5 Must-See Districts in the Eternal City
Discover a different side to Rome when you step off the tourist trail and explore these must-see districts.
Districts You Must Visit in Rome
Rome—The Eternal City. The Caput Mundi. The place where all roads lead. It’s literally overflowing with history, and among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, there’s so much to see and do (and eat) in the Italian capital that it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily for you, we’ve listed some of the most interesting and diverse quartieres for you to explore, stepping away from the regular tourist trail to discover everything Rome has to offer in the 21st century.
Although the Colosseum is probably the most famous building in this area, there’s plenty of hidden treasures in the Celio district that will take you off the busiest of tourist trails. In fact, within just a stone’s throw of the great amphitheater there are three medieval churches: The Basilica of San Clemente, the Church of San Giovanni e Paolo al Celio, and the Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati.
In a city obsessed with its Roman heritage, often the medieval architecture and associated history gets overlooked. In Celio, however, The Basilica of San Clemente, in particular, has incredible Byzantine mosaics. If you head deep into the underground catacombs, you’ll find a fresco depicting the legend of the failed capture of Saint Clement that is sometimes referred to as the very first comic strip.
Some refer to Testaccio as the “real” Rome because of the district’s ancient origins. Today, this area is a playground of industrial-era architecture. This district was home to Europe’s largest abattoir (slaughterhouse), AS Roma’s first stadium, and countless factories and warehouses in its prime. Today, much of this industrial legacy has been left abandoned but that doesn’t mean this area lacks in atmosphere.
When you stroll around Testaccio, you’ll find huge street art canvases spread across derelict buildings, a selection of bars and nightclubs, and some of the city’s best eateries. The Mercato di Testaccio is a great place to start your explorations, and you can fill up on a range of Roman delicacies and street food of the very highest quality.
Ostiense is another former industrial neighborhood that’s now undergoing dramatic redevelopment. Located in a young, vibrant part of the city, there’s plenty of hip places to socialize and grab some great food in this district. Plus, there are also a number of cultural and historical sites dotted throughout this area’s concrete landscape.
Among the most popular attractions is the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. As one of Rome’s four ancient basilicas, this gigantic church marks the tomb of St. Paul and provides an idyllic oasis in the heart of the city. It’s also the perfect place to take a break from the busy streets of Rome and a day of non-stop sightseeing.
Cross the Tiber and you’ll find district of Trastevere; a medieval quarter of labyrinthine streets that’s bursting with life. The Piazza di Santa Maria lies at the heart of Trastevere, and here you can browse the many shops or simply kick back at one of the typically Italian cafes. The Basilica di Santa Maria is a particular highlight, with the glittering Cavallini mosaics illuminating the gloomy dome in heavenly golden light.
Trastevere also offers plenty of atmosphere when the sun sets. A huge choice of trattorias and pizzerias line the streets, and you can easily grab aperitivos at one of the many bars. After dinner, there’s plenty of cocktail bars and an excellent selection of craft beers in from numerous breweries that are sure to quench any thirst.
It might not be the picture postcard Rome you’ve come to associate with the Italian capital, but the EUR district is still absolutely fascinating and packed with its own intriguing history. Named after the World’s Fair for which it was built in 1942, the EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma) district was Mussolini’s vision for a new and prosperous Rome.
Guided tours of the area will provide some context to Mussolini’s visions for the Rationalist Architecture of the period, but perhaps the most imposing building of his authoritarian landscape is the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro—a quadrilateral shaped structure featuring 6 arches down and 9 arches across. B-E-N-I-T-O. M-U-S-S-O-L-I-N-I.