The city of Rome is made up of 35 quartieri urbani (urban quarters) spread over 22 rioni (districts). Its unique patchwork of diverse neighborhoods, both inside and outside the ancient Aurelian walls, represents the many facets of this modern Italian capital.
Here are 10 neighborhoods to explore in Rome, some of which are already popular with tourists and others that are lesser known but worth a visit.
The three streets fanning out from Piazza del Popolo make up the Tridente, one of the poshest areas in Rome, lined with designer boutiques (like the Fendi flagship store), five-star hotels, and expensive restaurants. The star attractions here are the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, both of which are crowded day and night. This is not a neighborhood to stay in or visit if you want to get an insider's taste of Rome, but chances are you'll wind up here at some point—either to sit on those famous steps or toss a coin in the Trevi to guarantee a return trip to Rome.
The area known as the Centro Storico falls across several different rioni, including the Campo de' Fiori, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. Collectively these are some of the oldest areas of Rome. Campo de' Fiori is famous for its outdoor food and flower market. The square is hemmed with touristy and pricey restaurants and is abuzz every night of the week. The area around the iconic Pantheon is similarly packed with restaurants, as is elegant Piazza Navona. While these are some of the most touristy parts of the city, there's a reason everyone wants to be here—central location, plenty of attractions to tick off any must-see list, and charming, character-filled ancient streets.
Situated within Rione I, Monti’s lived-in, local vibe is what makes the city’s oldest neighborhood so classically Roman. Sandwiched between the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Roman Forum, it features sloping hills, ivy-strewn buildings, and wonderful views of the Colosseum from its southwestern side.
A labyrinth of craggy alleyways paved with ancient sampietrini cobblestones challenge even the most adept high-heeled-walker, and streets wind past funky cafes, trendy restaurants, and mixed-use businesses (like a free trade shop-theatre-bookstore). On warm nights, you'll often find young people and families hanging around the fountain in the main square, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.
Trastevere (Rione XIII), meaning "across the Tevere" (or Tiber), is an especially popular destination for university students studying abroad. An easy walk from the historic center, cross over the Tiber River at either Ponte Garibaldi or Ponte Sisto. Here you'll find one of the oldest churches in the city, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, shining with gilded mosaics on the neighborhood's main square.
Trastevere sits at the foot of Janiculum (Gianicolo) Hill, which can be reached by taking a path that opens to a set of stairs leading to a terrace fronting the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola. This decorative marble fountain built-in 1612, is where the opening scene of the Oscar-winning film The Great Beauty was filmed. From the terrace enjoy expansive views of Rome's cityscape—from the Pantheon's dome to the massive Vittorio Emmanuele II monument to the Palatine and Capitoline hills in the distance. Keep climbing to arrive at Rome's largest park, Villa Pamphili.
Retrace your steps back down into the heart of the neighborhood with its concentration of bars, restaurants and artisan shops.
Edgy Testaccio is in Rione XX, just south of the Aventine hill. Running along the Tiber between Ponte Sublicio and north of Ponte dell'Industria, the neighborhood stretches east to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius.
The city's slaughterhouse district until about the mid-1970s, many of Rome's classic recipes like coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) and trippa alla romana (tripe) were influenced by Testaccio's butchering traditions. Foodies flock to Testaccio Market, where you can source fresh produce and dine on gourmet street food. If it's classic Roman pizza you crave, arguably the best can be had at Da Remo on Via Santa Maria Liberatrice.
Sights not to be missed are the Pyramide of Cestia, which has recently been opened to the public, and the Protestant Cemetery where non-Catholics are buried.
The Italian word for "meadows", fashionable Prati is located north of the historic center on the west side of the Tiber River in Rione XXII. It abuts Castel Sant'Angelo, Vatican City, The Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Square.
This lovely area is characterized by luxurious palazzos and wide, shady boulevards like Via Cola di Rienzo, one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome. Other attractions include pretty Piazza Cavour and the ornate Palace of Justice with its massive, rooftop sculpture in bronze of a chariot drawn by four horses.
One of the greenest parts of the city with pretty, tree-lined avenues of grand villas owned by well-heeled Roman families, Aventino (Rione XII) sits on one of the city's seven ancient hills.
Visit the chariot track of Circus Maximus, the Bocca della Verita and the nearby ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. You can also peek through a keyhole at a one-of-a-kind view of St. Peter's dome at the gate at the Magistral Villa of the Knights of Malta. When it's time to take a break from sightseeing, there's an orange garden just off Via di Santa Sabina with wonderful vistas of the Tiber.
Constructed in the Middle Ages, San Giovanni in Laterano was Rome's first Christian basilica. The impressive church capped with statues of Christ and the Apostles is at the center of this quiet residential neighborhood in Rione XV.
Having the advantage of being very well connected by public transport, San Giovanni is a 35-minute bus ride to the Via Appia Antica archeological park and only 20 minutes by foot to the Colosseum.
If shopping is your pleasure, Via Appia Nuova has international brand name department stores, such as Zara and H&M. The long boulevard is anchored in the middle by a traffic circle/park, Re di Roma, which has a Metro station beneath it.
Pigneto (Quartiere VII Prenestino Labicano) is located just outside the walls of Porta Maggiore, encircled on three sides by Via Prenestina, Via Casilina, and Via dell’Acqua. Seminal Italian movie directors like Roberto Rossellini (Roma Citta’ Aperta) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (Accattone) shot their neo-realistic films on these gritty streets, often using real-life residents as actors to authentically depict the neighborhood's working-class roots.
Once considered the outskirts of the capital, today this former shantytown has morphed into a diverse community known for its creativity and open-mindedness. Boasting a morning outdoor market along Via del Pigneto—a pedestrian-only street of ethnic shops, groovy bars, and an amazing collection of street art—Pigneto remains a unique and vibrant place to visit.
Like Pigneto, this neighborhood requires venturing outside the Aurelian walls. Between Termini and Tiburtina railway stations, this progressive, cultural hub offers a window into Rome's more youthful side. A favorite hangout for students from nearby Sapienza University, it's best known for its colorful wall murals, alternative music scene and industrial architecture.