Lay of the Land
“You fall in love with Rome very slowly, and then for life. In short all of Europe is only for looking, whereas Italy is for living.”~Nikolai Basilievich Gogol
The Rome of today is huge — almost 15 times the size of Manhattan or Paris — but is divided into scores of distinct areas, scattered amongst Rome’s seven hills and far beyond. Visitors can walk easily between the Piazza Navona, Pantheon and the Campo dei Fiori. To the northeast sits glamorous Tridente, so called because of its three main streets shooting out from the Piazza del Popolo. The Spanish Steps, leading to Piazza di Spagna, is known for its luxury brand shops (on Via dei Condotti, Via Borgognona and Via Frattina, among others) and famed hotels Hotel de Russie and Hotel Hassler can be found here. Neighboring regions include Villa Borghese (including Galleria Borghese) to the northeast, and Via Veneto to the east.
To the east of the city-proper sits the Quirinale or Trevi area, originally a residential neighborhood and eventually the stomping ground of the rich and powerful (even the pope had a place here) and home to the Trevi Fountain. The Esquilino & Monti area, to the southeast, is one of the chicest in Rome, boasting cool shops and restaurants as well as the stunning Santa Maria Maggiore and San Pietro in Vincoli, which houses Michaelangelo’s Moses.
The Forum and Colosseum, two relics of Rome’s imperial greatness, are located in the Capitoline or Campidoglio region, to the southeast of Centro Storico. To the south sits the Aventine, a pretty, tree-lined residential area for the well-heeled, and Testaccio, the bohemian and fun neighborhood, Rome’s equivalent to New York’s Meatpacking District.
West of the Tiber lies Trastevere and directly above it, the Janiculum Hill. Once rural farmland, these are now residential alternatives to the bustling city, boasting a strong sense of neighborhood pride. The small, boat-shaped Tiber Island lies in the center of the river and has long been superstitiously associated with good health.
To the northwest, the Vatican is not only a region in Rome, but its own country. Highlights include St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. Though it lies to the west of the Tiber, the walk across any of the river-spanning bridges is quick; use the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo as a landmark.