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By Fabio Di Cocco, who has lived in Rome his entire life, and as a courier, can say with certainty that he knows the streets like the back of his hand!
Edited by Elodi Troskie
Italy’s cosmopolitan capital is one of the most romantic and culturally rich cities in the world. What makes Rome so unique from other major European cities is the modern twist on the ancient groundwork. Among the spectacular historical architecture, ancient ruins and Vatican Museums, you’ll find a vibrant nightlife, modern art scene and internationally diverse food culture. Choosing the best area to stay in Rome depending on your needs and preferences can be scary, especially if it’s your first time visiting. So this local’s guide to the best neighbourhoods in Rome will tell you all you need to know!
Prati: Sophisticated and chic
Located outside of the city centre but bordering neighbourhoods like Flaminio, Parioli, Aurelio and Ponte, Prati is perfectly situated away from the busiest part of Rome, yet within close reach to famous attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican City. Prati is known for its elegant office buildings, high end shopping boutiques and charming, typically Italian public squares. For fashion shopping, head to via Cola di Rienzo, a street dedicated to luxury boutiques and international brands. Prati is largely occupied by offices, although it is a residential home to upper-class locals – sometimes referred to as Rome’s “white-collar neighbourhood”. After work and during weekends, Prati comes alive with a modern European allure – wine bars, live music and charming Italian restaurants. Prati is the perfect area to stay in Rome if you don’t want to be in the middle of all the action, but want to stay well-connected to the city’s best sites.
Trastevere: Ancient architecture and local nightlife
The medieval neighbourhood of Trastevere is located south of Vatican City on the west bank of the Tiber River. If the charm of ancient Rome fascinates you, you’ll love this neighbourhood. Home to cultural landmarks like the Basilica of Santa Maria, one of the oldest churches in Rome, and the Baroque-style Palazzo Corsini built in the 18th century, nowadays used as an art gallery, Trastevere is the dream for the history and architecture enthusiasts. This neighbourhood is characterised by its narrow cobblestone streets and old-worldly architecture. Formerly a working-class district, modern day Trastevere is a real hidden gem in Rome – away from the hustle and bustle of the heart of the city but offering more than enough entertainment with its lively nightlife. With local street performers and street side cafes overflowing with the bohemian crowd of artists, students and wine-lovers, this charismatic neighbourhood will draw you in and make you feel truly at home. A great area to stay in Rome for first time visitors.
Testaccio: Laidback and carefree
Testaccio is an edgy neighbourhood, popular among students and young working adults. Unlike most parts of Rome, Testaccio doesn’t bother with elegant Italian eateries and the romantic charm that comes with the picturesque old city. The only hint of ancient Rome you’ll find in this district is Monte dei Cocci, a mound of discarded ancient Roman jars. Located nearby the Colosseum and just across the Tiber River from the medieval Trastevere, it’s hard to believe this alternative neighbourhood is part of the rest of Rome. If you’re looking for good street food and nightclubs without pretence rather than postcard-worthy historical sites, Testaccio is the best neighbourhood to stay in. You’ll find yourself in the middle of Rome’s most up and coming area.
San Lorenzo: Bohemian paradise
Packed with thrift stores, spray-painted murals and bars that stay open until the early morning hours, San Lorenzo is the coolest neighbourhood in Rome if you’re looking for a lively nightlife. Known as Rome’s student district, nights in San Lorenzo are youthful, noisy and soulful. Like Testaccio, San Lorenzo isn’t particularly occupied with historical Italian culture. You’ll find street art rather than art galleries and museums. If you’re traveling in on a budget and don’t know where to stay in Rome, San Lorenzo is a good choice since it’s mostly aimed at the student community. That being said, if you prefer a laid-back, quieter area to stay in, San Lorenzo may not be the best neighbourhood to base yourself in Rome. Even so, it’s worth spending a night or two in San Lorenzo and the neighbouring Pigneto to experience the typical night out for Rome’s young creatives!
Roma Centro: Shopping and sightseeing
If you’re only staying in Rome for a few days, the city centre is probably the best area to stay. Forming the heart of the city, Roma Centro is jam-packed with Rome’s most famous attractions and must visit sites. Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area perfectly embodies the contrast between old and new that makes Rome so unique. The very core of Roma Centro, known as Baroque Rome, is home to some of the city’s oldest architecture. From here, you’ll be within walking distance from landmarks like the Colosseum, the Vatican, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain. At the same time, you’ll be right in the middle of Rome’s best shopping district. Via del Corso is the most popular shopping street in Rome, lined with international luxury brands and one of a kind designer boutiques. Roma Centro is the best neighbourhood to stay in Rome if you want to experience a bit of everything the city offers – the best way to make the most out of a limited time in Rome.
If you’re traveling with kids, Ostiense is the best place to stay in Rome. Located south of the city centre, this neighbourhood is still relatively undiscovered even though it has undergone a lot of renovations in recent years. Deserted buildings have been revamped to house trendy new bars, cafes and contemporary art galleries. Local street artists have slowly started moving into the streets of Ostiense, bringing life in full colour to this industrial area. Ostiense is the perfect place to stay in Rome for families – quieter and more peaceful than its neighbouring districts of Roma Centro, Testaccio and Portuense, Ostiense is still well-connected to all the city’s points of interest. The massive Ostiense train station makes it very easy and convenient to get around Rome and to return to a serene home undisturbed by the noise of the city’s lively nights.
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