Rome orientation: the districts in the city center
When Rome was much, much smaller than it is now (it is the largest city of Italy, after all!) the old city was comprised of a number of different districts, each with their own name, boundaries and – as it were – character.
Nowadays the name of those boroughs remains on some street plates and is only good for picture-taking. That’s because locals don’t use them anymore and haven’t done so for a really long time. When in the city center and wanting to give directions, what Romans say is the name of the closest landmark rather than the name of the area it is in. More practical, isn’t it?
However, with this post we’d like to provide some more information on the ancient “rioni” (the name for said boroughs) so as to give you with some facts & trivia about the area where you’re staying if you’ve chosen to rent a holiday apartment with From Home to Rome.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re using the subdivision decided upon after the end of the French occupation of Rome in 1798.
- Campo Marzio
After the jump, read more about them all!
When you visit this area of Rome it doesn’t look like any hills are there (“Monti” means “mounts”, literally) but indeed this district covers three of the seven hills of the original city plan of Rome – the Quirinal Hill, the Viminal hill and the Esquiline hill. You’re staying in Monti if you picked up Via dei Capocci among our available accommodations for rent.
Adjacent to Colonna, the term is a contraction of “trivium”, which in turn refers to a three-way intersection in what was once a much more important square that it is now – Piazza dei Crociferi, by Piazza di Trevi. If you’ve chosen an accommodation in either one of the Via degli Avignonesi apartments or at Dormo da Lady, you’re staying in Trevi.
Taking its name from the huge marble column on the square by the same name, it includes Palazzo Chigi – the seat of the Italian government – and the majestic Hadrian’s Temple on Piazza di Pietra.
From the Latin “Campus Martius” (Field of Mars) it is, historically, the area where the Roman army used to do its training (hence its name). It was considered “out of town” until the Augustan era, and as a matter of fact the emperor Augustus himself had its mausoleum built in an area (by the Ara Pacis) that at the time was still unoccupied. Because it was technically out of Rome until the city grew in size during the Empire, foreign dignitaries stayed in the area, and the temples for “exotic” gods and goddesses were here too, which is why Campo Marzio was known for its “cosmopolitan” style. You’re staying in Campo Marzio if you’ve chosen to stay at Campo Marzio Bellavista or Paradiso Penthouse.
The area around Ponte Sant’Angelo, on the side of the river Tiber opposite Castel Sant’Angelo. The name is, in fact, a direct homage to Ponte Elio, the bridge that is no more as it was rebuilt and called after the angel on top of the castle. Was known in the Middle Ages as a destination for pilgrims, looking to stay by the Vatican – therefore, there were numerous inns as well as sellers of religious images and rosaries (Via dei Coronari owes its name to some of those sellers). Antiqua, La Terrazza di Elly and Black & White are all part of the Ponte district.
Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona are among the most visited areas of Parione, which refers to the medieval term “parishes” to address the ruins of a Roman building, possibly the Stadium of Domitian around which the borough grew and expanded. You’re staying in Parione if you pick up an accommodation at either Cielo Terra, Clock House, Governo Vecchio 69.
While they may look like different terms, the Regula borough and Via Arenula take their name from the same word – the “renula”, the fine dark sand on the banks of the river Tiber. Indeed, this area was a beach of sorts when the river overflowed, which was often before the river waterfronts were built starting in 1876. Piazza Farnese, Via Giulia or Via dei Giubbonari belong to Regola.
Named after the basilica of Sant’Eustachio (and not the famed cafe by the same name!) it is a small area wedged roughly between the Piazza della Rotonda (where the Pantheon is located) and the Pigna borough. It includes the Teatro Valle, Palazzo Madama (seat of the Italian senate) or the State Archives, among many other landmarks. The Casa Cornacchie apartment is in Sant’Eustachio.
From a huge bronze pinecone now located at the Vatican Museums, which Romans know by “pignone” (big pinecone, indeed!), originally found by excavating the area around Via di Santa Chiara. The borough includes, among others, the Pantheon, Via delle Botteghe Oscure and Piazza Venezia.
The least populated area of the city center, it counts less than 600 residents and for good reason: it takes its name from the Capitoline Hill, which it overlaps, and as such this part of Rome mainly hosts government offices.
The borough corresponding to the Jewish Ghetto. Owes its name to the church of Sant’Angelo in Pescheria, originally part of the Roman building of the Porticus of Octavia.
Including the Aventine Hill and Testaccio, the name of this area refers, like Regola, to the banks (“riva”) of the river and it alludes to the fact that it wasn’t as densely populated as other boroughs of Rome.
Not so much a name as it is a… direction (the term stands for “trans Tiberis”, “across the river”) it is now one of the tourists’ favourite destinations within Rome, but in ancient times it was known for being conveniently located for building jails as well as asylums… All unwanted Romans were sent around these parts. You’re staying in Trastevere, obviously, if you decide to base yourself on Via delle Mantellate, Vicolo di Sant’Onofrio, Casa di Fenizio or at Wanderlust.
It’s hard to reconcile the image of monumental Via della Conciliazione or the Vatican itself with a medieval hamlet, but that’s exactly what the area looked like. The name “borgo” (sharing the same roots with “borough” it means “village”) is a reminder of that, while you can still see traces of the ancient map of the area by walking down Borgo Pio or Borgo Vittorio – in fact, you’ll be right there when you rent Casina Rugantea!
Don’t forget that if you’re interested in knowing more about the history of the area of Rome where you’re staying, you can now book an extended orientation tour with our partners at Joy of Rome! Read all about it here.