The historic center of Rome, with its relics and masterpieces dating back more than 2,000 years, offers a unique insight into the city’s history.
Whether shopping around the Spanish Steps, visiting the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, eating good food in the Ghetto, visiting churches and ancient relics, or partying at Campo de’ Fiori, Rome’s city center leaves nothing to be desired.
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Rome’s historic center stretches from the Capitol to the walls at Piazza del Popolo and is bordered on one side by the Tiber River and on the other by the Pincio and Quirinal hills. In ancient times the area, the Field of Mars, was used for amusements such as sports, thermal baths, concerts and theater. Over the centuries, ancient buildings were demolished or simply built on top of. This created the mixture that makes Rome’s city center so unique and interesting.
Take three hours to get to know seven places you will fall in love with in a leisurely walk of about 4 kilometers.
Pope Paul IV decreed in 1555 that the Jews could only live in the ghetto and so this neighborhood was born. It is located between the Capitoline Hill and the Tiber River and its most prominent building is the Synagogue.
The ghetto begins behind the Theater of Marcellus and goes from the portico of the Octavia to Via Arenula and up to the Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei. You will be delighted by the picturesque alleys and the good Roman cuisine. Specialties include fried artichokes – carciofi alla giudia – and fish soup. Offal, oxtail and everything left over from the slaughter are also part of the delicious Roman cuisine.
Campo de’ Fiori
Through Via dei Giubbonari you come to Campo de’ Fiori. Along the way you will be tempted by various street food places such as Roscioli or the Filettaro near the church of Santa Barbara.
Opposite Santa Barbara, take Via dell’Arco del Monte and then Via Capo di Ferro on the right. This will take you to Palazzo Spada, which houses the Council of State and a museum. From the courtyard, which is open to the public except on Tuesdays, you can see the “secret garden”.
Here is a work of Baroque art, an optical illusion: the portico built by Borromini for Cardinal Bernardino Spada in 1653. Visually, the portico seems to be about 35 meters long, in fact it has only 8.82 meters. Accordingly, the figure of the Roman warrior appears much larger than it actually is.
If you continue walking, you will come to Palazzo Farnese with the French embassy. Through the windows you can see the richly decorated ceiling. On the right you will continue to the Campo de’ Fiori.
Campo de’ Fiori is famous for its market and infamous as an execution square. In the center of the square is the statue of the monk Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake here in 1600 for his musings on the universe and infinity.
In the evening, the square and the surrounding bars are a popular meeting place for young people and students from all over the world.
From Campo de’ Fiori you have the choice of going directly to Piazza Navona or following the ancient alleys that pilgrims took on their way to Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Piazza Navona still shows the shape of the athletic stadium of Domitian, which can be visited underground.
The story of the opposing architects Bernini, who built the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and Borromini, who built the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, surrounds the square. The figures on the fountain depict the rivers known at the time as the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges and the Rio della Plata. Although the fountain was built earlier than the church, the Rio della Plata already looks at the church with horror. On the facade of the church you can see the statue of St. Agnes, which seems to assure that the church will not fall down. More about Piazza Navona
The pantheon dates back to 27 BC. It was rebuilt after fires in the years 120-124. In the 7th century it became the basilica called Santa Maria ad Martyres.
The dome has a larger diameter than that of St. Peter’s Basilica and is particularly impressive because of the opening in the center through which one can see the sky. In the floor of the Pantheon there are drains through which the rainwater goes away. More about the Pantheon
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain has a building history of more than a hundred years. The money ran out again and again. It was inaugurated three times, the last time in 1762.
The theme of the fountain is the ocean. If you throw a coin into the fountain over your shoulder, you are sure to come back to Rome. More information about the Trevi Fountain
The Spanish Steps
The noble Spanish Steps were financed by the French. Its real name is Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti. From an impassable steep slope, it became a world-renowned work of art. The English name refers to the Spanish Square below, in front of the powerful Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The square was once extraterritorial and anyone fleeing the gendarmes of the Papal States would ask for asylum here.
There are 135 steps to climb from the Spanish Square to the French church Trinità dei Monti on the Pincio. The staircase was inaugurated in 1725. The obelisk was erected in 1789.
The staircase was restored in 2015-16 with the help of the Bulgari fashion house. The traces of food residues and chewing gum stains were elaborately removed. The Municipality of Rome now hopes that Romans and guests will behave in a civilized manner to keep the staircase freely accessible. More about the Spanish Steps
The steep Pincio Hill limits the city center to the east and offers numerous wonderful viewpoints. In the park of the Pincio you can rent bicycles and pedal cars for the children. The terrace of the Pincio is a popular viewpoint over Piazza del Popolo.
You can explore the center comfortably on foot. Very convenient and environmentally friendly is also a guided tour by electric golf cart.
In our map you can see the routes that we have described here above.
From the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain you can choose between different variants:
- The ice-cream parlours route: You have the choice between the ice cream parlor della Palma in via San Maddalena with 150 flavors and Giolitti, a historic coffeehouse in Rome. An ice cream cup buried under cream mountains at Giolitti replaces a lunch.
- The Harry Potter Route: It leads past the Caffè Tazza d’Oro to the magic shop Eclectica, where already Harry Potter did the shopping.
- The Jesuits route: The church of Sant’Ignazio bears the name of the founder of the order. She is known for her perspective ceiling painting. Among other things, there is a painted dome. Opposite is the cozy Restaurant with pizzeria da Sabatino, where you can eat very comfortably on the square. We continue through Via de ‘Burrò to Piazza di Pietra with the Temple of Hadrian.
On the way from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps, we recommend a detour to the luxury department store La Rinascente on Via del Tritone. On the roof terrace you have a wonderful view and in the basement you can see the ancient aqueduct Acqua Virgo.
How to get there
We generally recommend that you choose accommodation in the center. Then you are right in the middle of the action. Read about Hotels in Rome.
The subway line Metro A touches the center on the edge of the Pincio hill with the stations Barberini, Spagna and Flaminio (Piazza del Popolo).
For the ghetto: Tram 8 (Arenula / Cairoli), Bus 23, 280 (near the Tiber), Bus 30, 44, 51, 63, 81, 83, 85, 87, 118, 160, 170, 628, 715, 716. 781, H (Teatro Marcello)
Campo de’ Fiori / Piazza Navona: Bus 46, 62, 64, 916
Piazza Navona / Pantheon (Rinascimento): 30, 70, 81, 87, 492, 628
Via del Corso: 62, 63, 83, 85, 119, 160, 492
Piazza del Popolo (Flaminio): Tram 2, Bus 61, 89, 160, 490, 495, 590, 640
The center of power
Downtown Rome is very safe. Parliamentarians, senators and ministers stroll through the city center in their free time, go shopping and spend the evenings with their visitors in the numerous good restaurants and wine bars.
The seat of government
The seat of the head of government is Palazzo Chigi.
It is on the corner of Piazza Colonna and Via del Corso. In front of the palace there is an ancient column, la Colonna di Marco Aurelio. It was built in memory of the emperor Marcus Aurelius between the years 176 and 192.
To the left of Palazzo Chigi is the Palazzo Montecitorio, built by Bernini, the seat of the Italian Parliament, the Camera dei deputati. In the square is the obelisk of Psammetich II, which was erected by Augustus in 10 BC. It was brought from Heliopolis to Rome and is used here as a sundial. It should be around 2,600 years old.
The number of parliamentarians is 630 until the end of the 18th legislature and will then be reduced to 400 due to an electoral reform from 2020. The natural end of the legislative period is in 2023.
On Corso del Rinascimento is Palazzo Madama, the palace of the Italian Senate. The palace goes back to Giovanni de Medici, who later became Pope Leo X.
There are 315 elected senators, which will be reduced to 200 in the next legislature. In addition, there are particularly deserving citizens as senators for life.
Active in Rome
In the center of Rome you can eat really delicious. You can find general information in our category Food in Rome.
On our route from the Ghetto to the Pincio there are many places where you can eat well. Here is a small selection:
Roman cuisine can be found everywhere, especially in the Ghetto. Famous is Armando al Pantheon, but you have to reserve a month in advance. You also need to make reservations in time at Alfredo alla Scrofa for the famous Fettucine Alfredo.
UNESCO world heritage
The area within the Aurelian walls and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO has designated the entire area with an area of 14.25 km² as the “historic center of Rome”.
That is pretty high. After all, until the 19th century, artichokes and vegetables were grown on most of the land within the walls, and sheep grazed among the ruins.
The painter Friedrich Loos painted a 360° panorama picture on Villa Celimontana in 1850, which was digitized by the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin on the occasion of an exhibition. The view of the city in the direction of the Colosseum – at the bottom of the picture – shows what Rome looked like at the time.
The historical center can therefore be delimited very well with the area around Via del Corso between the Tiber, Capitol, Quirinal and Pincio. In contrast, the antique center is located in the archaeological area of the Colosseum Park.
Today’s center of Rome is in the area of the ancient Field of Mars. Since the founding of Rome, the area was dedicated to the god of war Mars, but was outside the city.
In ancient times, the center was located in the archaeological area around the Colosseum and was delimited by the Capitol Hill.
The field of Mars stretched from today’s ghetto along the Tiber to Piazza del Popolo. There it was bounded by the hill of Pincius and further south by the Quirinal hill.
The first monumental building was in 55 BC the theater of Pompey. It ranged from Campo de’ Fiori to today’s cat colony on Largo di Torre Argentina. Gaius Julius Caesar was murdered here and Emperor Augustus had the largest latrine in Rome built here to condemn the place forever.
At the time of Augustus the field of Mars came to the urban area and it was mainly used as a sports and cultural center. The result was an athletics stadium, the stadium of Domitian, which can still be visited today under Piazza Navona.
Next to it were an auditorium, the thermal baths of Nero and the Pantheon. Further north is the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus, to the east the Temple of Hadrian at the Piazza di Pietra. More relics can be found throughout the area. It was supplied with water from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct.
After the end of the Western Roman Empire, an eventful history began for Rome and the population fell sharply at times. Popes, princes, wealthy families and immigrant merchants built palaces and monuments on the Field of Mars. The medieval conditions in Rome partly ended with the occupation of Rome by Napoleon in 1797 and finally with the end of the Papal States in 1870.
Since ancient times, the so-called “trident” has had a special meaning. The central Via del Corso is the last piece of the ancient Via Flaminia that connects Rome with Umbria and Rimini until today. From the city gate at Piazza del Popolo it was called Via Lata. In the 16th century, two streets were added to the right and to the left, starting straight as an arrow from Piazza del Popolo. Thus was born the “trident” – il Tridente.
To the left of the Corso, Via del Babuino goes to the Spanish Steps and on to the Quirinal, to the right Via di Ripetta and then Via della Scrofa to the back of the Senate building. From there, turn right to Piazza Navona and left to the Pantheon.
The “Trident” is a particularly low-traffic area with many stores and restaurants. In this area, fashion-conscious shoppers will find everything their hearts desire.
Profile Rome center
The historical center belongs to the 1st district of Rome ( Municipio I ). As of December 31, 2020, 23,693 inhabitants were counted, the area is 3.19 km² (source Wikipedia.it) The 1st district includes the entire area within the Aurelian walls and the districts of Trastevere, Prati, Della Vittoria and Eroi.
The numbers for the area within the walls are:
We receive many questions about the city center of Rome. Here we would like to answer some of the questions we are asked most often.
How big is the historic center of Rome
The Centro Storico has an area of 3.19 km² with nearly 24,000 inhabitants. It is located in the area around Via del Corso between the Tiber and the hills of Capitoline, Quirinal and Pincio, and ends at the city walls in Piazza del Popolo.
How do I get from the airport to the center of Rome by cab?
By cab there is a fixed price from the airports to the center of Rome. The fixed price is valid around the clock and is €50 from Fiumicino airport and €31 from Ciampino airport.
How do I get from Ciampino airport to Rome city center by bus?
From Ciampino there are shuttle buses to Termini Station and from there you can continue by bus or metro to Rome’s historic center. There are city bus lines to metro lines A and B. Ciampino Airport Information
How do I get from Fiumicino airport to the center cheaply?
From Fiumicino, the Leonardo Express fast train and shuttle buses go to Termini Station. From there you can continue to Rome’s center by bus or metro. Take the FL1 regional train to Trastevere and from there continue to the city center by bus or streetcar. Information about Fiumicino Airport
Can I go to the city center by car?
The city center belongs to the so-called ZTL, zone with limited traffic. You can drive into the ZTL without special permission only at night, on Saturday mornings and on Sundays. The entrance is controlled by cameras. If you see the writing “Varco attivo”, you are not allowed to enter without permission.
As a hotel guest, can I drive my car into the city center?
Special permits are available for hotel guests. You will need to contact your hotel for this. However, it is very difficult to find a parking space in the city center.
Can I drive a hybrid vehicle or an electric car in Rome’s center?
Hybrid cars are subject to the same rules as internal combustion cars regarding driving in the city center. However, they can park for free in the parking spaces marked in blue if the license plate has been previously registered with the city police. Electric cars can drive into the city center and park for free if the license plate has been previously registered with the city police. Online access Romamobilità
Can I, as a person with a disability, drive my car to the city center?
Persons with disabilities can register the license plate of their car with the Rome Municipal Police to enter the ZTL. The registration is done through legally certified email addresses. Your embassy can assist you with the procedure.
Is it dangerous in the center of Rome?
The biggest danger in the historic center of Rome is pickpocketing. If there are many people standing close together, you need to be careful. Also, you should not be approached by flying merchants. Otherwise, it is rather safe in Rome. Many parks are closed at night and it is generally not a good idea to visit the parks at night. For more information, read our article on safety in Rome.
Do you have any questions? Write us here below in the comments.
What to do in Rome
Looking for ideas on what to do in Rome? We have prepared information and suggestions for interesting places in Rome. Have fun reading what we have prepared for you.