In order not to waste valuable time in Rome, you need to know where the center of Rome is, how to get there and how to best orient yourself there.
The area within the Aurelian Walls is often defined as Rome’s center. I would like to make the area a little narrower, as the area on which the Mars Field was once located. The area around the Termini station is not part of the center for me.
In antiquity, the center was located in the archaeological area around the Colosseum and was bounded by the Capitol Hill. The Campus Martius was located outside the city and spread from the current ghetto on the Tiber to today’s Piazza del Popolo. There it was bounded by the hill of Pincius and further south by the Quirinals Hill.
Under Augustus, the area came to the city of Rome and was used primarily as a sports and cultural center. The result is an athletic stadium, the Domitian stadium, which can still be visited under Piazza Navona today. Next to it was an auditorium, the spas of Nero and the Pantheon. Further north is the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus, in the east is Hadrian’s Temple. On the via Piè di Marmo you can admire the marble foot of an Egyptian goddess and below the Capitol there is the Theater of Marcellus.
In the center of Rome, the use of public transport is difficult. The buses run irregular and only on the few major roads.
Usually you will explore this area walking. If you just want to see the main attractions, you can also go by bicycle, by Segway or by an electric vehicle such as a golf cart. You can also rent a limousine with a driver and drive around with it. The only attraction you can not get to by car is the Trevi Fountain.
Here I give you a brief overview of which routes best connect the main attractions, where the Hop on hop off buses stop and where you can find public transport.
Rome center · The trident
From Piazza del Popolo three streets radiate to the center, the “trident” – Tridente. The central street is called Via del Corso and goes to Piazza Venezia. To the left of it, Via del Babuino goes to the Spanish Steps, to the right is Via di Ripetta and then Via della Scrofa going to the back of the Senate’s Palazzo Madama. From there turn right to Piazza Navona or left to the Pantheon.
The “trident” is a particularly traffic-calmed zone and a popular shopping area. To the left of Via del Corso it ends at Via del Tritone, on the right side it ends at the Parliament building Palazzo Montecitorio.
A walk through the center
In the above map I have drawn some routes.
- In light blu: from the Castel Sant’Angelo over the Angel Bridge and through the Via dei Coronari, with many antique dealers, to Piazza Navona. This path is the fastest way between the Vatican and Piazza Navona.
- In red: From Piazza Navona past the Senate to the Pantheon and continue either past the Jesuit Church of San Ignazio or with a slight dangling left past the Parliament and the seat of government to Trevi Fountain. This route is better described in my proposals for the city center in three days in Rome.
- In yellow: From Piazza Navona to Campo de’ Fiori and from there to the ghetto or via Ponte Sisto to Trastevere. From the ghetto you can walk through winding streets to Piazza Venezia, the Theater of Marcellus or Bocca della Verità.
- In dark blue: Via Veneto, the boulevard of the Dolce Vita at the time of Fellini and Pasolini. There are the American Embassy, the Hard Rock Cafe, luxury hotels, bars and restaurants.
Rome center · Stops of the hop on hop off buses
All lines except the yellow buses of “Roma Christiana” stop at the Angel’s Bridge, Via Ludovisi and Piazza Barberini. From the Angel’s Bridge, you will reach Piazza Navona and, on the other side, the Vatican. Via Ludovisi is above the Spanish Steps. Piazza Barberini is the closest stop to the Trevi Fountain and the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
The yellow buses of “Roma Christiana” stop on Corso Vittorio Emanuele between Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori. Another stop, in the direction of Piazza Venezia / Termini, is Piazza SS. Apostoli. From there it is not far to the Trevi Fountain.
Rome center · Subway metro line A
The metro has three stops in the center on the side of Pincio Hill. Unfortunately, the Metro A is not in good condition and many stops are currently closed due to technical problems. The closed stops are Repubblica, Barberini and Spagna. In August 2019, the entire line will be shut down for maintenance.
The Spagna stop is close to the Spanish Steps and the posh shopping street Via dei Condotti. The stop has a tunnel passage to Villa Borghese and the top of Via Veneto.
The Flaminio stop is near the Piazza del Popolo and the end of the Campus Martius. From this stop you can also climb very well to the park of Villa Borghese.
Rome center · ATAC buses
Buses can be found in Piazzale Flaminio opposite the Flaminio metro station. On the Via del Corso, the buses go to via del Tritone (there also Piazza San Silvestro). Buses also run in Piazza Venezia, on the Corso del Rinascimento between Piazza Navona and Senate, and on Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Parking in the center
Parking is difficult around the center of Rome. On the Via del Muro Torto there is a very large parking garage, “Parcheggio Villa Borghese”. From there, you may pass through underground passages to Via Veneto, the Spagna subway station and the Spanish Steps.
More information about parking in Rome can be found in the article by car in Rome.