Rome, like many other capital cities, has more to it than just a list of attractions. The tourist map is actually a rather small area of the city known as centro storico, where you will find most of the major attractions. The ancient city was divided into rione and those boundaries are still marked on the walls today, but outside of the rione there are a number of areas or neighbourhoods which all have a distinctive vibe or ambience. From the tree lined elegant avenues with grand apartments of Parioli to up and coming working-class neighbourhoods tattooed with street art like Testaccio and Ostiense
Monti, located between via nazionale and the wall of the is popular with the hipster crowd of Rome, particularly for Aperitivos. It is incredibly central,nestled just behind the imperial forums near the colosseum, but the cobbled narrow streets and ivy strewn buildings make you feel like you are somewhere else. Monti has lots of great wine bars and eateries ranging from pizza slices to go, traditional trattorias, enoteca with walls filled with wine or something a little different. The area has some nice boutiques and interesting shops and is the perfect place to take a stroll at a slower pace.
Rome’s ghetto is on the right side of the Tiber Island, today marked by the great Synagogue of Rome. The ghetto was destroyed at the end of the 19th century, all that remains today are two streets of a 3-hectare area that housed Rome’s Jewish population for over three hundred years. The area is gentrified today, but the central street Via portico di Ottavia, filled with restaurants serving Roman Jewish cuisine is vibrant and popular with locals for Sunday lunch. Jewish Artichoke or ‘Carciofo alla Giudia’ is the speciality here, in season, you will see staff preparing them outside. The ‘antico forno’ bakery on the corner (the one with a line outside) only sells a few specialities, but the recipes all hail from the ghetto, the most popular being ‘pizza Ebraica’. Take a right down via della reginella (the only street left of the ghetto) and you will find yourself in a cute little hidden piazza with a turtle fountain which is a great place to stop at one of the wine bars on the square.
Walk from Piazza Venezia
Across the Tiber island you will find Trastevere, which is where the tradesman and foreigners lived in ancient Rome. Cut off from the rest of the city for over a thousand years, this part of the city developed differently. This area of the city retains its medieval plan with narrow cobbled streets and ochre coloured buildings which give it a more oldy worldy feel to it.
One of the main attractions is the area itself, some of the buildings date back to the middle ages and are strewn with ivy - just wandering around the cobbled streets and window shopping is a pleasure. Other attractions include the church of S. Maria itself which is the oldest church this side of the river built on a Roman soldier’s hospital. The columns are all odd and were snatched from ancient Roman buildings. Not far away is an antique pharmacy that sold remedies to the popes, the National Gallery of Antique Art in the Corsini Palace with a fine collection of Italian artists from the 16th-18th century and opposite, nestled on the side of the river is the beautiful Villa Farnesina with playfully erotic frescoes painted by Raphael for the papal banker.
TRAM 8 from Piazza Venezia or BUS H from Termini station
A little further away for those who have been to Rome before or want to try something a little different is Testaccio named after the huge mound of ancient broken amphora that were stacked by the Romans. This area developed around the huge slaughterhouse (mattatoio) built in the 1890s which once carved meat on a grand scale, butchers and their families lived in this island out of town. The slaughterhouse closed in 1975 and the area has become increasingly more gentrified, but locals remain and they still eat typical Roman dishes mostly featuring offal.
The old favourites, dishes like brain, oxtail, tripe and veal intestines are still available in the local restaurants of Testaccio although it has lots of new trendy restaurants and bars. The local market is definitely worth visiting for the produce but more for the traditional Roman street food on sale. Attractions near Testaccio include the protestant cemetery where famous foreigners who died in Rome, like Keats and Shelley are buried. Behind the cemetery is a huge marble pyramid dating back to Roman times and one of the ancient city gates of Rome.
The nearby area of Ostiense (just past the pyramid) is the place to find street art and interesting bars and restaurants that are priced for the locals. There is also the gastronomic wonderland Eataly where you will find different markets with an array of high quality Italian produce, artiginal food stalls and high end restaurants. Ostiense is a bit more gritty than Testaccio, the buildings are not uniform, some are covered in colourful murals and others doused with street tags. Apart from the local atmosphere and street art, there is also an important papal Basilica to St Paul and the fantastic Museo Centrale Montemartini – a converted power station where ancient Roman sculpture is displayed in front of 19th century machinery. This is also where you will find nightclubs and a live music scene.
Metro Piramide (B line) walk along Via Ostiense / Metro Garbatella (B line)
For those who want the elegant side of Rome, head across the river to Prati, between Vatican city and the river. Wide tree lined avenues, classic architectural styles and upmarket restaurants and shops can be found here. Via Cola di Rienzo, a wide, high-end shopping street leads from the river to the Vatican and is popular with the Romans for an evening stroll and window shopping. There is a more international air in Prati, but in the side streets you will find locals at their favourite traditional spots. Piazza Cavour hosts the imposing Palace of Justice – the supreme court; otherwise known palazzaccio (ugly building) by the locals. This large piazza with fountains and benches is near to Castel St Angelo, a huge monument on the side of the river which is well worth a visit. Once the tomb of Hadrian, it has been a castle, a prison and the personal hideaway of the popes in times of danger. There are fantastic views from the top where you find the Angel that gives the castle its name.
Parioli is to the north of the historic centre of Rome stretching from the river above the Villa Borghese. It is a maze of tree-lined streets and avenues, elegant palaces and parks with lush gardens. Popular with affluent, socialite Romans or ‘pariolini’ ,a term to identify wealthy and fashionable people. The area is extremely well-kept and is away from the usual tourist chaos of the centre. In the 1960’s, Parioli was the place to be seen taking an aperitivo, La Dolce Vita played out on the streets. Today there are fashionable wine bars and restaurants alongside boutiques. Nearby attractions include the auditorium Parco della Musica, Villa Ada - a large wooded park with Roman ruins and the catacombs. For music lovers there is the Santa Cecilia museum of musical instruments and Parioli also hosts the Islamic centre and Rome’s Mosque.
Regional trains leave from the light rail station next to Flaminio (A line) stopping at Euclide every 15 minutes.