from the Colosseum.
Where to stay: Hotel Piccadilly
Which district will you be heading to on your next visit to Rome?