Rome is a compact city and one of the most walkable cities in Europe. Much of what you'll want to see — ancient, Renaissance & Baroque Rome — lies on the east side of the Tiber River in the central part of the city. Exceptions are the Vatican & St Peters, Castel Sant'Angelo, and Trastevere.
Unlike Paris with its twenty well-defined arrondissements, Rome doesn't have a distinct neighbourhood (quartiere) classification. Instead, Romans describe locations with the name of the nearest large monument or palazzo. In our Rome city guide we use the Tiber river as the core, running north to south, and we've grouped Rome into five sectors to give you a quick overview of the city's districts.
This is the Rome of dreams and one of the most desirable areas of the city.
The historic centre is a maze of winding streets, cobbled alleys filled with churches, and palaces from the Renaissance. At its heart, Piazza Navona, the hub of Rome, teems with street life, cafes, restaurants, artists & musicians.
This is where Rome began.
Here's where you'll find the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, Imperial Forums, Arch of Constantine, Capitoline Hill and its museums & Circus Maximus.
Go beyond the Circus Maximus and you'll find a leafy, posh neighbourhood — Aventine Hill — close to the Tiber.
Rivalling Piazza Navona is the Pantheon, steeped in ancient Roman history and centered on Piazza Farnese and the Capo de'Fieri (field of flowers), the lively food market. From there it's a short walk to Trevi Fountain.
To the west is the city's up-and-coming district, the Jewish Ghetto, with its network of narrow streets, and kosher cafes, making it one of Rome's most atmospheric neighbourhoods.
This is where La Dolce Vita played out during the heyday of the 1950s & 1960s. Where celebrities and beautiful people paraded down the tree-lined boulevards.
These days it's where you'll find luxury hotels and high-end restaurants. South of Via Veneto is the dazzling square, Piazza Barberini, and the castle, Palazo Barberini.
The northern tip of Rome's centre is called the Tridente and it's shaped like a triangle.
The triangle's top point is Piazza del Popolo. To the east are The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. To the west is the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The star of the quartiere is Piazza di Spagna, a magnet for Romans and travelers seeking the famous Spanish Steps, upscale shopping, designer boutiques & high-end restaurants.
This is Rome's most elegant neighbourhood, home to the best restaurants, hotels, manicured parks, and top-notch museums.
Parioli is framed by Villa Borghese, one of Rome's prettiest parks; Villa Glori, a leafy memorial park; and Villa Ada, a lush wooded park with an ancient archeological site.
One of the most picturesque quarters of Rome, this once working-class district was gentrified in the 1970's when expats, students and bohemians discovered the charms of this river neighbourhood.
And there are plenty of charms — medieval churches hidden in a patchwork of cobbled narrow streets, restaurant tables spilling out over the sidewalks around Piazza di Santa Maria, priceless mosaics by Pietro Cavalli (1259 -1330) found in the church of Santa Maria, and the splashing of water heard at the fountain of Piazza di Maria.
Just south of Aventine Hill, the Testaccio quarter is one of the least touristy in Rome.
It gets its name from Monte Testaccio, a hill that was created from centuries of broken terra-cotta roof tiles in ancient Rome. It's also become the culinary heart of Rome with top notch bakeries, cafes, and markets.
Home to the popes for 600 years, Vatican City, though part of Rome, is a separate sovereign state and includes the Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens and St Peter's Basilica.
The Vatican is the most well-known area on the west side of the Tiber river.
Close the the Vatican is Prati, a wealthy suburban neighbourhood.
Built in the 19th century, it's the only quartiere in Rome laid out in a grid. It may lack the buzz of the central city, but has a regal quality with wide, manicured boulevards. Although it's close to the Vatican, you can experience the charm of daily Roman life. Worry not, there are many lovely sidewalk cafes & designer shops.
The area around Roma Termini train station is famous for its grit and grunge.
Not surprising, it's also the hub of Rome's cheapest sleeps. Although it's perfectly safe, it will not have the old-world charm you're after. Plus, it's not within easy walking distance to the major attractions.
But the district is not without its roundup of landmarks — the National Museum of Rome; San Giovanni in Laterano, a cathedral built by Constantine; the Baths of Diocletian, the largest baths of ancient Rome; and the Museum of the Liberation of Rome are all found in this eastern neighborhood.