There is always a lot of talk about traffic in Rome, but in reality Rome is a city for pedestrians. In the city center there are traffic restrictions and the use of public transport is often cumbersome or even impossible. The predominant mode of locomotion in Rome is therefore on foot.
Streets and alleys in Rome have developed in the millennia and follow no tangible logic. Winding alleys meander around ancient remains and medieval palaces. Builders and architects wanted to impress with their power and their art and they endeavored to achieve surprise effects. So you go through a small alley and suddenly stand in front of the Trevi Fountain or in Piazza Navona.
Here I give you some guidance and some tips and routes on how to get around Rome best.
Clothing and equipment
If you are on foot in Rome, you need good footwear. In Rome there is a lot of cobblestones, the sidewalks are uneven and holey. With high heels you are traveling dangerously and even sandals are uncomfortable. You are well prepared for visiting sacral sites when your clothing covers your knees. This applies to skirts as well as shorts. The shoulders must be covered, a pareo is enough. In addition, you should have a sunscreen, a hat, a cap or a parasol.
Especially on hot days you should have a water bottle with you. In Rome, there are wells everywhere where you can refill the bottle.
A good way to get to know Rome is by guided tours. There are numerous guided tours where you can get to know ancient Rome or the monuments in the center within a few hours on foot. The guide will show you the highlights and give explanations. He will take you on the best way through the winding streets of Rome, where you can easily get lost.
Free tours are offered by the organizer Big Bus when you buy a ticket for the Hop on hop off bus. Big Bus offers the following tours for its passengers for free:
- The surroundings of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square
- From the Capitol to the Colosseum
- Pantheon and Piazza Navona
- From Piazza Barberini to the Spanish Steps
Good starting point for a city walk in Rome are the metro stations of line B, Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Pyramid, San Paolo.
At the Tiber
The Tiber banks are ideal for walkers, hikers, joggers and cyclists to cross the city without traffic noise and exhaust fumes. Starting from the Marconi bridge at the Basilica of St. Paul (Metro B station San Paolo) in the south, the orographic right bank is consistently accessible and navigable to the north of Rome. At many bridges you will find the opportunity to ascend via ramps or stairs from the riverbank. In the north of Rome you can turn back to the city center also by rail from the Tor di Quinto station.
Pyramid and Testaccio
The cemetery of non-Catholics (cimitero acattolico) is located behind the pyramid (Metro line B). Many personalities from all over the world are resting here.
Behind it is the quartier Testaccio with a hill of potsherds, which was created in antiquity from discarded clay pots. Here overseas goods were unloaded on the banks of the Tiber. Therefore, the Testaccio has been dealing with food for millennia and is still today a center of gastronomy in Rome.
There are clubs nestled around the hill and opposite is the market hall of the neighborhood with a splendid paninothek, street food and picturesque market stalls.
The former central Roman slaughterhouse now houses a cultural center and a branch of the Macro museum for contemporary art.
The Aventine hill
A very quiet area is the Aventine. You can, for example, come from the pyramid climbing up Via di Porta Lavernale to Sant Anselmo. At the square of the Order of Malta you can look through the keyhole on St. Peter’s dome. To photograph the spectacle is a special feat.
The basilica of Santa Sabina dates back to the 4th century, and the nearby basilica SS. Bonifacio e Alessio dates back to the 5th century. Both basilicas and San Anselmo are popular churches for weddings. I have written more about this in my article Marrying in Rome.
After visiting the churches and the beautiful viewpoints, especially the orange garden, you can go down to the Circus Maximus. From the beginning of May until mid-June you can visit the rose garden of the municipality of Rome on the way there. It’s also open again in late autumn.
From the Circus Maximus you can take different directions. If you take the metro station as a reference, head towards the Tiber to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin with the Bocca della Verità and continue to the ghetto and the Tiber Island.
From the metro station you can see the Arch of Constantine at the end of Via di San Gregorio. Behind it lies the Colosseum. To the left of Via di San Gregorio rises the Palatine, on the right rises the Celio with the Villa Celimontana.
From the Circus Maximus south-east, you will reach the Baths of Caracalla and continue through the Porta San Sebastiano to the Via Appia Antica.
If you opt for the Celio, the climb opposite the Circus Maximus is very nice, to the right of the tramway tracks, over the Salita di San Gregorio.
You will pass the Church of St. Gregory and then, on the left, you will find the basilica of Saints John and Paul the Martyrs, dating back in the foundations to the 4th century.
Under the basilica you can visit the place where the two Martyrs used to live. Between the basilica and the bell tower is a gate, which is opened by the sexton of the basilica. Behind it, you can look down into vaults of rooms that served to supply the Coliseum. The basilica is the main church of the Catholic Passionist order.
Above the square of the Basilica, on the right is the entrance to the unfortunately very neglected Villa Celimontana.
The climb ends on the Via della Navicella. Turn right to the interesting circular church of Santo Stefano Rotondo from the 5th century. It shows parallels with the Anastasis of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
From Via Navicella, turn left to the Coliseum, go straight past the Military Hospital and through Via Celimontana to Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, where you can turn right to the Basilica of St. Clement and continue to San Giovanni.
Ghetto, Campo de’ Fiori, Trastevere and Gianicolo
From the ghetto you reach the Campo de’ Fiori on the traffic-calmed Via dei Giubbonari. To the left of Campo de’ Fiori is Palazzo Farnese with the French Embassy, straight ahead is the way to the Vatican and on the right to Piazza Navona.
Between Via dell’Arco del Monte and Piazza Farnese is the Palazzo Spada. From the courtyard, which is freely accessible, you can see the “secret garden”.
Here is a Baroque artwork, an optical illusion: the portico built by Borromini for Cardinal Bernardino Spada in 1653. Visually, the colonnade seems to be about 35 meters long, in fact it has only 8.82 m. Accordingly, the figure of the Roman warrior seems much larger than it really is.
Via dell’Arco del Monte branches off from Via dei Giubbonari. If you follow this street and cross the Sixtus Bridge Ponte Sisto you arrive at Trastevere and from there you can take Via Garibaldi to the Gianicolo hill, where you’ll arrive to another viewpoint. You may then continue to Villa Pamphili. On the other side of the Gianicolo you can go down to the Vatican.
Before the Sixtus bridge to the right (or from Trastevere coming to Sixtus Bridge to the left), the picturesque Via Giulia begins. It passes at the back of the Palazzo Farnese and ends at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. On the front of Palazzo Farnese, you can take Via di Montserrato. The road will changes name to Via dei Banchi Vecchi and after crossing the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Via del Banco di Santo Spirito to the Angels Bridge.
From the Vatican to the center
The traffic-calmed route from the Vatican to the city passes the Angels Bridge and Via dei Coronari to Piazza Navona. Another more busy route is from Piazza del Risorgimento, past the shopping street Cola di Rienzo to Piazza del Popolo.
The Monumental Cemetery Verano
A very special suggestion for a walk in Rome is the Verano Monumental Cemetery. This necropolis, built into the landscape, is located behind the Basilica of Saint Lawrence. You can reach it with the tram lines 3 and 19. The Verano, with its buildings and inscriptions, is suitable for studies of art and history, and you can walk for hours without getting bored. The bronze sculptor Giovanni Battista Piranesi was probably inspired by this with his imaginative depiction of an ancient necropolis on Via Appia.
Via Appia Antica
The park of Appia Antica is ideal for long and extensive hikes.
The Via Appia is one of the most important military streets of antiquity. It leads from Rome to Brindisi and from there they embarked to Greece. Even today large parts of the street are preserved. In Rome, Via Appia Antica leads from the Porta di San Sebastiano to Ciampino. From the mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, it is traffic-calmed. On the Appia Antica, you can walk about 9 miles to Santa Maria delle Mole and then return by train to Rome.
In Rome you can reach the Appia Antica by bus 118 from Piazza Venezia, by bus 218 from San Giovanni or on foot from the Circus Maximus via the Caracalla Baths and Via di Porta San Sebastiano. More details about the park of Via Appia Antica =>
Rome walking · Rome EUR
The EUR area in the south of Rome was established from the year 1938 on the occasion of the World Exhibition, which was planned for the year 1942, but did not take place because of the war. The name EUR is the abbreviation for Esposizione Univerale di Roma, Roman Universal Exhibition. In the center is an artificial lake as well as parks which extend to the Palalottomatica multipurpose hall. In the EUR you can see some fascist architecture.
Villas and parks
Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Wealthy Roman families competed for the most beautiful palaces and the most beautiful parks. You can find more information in my article parks and villas.
To the sea
If you want to go to the sea, take the railway line from the Pyramid to Ostia. It leads past Ostia Antica to the sea and then runs along the coast. So you can easily come to the sea and walk along the beach, eat a good fish and lie down in the sun.
In Italy, the seashore is always open to the public. You can also walk along the shore in front of bathing establishments. For access to the sea, there are free access outside the establishments. Read also A day trip to Ostia
From Colle Oppio to the Vatican
I made a walk at Christmas through the city from Colle Oppio, where Nero’s Domus Aurea is located, past Piazza Venezia and Piazza Navona to St. Peter’s Basilica and back past Campo de ‘Fiori and the ghetto to the Coliseo. Have a look on my Christmas walk through Rome in my photo gallery.