Rome city center. There is a lot to experience and discover in the historical center of Rome. Whether shopping around the Spanish Steps, a visit to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, good food in the ghetto, visiting churches and ancient relics or partying at Campo de’ Fiori, the center of Rome leaves nothing to be desired.
7 major attractions
Downtown Rome is full of sights. Our top 7 are the Ghetto, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the view from the Pincio. It’s about 4 km on foot to see all seven. You can comfortably do this in 2 – 3 hours.
Pope Paul IV decreed in 1555 that Jews were only allowed to live in the ghetto.
The quarter goes from the portico of Octavia to Via Arenula and is bordered by Via dei Falegnami and Via dei Funari. The ghetto is popular for its picturesque streets and good Roman cuisine. Specialties are the fried artichokes, carciofi alla Giudia, fish soup and offal.
From the portico of Octavia you have a beautiful view of the theater of Marcellus. Through the small alleyway Via della Reginella you come to the picturesque turtle fountain in Piazza Mattei.
Campo de’ Fiori
On via dei Giubbonari you come to Campo de’ Fiori. On the way, various street food places such as Roscioli or the Filettaro at the Santa Barbara Church attract visitors.
Campo de’ Fiori is famous for its market and notorious as a place of execution. In the middle of the square is the statue of the monk Giordano Bruno, who ended up at the stake here in 1600 for his reflections on space and infinity.
In the evening, the square and the surrounding bars are a popular meeting place.
Piazza Navona still shows the shape of Domitian’s athletics stadium, which can be visited underground.
The square is characterized by the works of the warring architects Bernini, who built the four rivers fountain, and Borromini, who built the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. 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.
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. An impassable steep slope became a world-famous work of art.
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 stairs were restored in 2015-16 with the help of the Bulgari fashion house. You are not allowed to sit on the stairs or eat.
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.
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.
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.
Rome center on foot
You can explore the center comfortably on foot. If you want it to go faster, take an electric scooter, Segway, or a private driver.
Our map of the center shows you the shortest routes to visit the various sights.
For the way 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 San Crispino with wholesome ice cream 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 Jesuit 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.
The trident – Il Tridente
The central Via del Corso is the last part of the ancient Via Flaminia, which connects Rome with Umbria and Rimini to this day. From the city gate on the Piazza del Popolo it was called Via Lata. In the 16th century, two streets were added to the right and left, which branch off from Piazza del Popolo as arrows. This is how the “trident” was created.
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 rear of the Senate building. From there it goes right to Piazza Navona and left to the Pantheon.
The “Tridente” is a particularly restricted traffic area with many shops and restaurants. In this area, fashion-conscious buyers will find everything they desire.
Gastronomy in the center
You can eat very well in the center of Rome. There is a wide range from pizza and street food to very fine restaurants. General information can be found in our Food in Rome category.
On our route from the ghetto to the Pincio there are many places where you can eat well. Here is a small selection:
How to get downtown
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
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 the Villa Celimontana in 1850. The Berlin National Gallery has documented the paintings on the Internet (Rome Panorama by F. Loos)
The historical center can therefore be delimited very well with the field of Mars between the Tiber, Capitol, Quirinal and Pincio. In contrast, the ancient center is located in the archaeological area of the Colosseum Park.
Profile Rome center
The historical center belongs to the 1st district of Rome ( Municipio I ). As of December 31, 2019, 24,166 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: