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Travel tips

Enchanting Rome neighborhoods you can explore on foot

Jun 29, 2022 by Emily Houston

One underrated part of traveling? Checking in to your hotel and checking out the neighborhood you’ll call home. When you join us on tour in the Eternal City, you’ll rest your head in some of the best areas to stay in Rome and have free time to explore each one on your own two feet. From Esquilino to Parioli, these are the best neighborhoods in Rome, and the ways you can make the most of your time in each one—no taxi needed.

Rome neighborhood guide

As the capital of Italy, Rome is home to a whole lot of culture and nearly three million people. The city is split into 15 municipi, and within each municipio are a variety of neighborhoods. If you’re traveling to Rome and want to dig in to the top sites, hidden gems, and culinary delights, the best neighborhoods in Rome are located within Municipio I and Municipio II.

  • Municipio I is the heart of the city. This municipio includes the city center and famous sites like the Colosseum and Roman Forum. All the rioni, which are Rome’s historic districts, are in this area.
  • Municipio II is just north of the city center. This municipio borders the northeastern side of Municipio I. It’s a stone’s throw from all the city center sites, but has a more local feel.

Check out this in-depth map of Rome neighborhoods to see where all the top places to explore are located.


Map of Rome

Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

Top Rome neighborhoods within Municipio I

Our top five picks for the best areas to stay in Rome are Esquilino, Prati, Castro Pretorio, Monti, and Ludovisi. Here are the top things to eat, see, and do in each of these neighborhoods.

Esquilino

If you’re coming to Rome via train, Esquilino is the first neighborhood you’ll land in. Not only is it a transportation hub, but it’s also easy to access all the city’s top sites from here. But, before you get out into other parts of the city, give these neighborhood sites a visit.

  • Set foot inside the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the city’s seven pilgrimage churches. It’s also one of only four basilicas in the city, a designation only the Pope can bestow. Its ornate mosaics, grand nave, and towering archways all depict textbook examples of Roman Catholic architecture, making it a must-see spot in the neighborhood.
  • Uncover World War II history at the Museo Storico della Liberazione di Roma. Not only are the artifacts housed inside this museum historic, but so are the grounds. The museum is housed in the apartment building where the SS tortured supporters of the Italian resistance. Visiting this somber site is a chance to reflect about the lives of the people who suffered under the Nazi regime. While here, you’ll learn about the Roman liberation efforts of the 1940s, the German persecution of Roman Jews, and the Ardeatine Massacre.
  • Mingle with vendors at the Mercato Centrale Roma. A day in Rome and a market visit go together like a plate of amatriciana and a glass of red wine. While locals come here to pick up daily essentials, you’ll delight in the bounty of food stalls where you can eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even if you just want to pass through and pick up a quick snack (gelato anyone?), every hungry traveler will find something to love here.

pizza with mozzarella

Prati

Sandwiched between the banks of the Tiber River and Vatican City, Prati is one of the premiere Rome neighborhoods in Municipio I. Here, bustling morning markets give way to buzzing restaurants where diners enjoy cacio e pepe and vino late into the night. Check out some of the ways to pass the time in this neighborhood.

  • Pick up picnic essentials at Mercato Trionfale. More than 200 stalls fill the inside of this historic market. Pop by in the morning to buy the picnic fixins. We’re talking bread, cheese, wine, and fruit! Then, snack on your finds in a local park, one of the free time activities our solo travelers love.
  • Satisfy your shopping fix on Via Cola di Rienzo. Whether you want to shop for designer pieces or see what smaller Italian designers have in their storefronts, this is the place to tap into your inner fashionista (or fashionisto!).
  • Dig into world-class pizza. “In Prati there is one of my favorite ristorante pizzeria of Rome: Sant’Isidoro Pizza e Bolle,” said staffer Paola, who’s from Rome. “It has national awarded pizza in a calm and relaxing atmosphere.” You can also take a tip from fellow Rome native and Go Ahead staffer Fabrizio. He suggested snacking on a slice of pizza bianca, a specific type of rustic bread topped with olive oil, salt, and rosemary, while taking a sunset stroll across one of the Tiber’s bridges.

Baths of Diocletian

Castro Pretorio

The Castro Pretorio neighborhood flanks the eastern edge of the Termini train station. With green gardens a few streets to the north and all of the city’s bucket list sites a couple neighborhoods to the west, it serves as the perfect jumping-off point for your time in Rome. Here’s how to kickstart your time here.

  • See the largest complex of Roman baths. Is there anything more tied to ancient Roman culture than luxurious bathhouses? The Baths of Diocletian are the largest in the city and sit atop one of Rome’s seven hills. They’re named after Emperor Diocletian, and in their heyday they featured cold and hot baths, as well as a library!
  • Enter a frigidarium-turned-church. Once you finish exploring the baths, hop next door to enter the connecting Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri church. After a Sicilian monk saw a vision of an archangel in the ruins, work began on turning one of the cold baths (a.k.a. a frigidarium) into a church. As if the story of this church wasn’t interesting enough, the original designs for the structure came from none other than master artist Michelangelo.
  • Soak in the atmosphere of the area. “Castro Pretorio is near the Termini train station and the San Lorenzo district, a very vibrant university area full of bars,” said staffer and Rome native Paola. Pick any bar located on the streets surrounding Piazza dell’Indipendenza and you’re in for a great time.

pouring aperol spritz

Monti

It only takes one look at a neighborhood map of Rome to realize you can’t get much more centrally located than the Monti neighborhood. This rioni, or historic district, borders the neighborhood that houses the Colosseum and Roman Forum. If you’re ready to dive into all the archaeological sites and history the city has to offer, this is one of the best areas to stay in Rome, and here’s how to spend your time.

  • Sip an Aperol Spritz during aperitivo. Of all the ways to spend free time in Rome, indulging in a late-afternoon aperitivo may just be our favorite. Think of it like the Italian happy hour. “I’d recommend getting away from the main squares and seeking out a quieter spot for your aperitivo break,” said traveler Jamie. “I really liked the atmosphere at Ai Tre Scalini and Fafiuche, which were both in the neighborhood of Rione Monti.”
  • Get your history fix at Trajan’s Forum. The Imperial Fora served as the center of ancient Roman life, and Trajan’s Forum was the last of these grand public squares to be built in the city. Come here to learn about the life and legacy of Emperor Trajan and the archaeological site that bears his name.
  • Stumble upon ancient artifacts in Parco del Colle Oppio. This sprawling park is home to Trajan’s bath, historic cisterns, and Domus Aurea (aka the ruins of Emperor Nero’s once opulent, fresco-covered villa).

Santa Maria della Vittoria Bernini statue

Ludovisi

Ritzy and elegant are two ways to describe this neighborhood in Rome. The area is rooted in 60s glamour and filmmaking after all! Whether you’re opting for a classy night out or just want to dip into an opulent bar, these are our top three ways to pass the time while staying here.

  • Step into Italian cinema on Via Veneto. Consider this street Rome’s answer to Hollywood Boulevard. The term “la dolce vita” was coined here in the 1950s, and the phrase is now ubiquitous for the Italian way of life. The likes of Audrey Hepburn, Orson Welles, and Tennessee Williams flocked to this elegant area of Rome. Its glitz and glam was immortalized in the 1960 film named, you guessed it, La Dolce Vita.
  • Stand in awe of Santa Maria della Vittoria church. The gilded finishes and stucco artwork are enough to awe any visitor, but the real delight in this church is the statue designed by Bernini. He was the titular sculptor of his time, and his work evokes quintessential Baroque themes and designs. Step inside this church to view his statue titled the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
  • See the remnants of ancient friars inside Capuchin Crypt. Underneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church sits this crypt, where the skeletons of 3,700 friars lie. On the surface it may give off an eerie feeling, but the Catholic Church believes showcasing the remains in this way reminds visitors of our short time on Earth and the journey into the afterlife.

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Quartiere Coppede in Rome

Best neighborhoods in Rome in Municipio II

When it comes to the best neighborhoods of Rome in this part of the city, our favorites are Parioli and Nomentano. Both areas strike the perfect balance of being suburban sans the sleepiness.

Parioli

Most travelers may tap out when they reach the borders of Villa Borghese (a spot featured in our Rome Travel Guide), but go a bit farther and you’ll be welcomed into the Parioli neighborhood. This section of Rome has an upscale, residential feel that delights newcomers and longtime residents alike. Here’s what to add to your to-do list on your next visit.

  • Escape to Villa Ada—an Eden in the Eternal City. Visiting this park is like traveling into a natural oasis without ever leaving the city limits. Inside Villa Ada’s 450 acres are lakes, bike paths, and even stands to rent canoes. Once owned by Italy’s royal House of Savoy, the grounds are completely free and open to the public.
  • Admire the architectural wonders of the Quartiere Coppedé. “Near the Parioli district there is the well-known Quartiere Coppedé, an architectural delight for the eyes,” said staffer Paola, who’s from Rome. The quarter’s name hails from the architect who brought it all the life: Gino Coppedè. Its eccentric accents include a frog fountain, Art Nouveau touches, an iron chandelier, and outdoor frescoes. You’ll know you’ve entered this whimsical world within one of the top neighborhoods in Rome when you reach the archway on Via Tagliamento.
  • Fill up on Italian cuisine on Viale Parioli. If you’re looking for Rome neighborhoods where eating is the main to-do, look no further than Parioli. The main street, Viale Parioli, curves up and around the outer edge of the neighborhood. This thoroughfare is dotted with cocktail bars, trattorias, bakeries, breakfast bars, and restaurants. Name an Italian food, and you’ll find a tasty take on it on this street.

Villa Torlonia rome

Nomentano

Families have flocked to the Nomentano neighborhood for years, making it one of the best areas to stay in Rome. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown while still being a stroll away from a wide variety of restaurants and attractions. Check out our shortlist of how to spend time in this area.

  • Feel like royalty inside Villa Torlonia. Truly a travel trifecta, the grounds of this villa feature the former home of the noble Torlonia family, a garden, and a museum. Pop into the museum to see statues collected by the Torlonia family. The Neoclassical villa is also tied to Italian history as Mussolini lived here from the 1920s through the 1940s.
  • Wander around Piazza Bologna. Peek at any neighborhood map of Rome and you’ll see that this public square is the hub of the Nomentano neighborhood. It has a uniquely urban feel thanks to the collection of rationalist architecture made popular during the Fascist period. Learn about the history and significance of these Mussolini-era buildings on a tour of Italy.
  • Get your fix of contemporary art. Of course, Rome is chock full of ancient ruins, but the impressive artwork doesn’t stop there. MACRO, a contemporary art museum on the outskirts of the Nomentano neighborhood, shows off a more modern side of Italian artistry. Plus, it’s free to enter when you make an online reservation!

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Stay in these Rome neighborhoods when you join us on tour!


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About the author | Emily Houston
Emily loves the simple travel moments—like watching hours pass by in minutes while sharing a meal and a laugh (or many) with her friends and family. Outside the office, you'll find Emily listening to anything and everything John Mayer, attempting to cook a New York Times recipe, or dreaming up her next trip.

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