Best Area to Stay in Rome for First Timers: Trastevere, Monti and Testaccio
You’re planning a trip to the Eternal City and wondering whether to stay in Trastevere, Monti or Testaccio? If you are a first timer in Rome, then the article you’re about to read will surely help you out make up your mind on which district (rione) best suits your travel needs.
What is the Best Area to Stay in Rome for First Time Visitors?
Each district of Rome (called rione) has its own magic. However, given that tourists don’t usually have all the time in the world to explore a new city, it’s good to consider a few things before booking your stay.
In this article we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of 3 of the best locations in Rome to stay:
1. Staying in Trastevere
Trastevere is a very large district bordering with the Vatican, therefore very close to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museum.
It’s the bohemian side of the Eternal city: with its working-class roots, Trastevere is the perfect area not only for pub hoppers as it swarms with pubs where you can enjoy a refreshing craft beer, but also traditional food lovers as trattorias are one of the main attractions of the area. My tip? Try as many as you can alongside tinier roads.
It’s true that some parts of Trastevere are more lively and more touristy than others, but the neighborhood is so large that you’ll certainly find a spot with no crowds but still charming and great for strolling.
Therefore, the choice of where to stay comes down to what you’re looking for: if you’re a party-goer you should find accommodation around Piazza di San Calisto and Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere where all young crowds gather, while if you’re traveling with family or just prefer some more laid-back areas I recommend staying in off-the-beaten-path areas.
From Trastevere to Ostia Antica: Directions
In case you’re staying in Trastevere, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Ostia Antica!
If you’re staying close by Via di Ponte Sisto, bus n 280 running along the Lungotevere (the river road) will bring you to Ostiense station, where you can get the train to beautiful Ostia Antica.
Directions to Ostia Antica: get on at Lgt Farnesina/Trilussa and drop off at Partigiani/Staz.ne Ostiense (direction Partigiani FS).
Where to Eat in Trastevere
“Sora Mirella” – Lungotevere degli Anguillara – the specialty is Grattachecca (slushie)
“Il Maritozzaro” – Via Ettore Rolli, 50 – the specialty is Maritozzi, a typical pastry of Rome
“Supplì Roma” – Via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 137 – the specialty is Supplì, a fried ball of rice typical of Rome
“Trattoria Da Enzo al 29” – Via dei Vascellari, 29 – Trattoria where you should try fried artichokes and cacio e pepe
To Sum Up: Should I Stay in Trastevere?
- Trastevere is a fascinating area to stay in, with plenty of history and art within its churches and magical atmosphere.
- It’s a quite large area so pay attention to where exactly pick your accommodation.
- If you’re looking for some fun and nightlife you’d better stay near Piazza di San Calisto and Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. On the other hand, for more laid back areas, avoid the heart of Trastevere which may be a bit noisier. Piazza Trilussa is a very convenient location, you can get pretty much anywhere just walking (15 mins walk to reach the Pantheon).
- The neighborhood is well connected to the city center. However, I advise you to check where the accommodation is on the map, or ask the owner for additional information for your convenience. Trastevere is ideal to take a stroll (also, don’t miss Gianicolo hill, from where you can enjoy a most beautiful view of Rome..for free!).
2. Staying in Monti
Monti is a smaller district, but more central compared to Trastevere. The most ancient “rione” of Rome, gives its name to the Esquilino, Viminale, Quirinale and Celio hills (in Italian “monti”), once part of this district.
Its ancient name was “Subura” that means “inhabited area under the city” which technically defines the area from Piazza della Suburra going down the stairs in Via Cavour up to Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, by the Borgia steps.
In Monti you will find a range of styles, not only from an architectural point of view – buildings vary from Roman to Medieval, from bohemian to classical and Baroque – but also in the venues: you may stop by in cozy family-run trattorias for lunch, shop in funky boutiques and have a glass of wine in more modern and hip bars. Even in the crowd you might find some variety: from students to expats and locals.
Monti is a really good place to stay in Rome as everything is closeby: cafés, restaurants, landmarks such as the Colosseum, Altare della Patria and, farther from the city center, S. Giovanni in Laterano Basilica.
Also, Termini station is just a few minutes away (depending on which part of Monti you’re staying in). Not to worry about being close to a metro station: Cavour, Repubblica, Colosseo, Vittorio Emanuele and Manzoni metro stations serve the area perfectly.
If your accommodation is near S. Maria ai Monti, you’ll surely experience the fairly lively nightlife and restaurants of that area, but also, don’t miss out on the market on Sunday morning!
In Mercato Monti, via Leonina 46, you will find all sorts of unique vintage clothes, accessories and craftsmen, but also vinyls and old-fashioned cameras.
Very convenient is the area around the Opera House: 10 mins away from the Colosseum (by metro), 5 mins walk to get to Termini Station and 15 mins walk to reach Trevi Fountain.
Where to Eat in Monti
- If you’re staying in Rome one night only Monti is the perfect place for you as all the main attractions are really close by (just to name a couple the Colosseum, Trevi fountain) and can be reached on foot.
- Lively area suitable for those who have little time and want to take the most out of it.
3. Staying in Testaccio
Situated south of the Colosseum and Aventino area, Testaccio is the least touristy district of the three as it’s not as central as the others and it’s probably not the first choice of first timers to Rome.
The neighborhood is way quieter than the other two and is more suitable for people who wish to enjoy the calm of the night without being disturbed by ords of bar hoppers and youngsters. If you have already been to Rome, this area would be a new place to discover.
Nonetheless, it is a very well connected district: wherever you’re staying in Testaccio, Piramide metro station is within a stone’s throw. The blue line will lead you to Termini station in no time, or else, if you want to visit gorgeous Villa Borghese, hop off there and take the red line to reach Flaminio metro station. From that station it’s a nice pleasant walk to the Villa throughout its gardens.
Also, as I mentioned before, you will have Roma Ostiense nearby to reach Ostia Antica (for more info visit the official website).
Testaccio district has developed around Monte dei Cocci (also known as Monte Testaccio), an artificial mound made of “testae” (latin word for “cocci” in Italian), that is to say Roman ancient pottery such as pieces of amphoras and jars.
People living here are the descendants of the so-called “Testaccini”: this term comes from the beginning of the 20th century to designate those people who were moved into predefined houses and shops.
Among them slaughterhouses were popular, so popular that even nowadays we can see the heritage of those slaughterhouses at the edge of the district in their traditional cuisine: just think of quinto quarto, the Roman dish made of offal (“frattaglie” in Italian).
Strolling down Testaccio you will see restaurants and osterie offering this typical food..and if you have the chance, share it with a local!
Where to Eat in Testaccio
“Felice a Testaccio” – Via Mastro Giorgio, 29 – traditional trattoria offering tonnarelli cacio e pepe, carbonara, gricia and amastriciana pasta and Roman-style “saltimbocca”.
“Chiosco Testaccio” – Via Giovanni Branca, 122 – Grattachecca (slushie) kiosk
To sum up: Should I Stay in Testaccio?
- Testaccio is a bit farther from the city center so it’s probably not the best option for first timers and those who can spend just a couple days in Rome as you would have to spend time on public transit.
- Very appealing area to consider if you want to discover another nuance of Romans, their habits, characters and cuisine, offering a calm and rich atmosphere where you seem to be stuck in time.
Surely you now have a better understanding of the three districts of Rome: Trastevere, Monti and Testaccio. I hope this article will be helpful for your stay in the Eternal City. At the end of the day, the choice comes down to your travel needs, so I’m confident that it will be easier for you to pick the best option for your trip.
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Image credits: “basilica di san pietro in vincoli” by washingtonydc // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; “Colors, light and Rome” by mirkop82 // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; “Testaccio SkyLine and Enrico Letta’s house on the background – ND0_7121” by Nicola since 1972 // CC BY 2.0