ROME - RECOMMENDED NEIGHBORHOODS
Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Rome is the Colosseum. Located east of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian around the year 70 in the Common Era. Vespasian had the amphitheatre built as a gift to the Roman people. It is also known by the name `Flavian Amphitheatre` because it was built during the Flavian dynastic era of the Roman Empire. It was opened in the year 80, by Vespasian`s son Titus. It is built from travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, and is the largest amphitheatre ever to be built during the time of the Romans. It sits on about six-and-a-half acres of land.
While the Colosseum and the nearby Forum were the epicenters of Rome during the first few centuries of the Common Era, today the city has grown so much that it is no longer located in the most central area of town. The area which includes the Colosseum is approximately five-eighths of a square mile in size, roughly bounded by the Tiber River, the Via di San Gregorio and the Via Celio Vibenna to the east, the Piazza Venezia to the north and the Via dei Cerchi to the south. The neighborhoods (called `rioni` in Italian) that correspond to the area around the Colosseum are called Monti and Celio. Monti is the oldest `rione` in the city and still has a cozy ambiance and unique local flavor. Both neighborhoods have great dining opportunities and Monti in particular also has great cafes and bars, where many Romans go to drink and socialize every day of the week.
Points of interest in this area include the Colosseum (of course), Palatine Hill, the Arches of Constantine and Titus, the Temple of Concord, Capitoline Hill, the Altar of the Fatherland, and the Forum of Trajan. The main Metropolitana stop for this area is Colosseo, located on Largo Gaetana Agnesi near the Fontana del Colosseo. Cavour Metropolitana station is to the north and Circo Massimo is to the south.
Northwest of the Colosseum by approximately 1.1 miles is the Pantheon, perhaps the best-preserved example of Roman architecture in the world. The first building to sit on this site was a temple built by Marcus Agrippa in the 20s BCE; the current building was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and was completed by the year 125 CE. The Pantheon served as a temple dedicated to all the Roman gods (the word `pantheon` in Greek literally means `relating to all of the gods`). The building consists of a portico featuring 16 Corinthian columns (eight in the front, and two sets of four behind the front row), and a rectangular vestibule which connects the portico with the rotunda, a large concrete dome with an oculus in the middle, open to the sky. Until the 20th century, the Pantheon was considered the largest concrete structure in the world. The district around the Pantheon flourished much later, after the Pantheon transitioned from a pagan temple to a Catholic church in the seventh century CE.
The neighborhood in and around the Pantheon is roughly bounded by the Via del Clementino and Via della Fontanella di Borghese to the north, the Corso del Rinascimento to the west, the Via del Corso to the east, and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Via del Plebiscito to the south. The area buzzes with activity, and is perhaps one of the busiest parts of town. Many restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs are located in this area. You will also find lots of shopping opportunities along the Piazza Colonna and the Via del Corso. Points of interest in the area include the aforementioned Via del Corso and the Pantheon, as well as the Chiesa di San Ignazio di Loyola. About a quarter-mile south of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, you will encounter the historic `Jewish Quarter` of Rome, with the Tempio Maggiore di Roma as its centerpiece.
The area north of the Pantheon will interest tourists as it is where the Spanish Steps are located. The Spanish Steps consist of 138 steps linking the Piazza di Spagna with the Piazza Trinità dei Monti. The beautiful Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti, with its iconic dual towers, sits just off the piazza of the same name. The Baroque architect Francesco de Sanctis constructed the stairs between 1723-25. The stairs mix straight flights up with curves, terraces, and vantage points. Artists and historical re-enactors can be found along the historic Spanish Steps.
The neighborhood roughly corresponding to the Spanish Steps area stretches to the Piazza del Popolo to the north, about two-fifths of a mile away. To the south, the rough boundaries are the Piazza di San Silvestro and Via di Capo le Case, with the Tiber River bounding the area to the west and the Villa Medici to the east. Points of interest include the aforementioned Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo (the latter of which features picturesque fountains and a stone obelisk). Other points of interest include the Mausoleum of Augustus, built in 28 BCE; and perhaps the most popular shopping streets in Rome, the Via del Corso and the Via dei Condotti, where you can find luxury stores and couture fashions. The Metropolitana station corresponding to this area is Spagna station, just off Piazza di Spagna.
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome`s most recognizable attractions. Designed by architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini, the Baroque fountain is 86 feet tall and 161.3 feet wide, taking up approximately two-thirds of the Piazza di Trevi. It is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. Pope Clement XII moved forward with previous Popes` plans for a fountain in the Piazza di Trevi, as they thought the fountain that was already built there wasn`t dramatic enough. Work began in 1732, and was finished in 1762. Pannini finished Salvi`s work after Salvi`s death in 1751. The Trevi neighborhood is so named because it was the junction of three roads (`tre vie`), and a fountain was built there because it was the terminal of the Acqua Vergine aqueduct. That aqueduct still brings water to the Trevi Fountain today. Tourists routinely toss Euro coins with their right hand over their left shoulder; local lore says that people who do this ensure that they will return to Rome in the future.
The area is roughly bounded by the Via del Corso to the west and the Via Sistina and the Via delle Quattro Fontane to the east. The Piazza di San Silvestro and the Via del Quirinale are the rough north-south boundaries. Some of the best cafes and restaurants are located in this area, in particular the cluster around the Largo del Tritone and the Via del Traforo. Shopping can be found along the Via del Corso, including a shopping mall around Largo Chigi. Points of interest include the aforementioned Trevi Fountain and Quirinale Palace. Quirinale Palace is one of three official residences of the President of Italy, and is built on Quirinal Hill, the highest of Rome`s famed seven hills.
South of the Villa Borghese and east of Trevi Fountain and Quirinale Palace is a portion of Rome that is one of the most exclusive -- the area on and around Via Vittorio Veneto. Via Veneto was built in the 1880s and became internationally known when it was featured in the 1960 Federico Fellini film `La Dolce Vita`, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg. Celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Tennessee Williams, Jean Cocteau and Coco Chanel flocked to Via Veneto and made it the place in Rome to `see and be seen`, a distinction it still holds today six decades after `La Dolce Vita`. If you want to find the best and most opulent hotels, restaurants, and cafes, you should look at Via Veneto and the area around it. The rest of the area is home to governmental buildings and many national embassies. Piazza Barberini, featuring the beautiful seventeenth-century Triton Fountain, is located on Quirinal Hill`s eastern side. The Via Veneto area is served by Barberini Metropolitana station, adjacent to the piazza.
One of the oldest regions of Rome, the area around, and to the south and west of, Piazza Navona is also one of the most in-demand with tourists. The area is also called the `centro storico` (historic center) and many of the streets are a maze of cobbled alleyways that date back nearly a millennium. Built on the site of the former Stadium of Domitian, which was completed in the first century CE, the piazza received its current look during the seventeenth century. The Baroque art and architecture of Piazza Navona can be credited to Pope Innocent X, who undertook the task of modernizing the square between 1644-55. In the middle of the plaza, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi surrounds the Obelisk of Domitian. Neptune`s Fountain is located on the northern end of the piazza. Points of interest on the piazza include the Museo di Roma, Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore, and Sant`Agnese in Agone. The Piazza Navona is also home to lots of sidewalk cafes, Renaissance and Baroque-era palaces (the Museo di Roma is located in one), and the annual Christmas market.
The area fanning out from Piazza Navona is bounded by the Tiber River to the west and north, and the Corso del Rinascimento and the Via Arenula to the east. About 1,000 feet to the south of Piazza Navona is one of the most famous outdoor markets in the city, the Campo de` Fiori. A lot of delicious restaurants and cafes are clustered around this market. Visit this area during the day, and then focus on the bustling Corso Vittorio Emanuele II at night. This west-east artery cuts right through this area, and is home to shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
ROME - ADDITIONAL NEIGHBORHOODS
Termini - Repubblica
The Repubblica neighborhood of Rome is one of the newer portions of the current city, having been built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Repubblica neighborhood sits to the north and northwest of Roma Termini railway station, the busiest train station in the country. It is south of Quirinale Palace and Via Veneto, with the Piazza della Repubblica serving as a rough eastern boundary and Via Milano on its western side. Piazza della Repubblica is located on the summit of Virinal Hill; Repubblica Metropolitana station is on the other side. This area buzzes with activity day and night, and is home to dozens of hotels and other accommodation options. The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is located just a few streets away, off Via Torino.
Termini - Central
North and northeast of Roma Termini train station is the Termini Central neighborhood, centered around Piazza dell`Indipendenza, the Baths of Diocletian, and the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, designed by Michelangelo. The Via Gaeta, a popular eastern artery, takes visitors from the area in and around the Baths of Diocletian to Castro Pretorio Metropolitana station. There is a Metro station next to Roma Termini train station (also called Termini), which is located mere steps from the Baths of Diocletian. Dozens of hotels from all price points are located in this area.
Termini - Esquilino
The Esquilino neighborhood covers an area of approximately 2.5 square miles south and southwest of Roma Termini train station. The western boundary is the Piazza dell`Esquilino, where the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is located. During the time of the Roman Empire, Esquilino was considered an imperial neighborhood. Until the 20th century, it was considered one of the richest neighborhoods in the city. Today it is home to people from dozens of nations who moved to Italy for better lives. You will find lots of delicious restaurants clustered south of the train station and south of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. If you are looking for restaurants that serve non-Italian food, head to this neighborhood. You will find Japanese, Indian, Chinese, and even African restaurants. Lots of hotels are clustered around Roma Termini train station and the Manzoni Metropolitana stop, southwest of the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II (also home to a Metro stop -- Vittorio Emanuele).
The Vatican City is the smallest nation-state in the world, comprising just 109 acres located a quarter-mile from the western banks of the Tiber River. Vatican City offers the Vatican Museums, St. Peter`s Basilica, and the Vatican Gardens. The neighborhoods around the Vatican are called Prati on the northeastern side, and Borgo on the southeastern side. Visitors will find lots of shopping options in Prati, along the Via Cola di Rienzo. Lots of restaurant options are located either in Prati, closer to the Tiber River and the Ponte Regina Margherita, and in Borgo between the Via Crescenzio and west of the Castel Sant`Angelo (the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the most noteworthy point of interest in this area outside the Vatican itself). This area is the northwesternmost neighborhood most tourists will visit, and it is 3.2 miles by car from the Colosseum (a 20-minute drive in normal Rome traffic!). The closest Metropolitana stop to Vatican City is Ottaviano, on the Termini/Repubblica line.
The Trastevere neighborhood is located on the western banks of the Tiber, a mile south of Vatican City and immediately west of Aventino and Testaccio on the other side of the river. The beautiful mosaic-filled Chiesa di Santa Maria in Trastavere is located at the end of an inland promenade, known to locals as `La Passeggiata`, which takes visitors from the area just south of the Vatican past the Parco del Gianicolo, where there are a number of monuments dedicated to famous Italians. You will fall in love with the Trastevere neighborhood, with its cobbled streets, slower pace, and lovely sidewalk cafes. Lose yourself in this bohemian area on the other side of the Tiber.
Aventino and Testaccio
The southernmost of Rome`s seven hills is called Aventine Hill, and the Aventino and Testaccio neighborhoods are built on or around this hill. The Via Marmorata separates Aventino (to the north) from Testaccio (to the south, closer to the Tiber). At the northern end of this neighborhood, you will see the Circus Maximus, the largest stadium in ancient Rome. Sights of note in Aventino include the Circus Maximus and the gardens below: the Rome Rose Garden (`Roseto di Roma Capitale`) and the Rome Orange Garden (`Giardino degli Aranci`). The Orange Garden in particular offers beautiful views of the city.
Testaccio is positioned about 0.2 miles north and northwest of the Pyramid, which is the tomb of Gaius Cestius, one of the members of the old `religious corporations` of ancient Rome. Aventino and Testaccio are home to a number of noteworthy religious buildings: Basilica dei Santi Bonifacio e Alessio and Basilica di Santa Sabina all`Aventino in Aventino, and Chiesa di Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio. Testaccio in particular is known for its budding food scene, and is home to a few Michelin-starred restaurants such as Giulietta Pizzeria and Felice a Testaccio.
The closest Metropolitana station to Aventino is Circo Massimo; the closest station to Testaccio is Piramide.