Rome is a beautiful maze that’s tough to navigate for many tourists. That’s why you’ll see many with their faces stuck into large, unfolded maps. It’s wise to arm yourself with a detailed street map upon arrival. You can snag a decent one from the front desk at most hotels to get familiar with Rome’s primary neighborhoods:
1. Stazione Termini
Stazione Termini is where you’ll find Rome’s main train station. This main transportation hub is a place with many tourists, and because this neighborhood adjoins Piazza della Repubblica, it’s a throughway with a lot of people and traffic, but not a lot of sites. The accommodations are affordable in this area because they are a bit seedier and farther from the sites of ancient Rome. However, you can catch the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baths of Diocletian, and once celebrated hotel, the Grand. Just be careful in this area at night.
2. Via Veneto
In the 1950s and early 1960s, you would find the swinging likes of King Farouk and Frank Sinatra on the boulevard of Via Veneto. No longer in its heyday, the boulevard is still lined with luxury hotels, cafes, and restaurants who want to walk down memory lane. Just be wary if you plan to eat here—the restaurants are mostly overpriced and overcrowded compared to far better dining experiences in the city. However, it’s well worth a stroll down Via Veneto to the south where it meets Piazza Barberini and its stunning, wish-filled Fontana del Tritone.
3. Ancient Rome
Obviously the prime site for foreign tourists, this neighborhood is home to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Imperial Forums, Circus Maximus, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon. If you stay among the ancient streets and airy piazzas of ancient Rome, you’ll be central to most of the city’s monuments and avoid using public transportation altogether.
4. Campo de’ Fiori
Steeped in architecture and mainly made up of private homes dating back to the Renaissance, Campo de’ Fiori bids visitors with a leisurely stroll down Via Giulia, arguably the most scenic street in the city—with its unique hotels, antiques stores, art galleries, and Piazza Farnese and the charming market square.
5. West of Via Arenula
Many say a trip to Rome isn’t complete without a boo at Rome’s most intriguing district West of Via Arenula, home to the old walled Jewish Ghetto, which was formed in 1556, when Pope Paul IV ordered roughly 8,000 Jews to relocate here. Although no more walls surround it (they were removed in 1849), this working-class neighborhood is lively, unique, and home to some of the city’s best restaurants.
6. Pantheon One
You’ll be forced to explore the most desirable areas of Rome by foot, but there is no better way to get lost in the narrow maze of streets, alleys, churches, sidewalk cafes, street musicians, hotels, palaces, and of course, Piazza Navona (Emperor Domitian’s prized stadium) at the heart. Plus, Rivaling Piazza Navona, is conveniently nearby and home to much of Rome’s nightlife.
7. The Spanish Steps
A major gateway into the old city, the Spanish Steps (the former Spanish ambassador’s residence) have been a meeting place for visitors to Rome since the 17th century. This area host the luxurious side of Rome, with hotel stays soaring over $500 (USD) per night, upscale shopping at designer boutiques, and high-end restaurants.
8. Aventine Hill
This lush and posh residential area of Rome holds a seductive past. Located just south of the Palatine and close to the Tiber, the area hosted “midnight rituals” or ceremonies to the pagan gods Dionysos (or Bacchus), which included bloody orgies dating back to 186 B.C.
This lesser-known neighborhood is quite the inexpensive gem for budget travelers, promising that’s only slightly “out of the way” of sightseeing. However, it’s home to the Trionfale flower-and-food market, budget shopping, picturesque hotels, and almost void of any street crime.
10. Vatican City
Located across the Tiber, this tiny city-state hosts the many Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s, and the lush Vatican Gardens. The surrounding “Borgo” neighborhood does offer some hotels, however, keep in mind that it’s rather dull after dark and far removed from the rest of ancient Rome.