Choosing where to stay in Rome doesn't have to be difficult. Once you understand the layout of the city and how to navigate the different neighborhoods, you'll be able to decide on accommodation and location with ease.
Travel writer and past Italy resident Karen Worrall shares the information she’s learned over the past two decades frequenting Rome. Including the best areas to stay in Rome. This will help guide you through some of the highlights of this Eternal City.
Where to Stay in Rome
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you certainly can’t see it all in one.
I’ve visited many times; between several vacations and many one or two-day trips with a cruise ship, I’ve spent around three months there and still haven’t seen nearly all it has to offer.
The joy of Rome is that it has so much to offer. Its living history is unrivaled, as it has been building and evolving since Romulus and Remus started it 2,800 years ago.
It can sit strangely with oneself that so much has been preserved due to the vanity of some of its tyrannical rulers, such as Emperor Nero, but so much there is also thanks to truly great ones, such as Marcus Aurelius.
I am completely infatuated with Rome and never tire of it and its treasures, which is why I’m returning again later this year, and plan to tick off more of its gems that I haven’t seen, as well as returning to several of my perennial favorites.
If you want to skip directly to any of the neighborhoods in Rome, click on the links below.
- Vatican – Not just the Pope’s home, the Vatican area houses its world-class museum, a castle and of course, the imposing St Peter’s Basilica.
- Ancient Rome/Centro Storico – The very heart of ancient and modern Rome holds some of its most iconic treasures.
- Monti – Once a slum, once a red light district; now - the coolest area in Rome, full of boho chic and bustling nightlife.
- Trastevere – This character-filled area has ancient churches, squares filled with live music plus a great local restaurant scene.
- Testaccio – Lesser-known historical delights and a quieter base of leafy green avenues wait just south of the center.
Rome Quick Tips
Rome’s city center is mostly walkable, but public transport is widely available and pretty easy to navigate.
Bus day pass:
If you are planning on visiting several areas in a day, getting a 24-hour bus pass for €7 is a good move.
Single bus tickets cost €1.50 and last 100 minutes, so they can be used for more than one stop if it isn’t too long.
The Metro system is also efficient, but mostly serves the east side of the city, so taking the bus or walking can often be faster in other areas.
For going outside the city center, the train system is very good.
You can find full information and timetables for:
- Rome buses, trams and Metro: Run by ATAC
- Train system
- Taxi: Roma Capitale is Rome’s official taxi company. Cars are white with an ID number and Roma Capitale written on the sides.
- The Roma Pass: This 3 Day card gives you unlimited public transport, museum access (to two with the 72 hour card), plus reductions to all museums and major events.
Other upsides include it beginning from the time activated, rather than being a regular two or three-day pass, plus it can allow you to skip lines at certain busy museums.
Best Area to Stay in Rome by Districts/Neighbourhoods
Rome has many small neighborhoods, and has a compact, walkable city center like other European capitals such as Edinburgh or Vienna.
Rome has interesting sights on its outskirts and fascinating towns and villages in the outlying area to, but the majority of the big hitters are located within the central 40 square miles.
This central heart of Rome is where I’ll focus most of the guide on; to help you make the most of the time you have there.
back to top - return to the top of the page for the full list where to stay in Rome by districts.
Plan Your Rome Trip
Rome is on the Euro, being the capital city of Italy. €1 = $1.17 as of September 2018. For up to date conversions get the XE Currency Converter App.
It is popular to visit year round, with spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) providing the most pleasant temperatures of usually around 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit and infrequent rain.
The summer gets very sticky, reaching temperatures over 100 Fahrenheit, especially in August, which is when the locals flee for their holiday homes by the Spiaggia (beach). Winter (December-February) sees cooler temperatures of usually between 45-65 degrees, and more rain, but also a lot fewer tourists to compete for the sights with.
For more advice on how to pack check out our Packing for Europe – Tips That Will Make Your Travel Life Easier post!
Eagle Creek Plug Adapter - This all in one adapter is all you need for Rome and other European and world travels.
For Rome City Tours, we use Get your Guide. It's easy to book in advance and most tours have easy cancellation up to 24 hours in advance (check cancellation details before booking) and Get Your guide offers last minute booking too.
Coop Culture runs many of Rome’s historic sites, and its website keeps you informed of special openings and events.
Many smaller sites only provide tours in Italian, but getting access to places previously not open, or otherwise inaccessible is worth the language barrier.
It’s worth brushing up on a little on Italian before going or bringing a phrasebook to help you keep up with the locals.
Rome’s historical sites are numerous, and it can get expensive visiting a lot of them. That is why we recommend Get Your Guide for tours.
The Roma Pass is useful if you plan to enter more than three on your trip, and worth bearing in mind is that the entrance fees at the actual sites all go directly into helping restore and preserve ancient Rome.
This makes me happy to part with my Euros to see it and know the fee is helping keep it there.
The Papal Headquarters
The Vatican City is one of the world’s smallest states, at 17sq miles. It is the home of the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, where its head, the Pope, resides and does most of his work with his elaborate team.
When looking for where to stay in Rome, the Vatican area is great if you want to spend a lot of time at its attractions.
There are quite a few good restaurants around the main tourist streets and by the main sights as well as plenty of tiny tasty local bakeries.
Staying here means you are right by transport links, with one of Rome’s major train stations being Vaticano, only a few minutes walk away from St. Peter’s Square.
It also means you have easy access to getting into and out of Rome for airport transport and day trips.
It isn’t the most lively area at night, which is good if you’d prefer a more peaceful evening, and some streets need a little extra caution after dark, but you are well placed for its sites, and well connected to the rest of the city and beyond.
Rome Hotels near Vatican City
Things to see in Rome: Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica – The world’s second largest basilica is said to be home to the remains of St. Peter himself, as well as some of the largest crowds of tourists.
In the Basilica, there are works by Bramante, Raphael, Bernini and Michelangelo, including his exquisite Pieta.
In the square outside, thousands of Catholics show up to pay devotion to the Pope during his weekly addresses on Wednesdays at noon.
Make sure knees and shoulders are covered, as the dress code is enforced before you are permitted to enter.
Hours: Open daily 7am-7pm April to September, and 7am to 6pm October to March.
Vatican Museum - The Vatican museum holds more than two million works of art. It is impossible to see it all in a year, let alone one day.
I have spent five full days in the Vatican museum and barely scratched the surface.
It is breathtaking and overwhelming as you walk around seeing priceless paintings or tapestries on every wall, frescoes above you on every ceiling, and intricate mosaics covering the floor.
Highlights include works by Caravaggio, Giotto, and Da Vinci, and collections of Etruscan, early Christian and Egyptian antiquities.
The entry fee is €15. Booking ahead online and paying an extra €4 allows you to skip lines.
Sistine Chapel – The most famous part of the incredible Vatican Museums is undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel, which took Michelangelo four years, from 1508-12 to paint.
Here the main event is of course, the heavenly ceiling painted over four years by Michelangelo.
Many visitors make a beeline straight for it and only look at Michelangelo’s ceiling, but the other beautiful masterpieces by Botticelli, Signorelli, and Ghirlano are definitely worth taking time to admire.
Entry to this is included in the Vatican museums ticket as it is located inside it.
Hours and cost as Vatican Museums: Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm, closed Sundays, and religious holidays, except the last Sunday of the month, when it’s free.
Check out more tours that take place around the Vatican Area.
Castel Sant Angelo – Originally built as Hadrian’s mausoleum in the 2nd century, this was turned into a papal fortress in the 6th century.
Its terrace was immortalized in Puccini’s opera Tosca – when the diva threw herself from it. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons novel will enjoy the angel bridge outside it too.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9am-5.30pm.
Via Della Conciliazone – Take some time to enjoy the dramatic five-hundred-yard long approach road that runs from Castel San Angelo all the way to St. Peter’s Square as you head towards it.
It was a “gift” to the pope from Mussolini in 1929, designed by Il Duce.
The stark street - whose name means Street of Conciliation - is very pleasant in itself, and is home to the Vatican bookstore, several very nice coffee shops, gelaterias, and the lamppost that Mussolini was eventually hung from.
Train – The Vatican train station is only a few minutes walk from St. Peter’s, so the area is very convenient to get to from either of Rome’s airports, the port at Civitavecchia (with trains stopping directly here), or from other towns nearby Rome.
This is the reason it is one of the best places to stay in Rome.
Metro – Metro stop Ottaviano/San Pietro serves the area.
Bus – Bus 40 and 45 from the center brings you here (40 stops outside Castel Sant Angelo and is the fastest route.)
#2 Ancient Rome/Centro Storico
The glory of Rome is still alive and well
The iconic Skyline of Rome is that of its historic center – or Centro Storico. The lines of the Colosseum, Roman Forum with the outline of columns of Castor and Pollux and Septimus Severus seen from the Palatine Hill at sunset make you feel as if you have been transported back to the glory of Rome.
The iconic moment in the movie Gladiator when it first features Rome, and the camera pans along the Via del Corso past the Piazza Venezia to the statue of Vittorio Emmanuel on the Capitoline Hill, looks almost exactly the same today. The Centro Storico is magical.
It brings ancient Rome to life and is my favorite area of where to stay in Rome.
This is a fantastic place to have a base if you plan on spending a lot of time in its bounteous attractions.
It's only two downsides are price – hotels here tend to cost more, but if your budget isn’t tight, it is wonderful to be based here, especially at sunrise and sunset.
The only other thing is that most restaurants here are very touristy – usually meaning higher prices and lower quality.
Luckily though, you don’t have to venture far to find a more Roman fare. Just wander off any side street for a few blocks, or hop on a bus or Metro to any nearby area with a little less tourist sites for a good feed.
Rome Hotels near Centro Storico
Things to See in Rome: Centro Storico
Colosseum – Rome’s most iconic site often has people say things like it isn’t worth paying to go in, as you can see most of it from outside. I beg to disagree.
The feeling of being in the greatest architectural legacy in ancient Rome, which seated 50,000 spectators at the height of its popularity, the legacy of Emperor Flavius, inaugurated by Emperor Titus in 80AD by a bloody battle of gladiators versus wild beasts, is unrivaled.
If that hasn’t convinced you its worth the ticket price, its 33-month deep clean that finished in 2016 means it now shines like new after 2,000 years of dust was cleaned off.
Roman Forum - the Roman Forum is still the city’s beating heart, despite not being utilized as market and meeting place as its original intention for centuries.
Take a tour, audio tour, or at least a guidebook with you (or friend who knows it well), to appreciate the full scope of the history here.
Highlights not to miss include the Curia (the Senate House) – where Caesar met with his advisors to make the biggest decisions of ancient Rome, the Temple of the Vestal Virgins – where these most revered devotees lived and kept the flame of Rome alive, pillars of Castor and Pollux, arch of Septimus Severus, and some of Rome’s first aqueducts where indoor plumbing had roots.
Imperial or Trajan’s Forum – The Roman Forum was split in two when Mussolini built the Via Dei Foro Imperiali road on top of it in the 1930s.
This side was used less by the common people - plebians – as market and meeting place, and more by Caesar, his consorts and aristocratic families of Rome, hence its name.
Trajan’s Markets are within the forum. A tunnel going from the main Roman Forum to it is open the first Sunday of every month.
Palatine Hill – My favorite spot in Rome is one of its seven hills - the Palatino - Palatine Hill. This is where the first settlers built their huts under the direction of Romulus.
It is the oldest and most exclusive part of ancient Rome where ancient emperors resided.
It is incredibly peaceful in the very center of Rome, and has some of the best vistas of the city, where you can see the Capitoline Hill, Roman and Imperial Forums, and Colosseum, and is especially enchanting at sunset.
It is also home to the Palatine Museum, which has great displays from excavations of Palatine Villas.
Not every visitor realizes that your ticket to the Colosseum also gets you into the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Open: Mar-Sep 8.30am-7pm, Oct 8.30am-6.30pm, Oct-Feb 8.30am-4.30pm. Last admission 1 hour before closing.
Capitoline Hill – The most sacred of Rome’s seven hills. An Etruscan temple to Jupiter once stood here.
Climb the dramatic long steps to the stunning Piazza del Campidoglio, both of which were created by Michelangelo.
The four sides of the square house, the statue-filled Palace of the Conservatori (curators), Senatorium (Town Council), Capitoline Museum, and one side is open.
Capitoline Museum – The world’s oldest public museums are housed in two stately palazzos sitting in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, and are home to beautiful classic statuary, including the Lupa Capitolina, the Capitoline wolf suckling Rome’s founders Romulus and Remus, early Etruscan art and the Capitoline Venus in her own special gallery.
Open daily 9.30am-7.30pm. Cost €11.50.
Piazza Venezia – This imposing square is bustling anytime day or night has the majestic statue of King Vittorio Emmanuel II as its centrepiece.
Suggested Rome Tours: Colosseum and Forum
Metro – Metro stop Colosseo serves the area.
Bus – 75 or 84.
Train – From outside the city, take the train to the Vatican or Termini stations then hop on the Metro to Colosseo or take bus 75 or 84.
Once the slums of Rome now oozes boho chic charm
The new coolest area in Rome started its life being the Suburra – slums of the city 2,000 years ago. Around 15 years ago, it was the Red Light District, with petty pickpockets galore, but has since gentrified to become one of the most popular and best places to stay in Rome.
Monti is home to churches, its namesake square Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and most recently many small artisan businesses, hip restaurants, bars and wonderful shopping.
Shoppers will delight in the variety of local and unusual products on offer with independent fashion, homewares and vintage boutiques.
Its Via Urbana is Rome’s hippest nightlife street.
It is filled with varied restaurants offering traditional Roman fare, Spanish, French and Asian foods in venues from casual street food carts, to chic dress code applicable restaurants.
After dinner, head to any of its many spots for a chat and vino in a small enoteche, sip Aperol spritz in an al fresco bistro, or savor artisan drinks or cocktails in one of its trendy bars.
Its position, lying between Termini Station and the Colosseum, make it very accessible to all the main sights by day, and the best area for visitors who wish to enjoy its culinary treats and nightlife after dark.
Rome Hotels near Monti
Things to see in Rome near Monti
Trevi Fountain – No matter how many times I visit Rome, I always perform the traditional rite of passage for visitors to Rome – throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, to secure my return to the Eternal City.
Designed by Nicola Salvi in the 18th century, this stunning rococo affair depicts wild horses, mythical figures, and cascading rock falls.
Its recent 17-month, €1.9 million restoration funded by Rome fashion house Fendi has ensured it is gorgeous by day and spellbinding by night. Free.
Pantheon – Built in 27 B.C by Marcus Agrippa, and reconstructed in the 2nd century A.D by Hadrian, this building remains an architectural wonder of the world because of its absent dome (18ft diameter) and concept of space. How this was built in that year is still a marvel, and Michelangelo studied it before designing the cupola for St. Peter’s.
Mon-Sat 8.30am-7.30pm, Sun 9am-6pm. Admission free.
Piazza Navona – Rome’s most iconic plaza and home to Bernini’s fountain of the four rivers. Its shape is due to the chariot races that used to take place here in the 1st century. Admission free.
Nightlife – Rome’s new nightlife capital is busy even on Sunday nights when the rest of the city is resting up.
Via Urbana is where it’s at for the trendiest food and drink joints.
Highlights include Libro Di Vino; a literary bar that proffers a Mediterranean menu and artisanal drinks that they serve with a book, and the ultra-hip Urbana 47, a local sourcing restaurant that has its own street food corner and lines usually out the door.
Mercato Monti Urban Market Roma – Fridays until Sundays (Sep-Jun) have the next cool designers of the day descend on Monti, selling goodies like Plexiglass jewelry, vintage products, retro sunglasses, and handmade kimonos. Open 10am-8pm.
Piazza della Madonna dei Monti – The central square of the area is the heart and hub and the best spot to soak up its atmosphere.
It is found filled with twentysomethings drinking, chatting, and playing music at any hour.
Often – and especially on Sundays - more mature and young residents and visitors sitting on benches enjoying a coffee or gelato, catching up on the day or week’s activities, also join them.
Clothes shopping – Stroll the area around the main square for many interesting and unique products in funky shops including Tango dresses and shoes in Kaja, and deconstructed women’s clothes designed by its owner in Not Your Dolls.
Via del Corso – Rome’s main, and largest shopping street veers off the area, and is paradise for shoppers of all tastes from cheap market stalls to high-end Italian fashion houses.
There are many small independent stores from local designers and on its many winding side streets is where you can find something truly Roman and unique. They are not as expensive as you might think, especially if the designer is new.
Termini train station – The main entry point to Rome for most of its visitors from both the airports is here.
This makes Monti well located for transport into the city when you arrive and leave, as well as well placed for day trips out of the city to other parts of Lazio and Italy.
Tip: Be wary of pickpockets in the station and just outside it – try not to look too lost (even if you are) here and you’ll breeze through.
Suggested Rome Tours: Monti
Rome is a great place to shop:
- Couture clothing, fashion accessories, silks, linens, lace, and other fabrics are prevalent.
- Some of the best souvenirs of Rome are wine, pasta, biscotti, and religious souvenirs.
- The main shopping area is around the Spanish Steps.
- The Via del Corso is the main shopping avenue.
- On Via Cola di Rienzo you’ll find everything from boutiques and department stores, to upscale food shops.
- Via Giulia is the place to go for decorative arts.
- Via Coronari has funky antiques and home furnishings.
- The place for religious souvenirs is around St. Peter’s Basilica, in particular on the Via dei Conciliazone in the Vatican bookshop.
- Many shops close for siesta in the afternoons, usually from 2-5pm.
Charming squares and nightlife for all tastes
Trastevere has a long illustrious history and lots of character. Here you will find plenty churches (but to be fair, that could be said of almost any area in Rome), squares, fountains, and has been a favorite cool hangout spot with tourists since the early 2000s.
If you are looking for where to stay in Rome and food and nightlife are your thing. This is the area for you. Its restaurants are cheaper than nearer the main tourist sites, and the food is better.
Many family-run trattorias, as well as cafes, and lots of small but lively bars are scattered throughout the area.
The main square is always a sociable spot with live music and people sitting, sipping an chatting, and fairy lights line some of the streets giving a festive cosy feel year round.
You’ll also witness many locals taking their passeggiata (traditional evening stroll), which involves simply enjoying the atmosphere window shopping, eating gelato, and showing off new outfits – Romans dress up for the evening.
You see this especially at weekends, with families, lovers or groups of friends enjoying this very Roman custom.
The area feels friendly and safe. With lots of fixed price two or three-course meals at many of its restaurants, it is a particularly good area to be based if you like going out for a nice relaxed dinner and a nightcap.
Suggested Rome Hotels near Trastevere
Things to See in Rome: Trastevere
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere – Rome’s oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was constructed in the third century after legend has it, a fountain of oil miraculously sprang from the ground.
It was reformed in the 12th century – giving its Romanesque look, and beautiful medieval mosaics. 7.30am-9pm Sept-Jul, and 4pm-9pm Aug. Admission free.
Trattoria culture – Trastavere has a well-earned reputation as a gastronomic hot spot. Perfect Roman Carbonara and pasta cace e pepe is to be found in traditional trattorias hidden off the area’s cobbled piazzas. Some places to look out for are Pannatoni, De Enzo and Litro.
Cocktail culture and nightlife – Trastevere has nightlife by the bucket load, including many quirky cocktail joints and secret speakeasies, which serve fashionable drinks such as Carbonara Sour, shots in chocolate cups, and the ever popular Roman favourite – the Negroni.
Freni e Frizioni, Pimm’s Good and Keyhole are hip places to start.
Villa Farnesina – This elegant 16th-century Renaissance villa in Trastevere contains stunning interior décor frescoes by Raphael.
Originally built for wealthy banker Agostino Chigi was sold to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1577. Cost €6. Open 9am-2pm Mon-Sat, to 5pm second Sunday of the month.
Gianicolo Hill – The second highest hill in Rome gives great panoramas of the city after you scale it and is dotted with monuments to Garibaldi.
A large monument to Guiseppe Garlibaldi along with an equestrian one to his Brazilian-born wife Anita are worth looking for.
Piazza Trilussa – The steps to the fountain in this 17th century square is a favourite spot for locals to meet up for a night out, sitting with drink in hand to have a quick catch up before heading out for dinner and to the nightlife spots.
Suggested Rome Tours: Trastevere
Bus – From Termini, bus H runs to Viale de Trastavere. From Piazza Venezia, take bus 780.
Tram – Tram 8 runs from Largo di Torre Argentina along the main drag of Viale di Trastavere.
History with a rich foodie past and present
This working-class district popularity has grown over recent years mainly due to its reputation as a great spot for traditional Roman food – especially meat-based dishes.
Testaccio has grown up around its former slaughterhouse, and Butchers who worked in the city’s abattoir used to be paid in cheap cuts of meat as well as money.
The beloved Roman dish coda alla vaccinara translates as ‘oxtail cooked butcher’s style’. Another local specialty is pasta with pajata – made with the entrails of young veal calves, which contain the mother’s congealed milk and therefore considered a delicacy.
This meaty background also helps make the Testaccio market’s many food stalls a favourite spot for food fans.
Menus in Testaccio, like all of Rome (and Italy) are based on what’s in season.
Nightlife is lively here too with some mainstream clubs as well as the usual bars are available to party at post-dining.
Suggested Rome Hotels near Testaccio
Things to see in Rome near Testaccio
Market – The Testaccio Market is an increasingly popular foodie hangout spot.
Many food stalls are here to choose from with all kinds of delights on offer. New takeaway stalls Mordi e Vai, and top city chef Christina Bowerman’s soup and sauce stall served in cardboard cups – hence its name, Cups, are highlights.
Basilica di San Giovani in Laterano – The most important church in Christendom for a thousand years, and one of the four papal basilicas dates back to the 4th century and was the Pope’s main place of worship until the 14th Basilica/cloister are free. 7am-6.30pm, cloister 9am-6pm.
Terme di Caracalla – The remains of emperor Caracalla’s bath complex was inaugurated in A.D 216, and the original 10-hectare site used by up to 8,000 people daily. 9am-1 hour before sunset Tue-Sun, 9am-2pm Mon. Cost €6.
Parco Savello – Located on the Aventino, this local park is a favored spot with locals looking for romance. Follow their lead if you want to impress, as the views here at sunset are sure to help create the mood.
Suggested Rome Tours: Testaccio
After all its years of existence and so many ups and downs, Rome is still clearly one of the most impressive cities in the world by anyone’s standards.
It can be enjoyed year-round and offers sights, events and food to suit every taste.
Whether you’re visiting for that truly magical very first time, or like me, you’ve visited a lot and still can’t get enough of it’s Dolce Vita vibe, plan your journey beforehand to make sure you fit in all the things you most want to see and do, as it is very easy to get overwhelmed by it all.
And however many visits you’ve had, before you leave, remember to give a coin or two to the Trevi Fountain, to make sure it won’t be your last.
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Karen Worrall is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, she has lived in six countries, including London in England, and sailed the seven seas entertaining on cruise ships for 13 years.
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