Where to stay in Rome: best areas and neighborhoods for travelers and expats
In this article, I’ll give you a bird’s eye view on where to stay in Rome, Italy. Before making up your mind about what is the best area to stay in when visiting Rome, consider that the historical center is crowded, noisy, and congested in every season of the year. The best choice you can make is to find accommodation in an area adjacent to the center or well-connected to it. I was born and grew up in this city and, even though I loved living there, I decided to move out of town because I can’t stand all those cars! Whether you’re a traveler in Rome or you’re preparing to move there, you´ll probably be surprised by how disorganized the city can be, especially regarding public transportation. It’s crucial that you stay in a district which is conveniently connected to Rome´s center by the metro. The areas I’m introducing you to here are the top choices in the eyes of Roman citizens. They feature attractive architecture, a friendly atmosphere, lots of restaurants and coffee-shops, and are generally more livable than other locations. These are the neighborhoods where the locals dream of buying a house one day. They are definitely the best areas to stay in when you´re in Rome.
WHERE TO STAY IN ROME NEAR THE HISTORICAL CENTER
Guide to Rome’s neighborhoods
The Parione neighborhood
If your time in Rome is very limited, and you feel like you want to stay at the very heart of the city, then you should find accommodation here. When Roman locals from every corner of the city wish to go “downtown”, they won’t have the Colosseum or the Vatican in mind, but the Navona Square and the Campo de` Fiori Square instead. And those places are both in the Parione neighborhood. It’s here that you’ll feel like you are at the real core of the city of Rome. The Navona Square is a huge baroque creation built on the ancient Roman stadium of Emperor Domiziano. You can sit on a bench and people-watch while you eat gelato and gaze at the 3 majestic fountains and the bright Sant’Agnese Church. In the evening, after a full day of sightseeing in Rome, relax with a drink on trendy Vicolo del Fico Street or Campo de’ Fiori Square. If you like window-shopping, walk along Pellegrino Street, Banchi Vecchi Street, and Giubbonari Street. From this neighborhood you’ll be able to reach all the main historical landmarks of Rome on foot: the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps are nearby. To reach the Colosseum, you need to walk for about 2 km through the ancient ruins of the historical center. Considering that your own feet will always be the best means of transportation in Rome, the Parione neighborhood remains the most beautiful and convenient location for travelers to Rome.
Public transport: bus no. 30, 70, 81, 87, 492, 628
The Monti neighborhood
The Monti neighborhood should be at the top of your list when looking for the right place to stay in Rome. It´s only a ten-minute walk from the Colosseum, but it is still off the most beaten tourist route and borders Fori Imperiali Street, the Colle Oppio Park, and the incredible Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral. The commercial and social core of the Monti area is the pedestrian zone of Urbana Street, together with the Zingari Square and Serpenti Street. There, you’ll find wineries and coffee places along with workshops and handicraft shops. The vibe given off by the Monti district is one of cultured recreation, as you can perceive inside the Cine Detour indie movie theater and as you pass by the Borgia Steps and the Cafè Bohemien. This is an area that will make you want to move to Rome. If you end up here, don’t forget to spend some time inside the Aromaticus gourmet restaurant/plant shop and the Grezzo raw chocolate shop. Read my in-depth guide to the Monti neighborhood.
Subway station: Cavour
Where to stay in Rome: Prati neighborhood
The Prati neighborhood
As the name suggests, the Prati quarter (translated as “meadows”) contained fields and pastures belonging to the Emperors Domiziano (Domitian) and Nerone (Nero) at the time of the Roman Empire. The area is delimited by a wall of the Vatican, the Sant’Angelo Castle, the western bank of the Tevere (Tiber) river and Milizie Street. After the unification of Italy during the second half of the 19th century, the district was completely rebuilt. It displays residential and administrative buildings in the Liberty style, with the Piazza Cavour square and gardens as the hub. Along Colonna Street and Cicerone Street a sequence of coffee bars, small restaurants and gelato shops will provide you with a proper street-food tour of Rome. Ottaviano Street (the Ottaviano subway station), and Cola di Rienzo Street are among the best shopping areas in Rome. The evenings and nights in the Prati district are usually quiet. Saint Peter´s Square and the Vatican Museums are only a few minutes away. You´ll enjoy crossing the enchanting Sisto Bridge at sunset to reach the more dynamic Navona Square and Campo de Fiori Square.
Public transport: Ottaviano and Lepanto metro stations
The Trieste neighborhood
Besides having fast access to regenerating green areas which are the pride of the residents, the Trieste district is rich in elegant buildings and has become one of the highest-priced areas in Rome in terms of real estate. This neighborhood is enclosed between two important Roman consular roads (the Via Nomentana and the Via Salaria), the Villa Ada which is the largest public park in Rome, and the gardens of the Villa Torlonia. It’s heart is the area bordering the Salario neighborhood and called “Quartiere Coppedè.” There, you can admire the experimental style of the work of the architect Gino Coppedè. Walk through Mincio Square, Brenta Street, Olona Street, and Obrona Street. You’ll be enchanted by the fairy-tale block which displays a fusion of the Liberty, Art Decò and Gothic styles. Those alleys have served as film locations several times, and the Fontana delle Rane witnessed the Beatles swimming with all their clothes on after a concert back in the Sixties.
The nearest subway station is Sant’Agnese-Annibaliano.
Best place in Rome for foodies: the Testaccio district
The ancient Romans used this area, which developed from a harbor on the Tevere (Tiber) river, as a disposal area for cracked amphoras (testae in the Latin language). All those pieces eventually shaped a 36 mt hill, the “Monte dei Cocci”, which you can still see and visit. The Testaccio district became a crucial commercial junction during the Middle Ages. In the 19th Century, the new urban plan destined the area for the construction of residential blocks for factory workers, and nowadays Testaccio is regarded as the main nightlife district in Rome. Small disco-pubs and live music bars, places to have an aperitivo, and typical Roman-cuisine restaurants abound. The main attraction is the Mercato di Testaccio street-food market, which no foodie travelers should miss on their trip. The Testaccio neighborhood has also become a cultural hub, especially because of the redevelopment of the old slaughterhouse (Mattatoio), which is now the seat of the Faculty of Architecture of the Roma Tre University, which organizes workshops, exhibitions, and conferences there. The Cimitero Acattolico (a cemetery for non-Catholics) holds the graves of artists and poets among beautiful sculpture and trees, including those of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The nearest subway station is Piramide.
The Garbatella district
Begun as a popular area during the second decade of the 20th century, the Garbatella has been studied widely for its picturesque urban planning and the style of its buildings. Walking along the Via Fausto Vettor, the Via Domenico Chiodo, the Largo Randaccio and the Piazza Nicola Longobardi, the Piazza Bonomelli, the Piazza Montecroce, and the Piazza Brin, you’ll have the chance to see many houses in the barocchetto. You’ll have the feeling of having left Rome far behind to enter a tiny village with houses with their own gardens and a very bucolic look. The district has been the location of several Italian movies. The fine murals are like the cherry on top for the first-time visitor. You might choose not to book your Rome accommodation here, but for sure you need to pay it a visit. Delimiting the Garbatella district, Ostiense Street holds a lot of meeting points for university students, like the Caffè Letterario Library and coffee shop and the vintage music club and restaurant, Vinile. There are plenty of places to eat at along both Porto Fluviale Street and Delle Conce Street, making this area really people-oriented and alive during the evenings.
The nearest subway station is Garbatella.
The Pigneto district
During the last decade, the Pigneto district has become one of the most sparkling neighborhoods of Rome. It’s without a doubt the favorite district of citizens between the ages of 25 and 50. It’s here that, every evening and night, a huge slice of the young population of the Italian capital is hanging out. Wineries, breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, and music bars light up the Via del Pigneto (which is in part a pedestrian zone) and the surrounding roads. This is the hub of the hipster culture in Rome. If you love drinking, finding a pasta restaurant open late at night, and an easy-going atmosphere, you should stay here. The Pigneto district is relatively close to the central train station and La Sapienza University.
The nearest subway station is Pigneto
Areas to avoid in Rome
Are there any dangerous areas of Rome, or any places that a local like me would advise you to avoid? Yes… and no! I’ve traveled to many countries, and I think that Rome is one of the safest cities in the world. Even so, this doesn’t mean that you should act without prudence. While most of the areas in the historical center and the quarters next to it have enough street lighting, since the majority of businesses are shut down late at night and the streets quite deserted, know that it could be difficult reaching out for help. In the outskirts, proper night lightning is absent altogether. Besides the common precaution that this situation requires, there is an area I wouldn’t consider when looking for accommodation in Rome, and that is the area of the Termini Central Station. This doesn’t mean that that area is unsafe, but there are enough nice districts in the city that you can avoid staying in or very close to the Termini, where it might be easier to meet odd characters…
In the last few months, Rome´s city government has had to face a big issue with rubbish disposal. I’ve found that this problem affects the peripheral areas more seriously, but many travelers have noticed that the historical center isn’t immune to it either.
BEST NEIGHBORHOODS FOR EXPATS IN ROME
In case you are planning an extended visit to Rome and you prefer to save some money, know that a few km away from the historical center you’ll find apartments at half the price. Since the traffic is horrible in every area of Rome, you should always favor the locations accessible by subway instead of buses. In the last 10 years, the only two metro lines of Rome were extended in order to reach the big residential areas surrounding Jonio Square and Mirti Square. Those 2 areas have become more and more desirable, but still remain more affordable than other neighborhoods. For sports and outdoor lovers, the most suitable neighborhood would be the one which has access to 3 of the most extended green regions in Rome: the district surrounded by Tuscolana Street, the Caffarella Park, and the Acquedotti Park. Tuscolana Street is conveniently served by 6 stops of the Line A subway and it is one of the main commercial hubs in Rome, where you can find any kind of shop and service. On the other hand, the 2 parks provide a majestic arena for outdoor sports, being mainly flat and covered in grassland, framed by the splendid profile of the old Roman aqueduct.
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I’m sure you feel more confident now about choosing where to stay in Rome !