With an entire country nestled inside it and its distinctive neighbourhoods, knowing where to start when visiting Rome can be a challenge.
A bit of a catch-all, the centro storico is the geographic centre of Rome and the heart of the city. This is the most photographed neighbourhood, with narrow streets, monuments like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, and plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops. You’ll want to spend time wandering around Campo Marzio with its charming boutiques, Campo dei Fiori (known for its open-air market), and Piazza Navona with its monumental fountain. Stop by Gelateria del Teatro for delicious gelato made with fresh ingredients, take an espresso break at La Tazza d’Oro near the Pantheon. Dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant il Pagliaccio, which serves refined Italian cuisine by acclaimed chef Anthony Genovese.
Check in The luxurious Hotel de Russie is known for its secret garden and excellent service; Hotel Eden, a grand dame once frequented by Fellini, reopened last year after a major renovation; Palazzo Dama occupies a stately aristocratic villa redesigned for the Instagram age; Elizabeth Unique Hotel is one of the city’s newest boutique boltholes.
This neighbourhood’s name literally means “across the Tiber” and it’s often touted as the cool alternative to the centro storico. Thanks to its high concentration of bars and restaurants, Trastevere is especially buzzing on evenings and weekends. Wander its narrow lanes with sun-faded buildings draped with ivy and you’re likely to encounter a mix of locals and tourists, especially around well trafficked areas like Piazza Trilussa and Piazza di Santa Cecila. Seek out the no-frills trattoria Da Enzo al 29 for an authentic Italian meal or go upscale at Glass Hostaria, Rome’s only Michelin-starred restaurant run by a female chef.
Check in The charming Hotel Ponte Sisto is technically not in Trastevere, but it’s just a short walk across the pedestrian bridge and has a lovely roof terrace; Buonanotte Garibaldi has just three rooms and its location just behind Piazza Trilussa puts you right in the thick of things.
This neighbourhood one metro stop away from the Colosseum has an artsy, bohemian vibe, with lots of art galleries and indie boutiques selling everything from stylish clothing to housewares. On weekends, Mercato Monti brings together an eclectic mix of vendors selling hand-made jewellery, vintage duds, and bespoke lamps. Wandering along Via Urbana, you’ll stumble upon inviting bars and restaurants, like Urbana 47, while on the picturesque sloping Via Panisperna lies the laid-back wine bar Ai Tre Scalini and La Carbonara, which lets diners scribble on walls and best known for — you guessed it — spaghetti alla carbonara.
Check in The Roma Luxus Hotel offers stylish rooms in a historic building, but the real reason to go is for the hip restaurant Madre.
The area around the Vatican, just north of Trastevere, is Rome’s business district, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t know how to have a good time. Via Cola di Rienzo is lined with shops, including gourmet food emporium Castroni, United Colors of Benetton, and the massive Coin department store. Bonci Pizzarium — known for the city’s best pizza by the slice—is located in Prati, and so is La Tradizione, a gourmet shop known for its incredible cheeses, salumi, and wines. Aside from the Vatican, the monument to visit is the Castel Sant’Angelo, a mausoleum and fortress featured in the film Angels & Demons.
Check in Le Méridien Visconti received a refresh last year and is now done up in sleek midcentury style.
Once a working-class district of Rome, Testaccio is still a bit rough around the edges. The reason to go is to eat and party — there’s an abundance of restaurants and nightclubs. During the day, stop by the bustling Mercato di Testaccio for fresh fruit, cheeses, salumi, and sandwiches, then visit MACRO, one of two locations of the Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Roma inside a former slaughterhouse. For aperitivo and dinner, head to chef Cristina Bowerman’s high design trattoria Romeo or Giulietta pizzeria next door.
Check in Hotel Villa San Pio is a nice option for budget-conscious travellers.
This upscale neighbourhood can be found in and around the manicured Villa Borghese park just north of Piazza del Popolo. The vibe is quieter and more residential — perfect if you want a chic pied-à-terre away from the hustle and bustle of the centro storico. The area is especially appealing in April – October, when the weather is nice and you can enjoy long walks in the park and take a rowboat out on the pond. Here you’ll find the Galleria Borghese, a must-visit museum full of treasures by Bernini, Canova, and Caravaggio. The Museo Nazionale di Arte Moderna and the Museo Etrusco are located on the southern end of the park.
Check in Aldovrandi Villa Borghese is situated in a gorgeous 19th century villa with a pool and spa near the park.