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 what area is the best place to stay for your vacation.
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.
Whether you are first time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this will help guide you through some of the highlights of this Eternal City.
Where are the Best Places to Stay in Rome?
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.
But the majority of the big hitters are located within the central 40 square miles.
Click here for your own map of Rome Neighborhoods.
This central heart of Rome is where I’ll focus most of the guide on; to help you find the best area to stay in Rome to suit your taste.
1. Where to Stay in Prati: Vatican Area
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.
The Vatican area is definitely the best place to stay in Rome Italy 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. All within a short walk of each other.
Staying here means you are right by the public transportation, with one of Rome’s major train stations being Vaticano, the metro station, and walking distance to St. Peter’s Square.
It also means you have easy access to getting into and out of Rome for airport transport and day trips outside of Rome.
Recommended Hotels near Vatican City
Things to see near 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.
Make sure knees and shoulders are covered, as the dress code is enforced before you are permitted to enter.
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.
Highlights include works by Caravaggio, Giotto, and Da Vinci, and collections of Etruscan, early Christian and Egyptian antiquities.
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.
Entry to this is included in the Vatican museums ticket as it is located inside it. My suggestion is to invest in the Skip the Line Ticket for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. This will save you time standing in line.
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
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 Stops – 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.
This is in our opinion the best neighborhood to stay in Rome. It's near everything!
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.
Partner that with the beauty of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and you can understand why The Center of Rome is magical.
It brings ancient Rome to life and is one of my favorite places 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.
Recommended Hotels near Centro Storico
Things to See near 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.
Roman Forum - the Roman Forum is still the city’s beating heart, despite not being utilized as a 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.
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.
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 in the city.
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.
Piazza Venezia – This imposing square is bustling anytime day or night has the majestic statue of King Vittorio Emmanuel II as its centerpiece.
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.
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 one of the best places to stay in Rome Italy for visitors who wish to enjoy its culinary treats and nightlife after dark.
Recommended Hotels near Monti
Things to see 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 restorations 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bus - Bus 40, 46 or 62 to Largo di Torre serve the area from Via Nazionale or Via Cavour.
Metro – Cavour Metro stop on line B is best for the area.
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.
4. Trastevere area
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 places to stay in Rome and food and nightlife are your things, 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 cozy feel year round.
Recommended Tour - Rome Food tours with Eating Italy.
See our experience here.
Recommended Hotels near Trastevere
Things to See near 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.
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.
Bus – From Termini, bus H runs to Viale de Trastevere. From Piazza Venezia, take bus 780.
Tram – Tram 8 runs from Largo di Torre Argentina along the main drag of Viale di Trastevere.
5. Where to Stay in Ostiense – Testaccio area
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.
Recommended Hotels near Testaccio
Things to see 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 highlighted.
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.
Metro – Take line B to Piramide.
Tram – Take the tram to Via Marmorata to reach Testaccio’s main sights.
Best Money Saving Tip in Rome
The best way that you can save money and see all of the sites is to get yourself an Omnia Multi Pass/Roma Card
You can get it for 3 days and it includes all of these and more:
- Enjoy fast-track entry to Rome’s historic sites, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Colosseum, with a 3-day combined city pass.
- Also, take advantage of FREE UNLIMITED PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
With only having a short amount of time this will help you get around quickly and skip the line at a bunch of places. Definitely worth it.
For a more detailed outline see the How to Skip the lines and Save Money in Rome section below.
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.
- OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card: This 3 Day card gives you free entry to top attractions in Rome and the Vatican City as well as a Fast Track Entry, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, free guidebook, and travelcard. Tailor-made for visitors to the city, tourists can save both time and money during their time in Rome.
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.
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.
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.
Read Karen's other Rome article on The Planet D - 3 Days in Rome - The Ultimate Rome Itinerary
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