Geography of Rome

Where to Stay in Rome

The answer to this depends firstly on why you are here. If it is for a very specific reason, then you will want to stay in that location or within easy access to that location via public transport.

If you visit is to generally enjoy all the major sites (Vatican, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, P. Navona, Trastevere, etc), then you want to be either in the Historic Centre, or, to save a little money or have a little more space, just outside it.

The Historic Centre is the area in the centre of Rome that holds 90% of the significant tourist sites. It is called the Historic Centre (Centro Storico), because it is the area that has been inhabited, almost without a break, for over 2000 years. Buildings and sites are generally dated between 2000 and 300 years old.

Just outside the historic centre, is the more 20th Century Rome. This area, on the edge of the Historic Centre, is where most buildings are between 40-100 Years old.

Often there is accommodation that seems to be the same price both in the Historic Centre, and just outside. But this isn’t the case. Generally, if prices seem the same, the volume of space you get for your money is much smaller in the centre.

However, many people contend that accommodation in the very centre is both a key part of their enjoyment of Rome, and avoids any travel time.

What areas comprise the Historic Centre. Trastevere, Campo dei Fiori, P. Navona, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Trevi, Portico. (Also the Vatican city is contiguous with …)

What areas are surrounding the Historic Centre. Vatican Area, Prati, Via Veneto, Termini, San Giovanni, Testaccio, South Trastevere, Flaminia, Villa Borghese)

What sites are in the Historic Centre. Colosseum, Roman Forum, Campo dei Fiori, P. Navona, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, etc).

Most Visited sites outside the Historic Centre. Catacombs (5-10 kilometres), Appia Antica (5-10 Kilometres), Ostia Antica (30 Kilometres), Tivoli (40 Kilometres).

How to “see” Rome

Getting around Rome…. Once you are in the centre, the best way to get around is on foot. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that transport is limited to a few buses on a few main roads that form a “cross” through this area. This means you will probably have to walk further to a bus stop than the next place

And the overriding reason for going on foot is that there is so much of Rome that is not in the guide books, or on any information sheet, that can be discovered and explored anew. This is, for those who love Rome, the greatest asset of the city.

If you organise yourself, you can very easily go from site to site with only a short walk (i.e., don’t do Vatican, then Colosseum, then Villa Borghese…)

With organisation, the main sites can all be walked with an average of 300 metres between them.

If you do need to do one side to the other, buses will take you there without too much difficulty.

The Rome metro is an option, but it is not very useful except getting from Termini, to the Vatican (one extreme to the other) as it doesn’t go through the heart of the city and only stops otherwise at the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum (of the major sites), and these are on different lines.

The metro is excellent if you are staying in the suburbs. This can be a quick way into the centre of Rome.

Tours of Rome….

There are many options for tours in Rome. On the internet you can find formal tour companies and individuals that offer a variety of tours and levels of intimacy, in both the number of people in each tour, and the level of detail of each subject.

When you arrive in Rome, you will not be short of “offers” of free walking tours that companies use to promote their paid walking tours. These are generally very good and it depends on the individual giving the tour.

Areas of Rome

The Historic Centre

If you want to get yourself “into” the city of Rome for your visit, and your interested in the Colossuem, Vatican, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and other central “hot-spots” such as Trastevere, Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona, then this is all in a relatively small area in the centre generally called “The Historic Centre” or “Centro Storico”. (See below for how big this area is).

The area is only a few square kilometres, and there is little difference between the various locations in terms of general access to the all the sites and atmosphere. Anything within this few square kilometres we call “The centre”.

There is an area which is a few kilometres square which is generally referred to as the historic center. This is “Renaissance” and “Baroque” Rome, and has older buildings (up to 700 years) which are generally smaller and darker than elsewhere, but are very characteristic. Most sites are walking distance from here, and so it is a very popular place – generally reflected in prices. In this area are Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and Trastevere etc.

Inner Suburbs

On the edge of this area, in addition to the Roman Forum and Colosseum, is the first ring of accommodation, from which the center is up to/around a 15 minute walk. This is also very popular for visitors because transport is seldom, if ever, required to enjoy all parts of the city. There is also The Spanish Steps, Castel St. Angelo, Vatican, San Giovanni etc.

Together we call these areas “The Centre”. The apartments listed in “The Centre” are in this area. Each apartment is very different to the next, however, they have a few things in common. Security of doors/locks etc, and in safe areas. Cleanliness is absolutely guaranteed, of both the apartment and the linen, towels etc. Prices are all on the each page and correct.

If you want to clarify a preference, it is easiest to say “cobbled centre”, “centre general”, or “Rome generally”

Outer Suburbs

The suburbs provide generally cheaper accommodation and quite good public transport access to the centre, although much fewer rental options are available. If you don’t need the city on your doorstep, then accommodation here is an option.

Rome has the more green space for every building than any other capital city in Europe.

The Whole of Rome

Greater Rome is encompassed broadly by a ring road called the GRA. Within this, there are many green areas, and many suburbs, along with the central historical region.

How big is Rome

The Historic Centre is a bit vague, as it includes and excludes different things to different people. On the map of “Central Rome” the black line indicates the historic walls (most from the Roman area), that are still there and indicate the “city” as it was 2000 years ago.

However, most of the area within these walls is now 15th-18th Century, with some medieval sections, some Roman sections, and some late Renaissance sections.

But the most important thing is the area that YOU are coming to see. That typically includes the list on the following section

If you draw a line around all of these, the area it encompasses is about twice the size of Central Park or Hyde Park (NY, London). It is not very big.

Typically Visitors “Must See”

* Vatican
* Castel St Angelo
* Via Giulia
* Spanish Steps
* Villa Borghese
* Trevi Fountain
* Piazza Navona
* Trastevere
* Campo dei Fiori
* Roman Forum
* Colosseum
* Pantheon

What atmosphere to expect in Rome

The Centre is a bustling, generally noisy area at least at some time during each day – normally later in the evenings. For those who are looking for a quiet place to stay in Rome, they should look at Tuscany – because Rome is not quiet.

The city is a very lively place, at all times of the year, and most times of the day and night. It is a wonderful place to be, and so there are many people “being” there. They come for the charm amid chaos. As it has been throughout most of history.

But Rome is more than just incredible history – it is this history set amongst everyday modern life that makes it fascinating and chaotic and enchanting – being amongst “it” is an experience in itself.

A broad background


Latium (Lazio in Italian) is the home region of the Italian capital, Rome, and with 5.25 million inhabitants the third most populous of Italy’s 20 regions. Almost 55% of the population resides in Rome, giving the region a population density that is the fourth highest in the country., Located in central Italy, Latium stretches along the Mediterranean coast for 361km. It borders with Tuscany and Umbria and the Marches on the north, with Abruzzo and Molise to the east, and with Campania on the south. Administratively, the region is divided into five provinces: Rome, Viterbo, Rieti, Latina and Frosinone. For the most part (about four-fifths of the total) the territory is mountainous or hilly. Much of the area north of Rome, between the Apennine mountains and the coast, is of volcanic origin, with sizeable craters that are now lakes. South of Rome, the area between the Apennines and the coast, the fertile Agro Pontino, for centuries a malaria-ridden swamp land, was drained during the Fascist era. The landscape of the Circeo national park is particularly interesting because of the references to its geography in ancient texts (Homer and Virgil). The region’s major river is the Tiber, which runs from Orte in the north through Rome to the sea. Civitavecchia and Gaeta are the two major ports. The major airport, now handsomely refurbished and modernised is Fiumicino (officially named Leonardo Da Vinci) The smaller airport, Ciampino is used for some European flights and charters.


Statistics indicate that Latium enjoys a standard of living above the national average. The average annual income per inhabitant, more than 16,000 Euro, approaches northern Italian levels. However, there are significant disparities within the region. More than 70% of the region’s GDP is produced by the city of Rome alone. And, not surprisingly, given the importance to Rome of public administration, banking, tourism and insurance, three-fourths of that GDP comes from the tertiary sector, a record that sets Latium apart from other Italian regions as well as from Italy as a whole where the national average is 65%. Agriculture (characterised primarily by the cultivation of grains, grapes and hothouse vegetables as well as sheep-raising) has been steadily declining in importance, while industry – given the traditional absence of a solid manufacturing sector – plays only a modest role. The most developed sectors are technology, paper, publishing and pharmaceuticals. Another important business area has always been that of construction, linked largely to residential development in the city of Rome which is also home both the Italian film industry and to Italian state television. Given the wealth of artistic and archaeological monuments in Rome it is not surprising that tourism is another major economic sector, with close to 10mn visitors a year. But there is much to see in other areas of Latium, such as the Etruscan necropoli and artefacts north of Rome , Subiaco in the Appenines, Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, the Castelli Romani outside the capital, the abbey of Fossanova where Thomas Aquinas is buried near Latina and the ruins of the first century temple to Jupiter in Terracina.


The Latins, who gave their name to this region, were probably the first, to tread the soil of Latium, followed shortly thereafter by other Italic peoples such as the Volsci and the Ernici. The Etruscans arrived (no one really knows from whence) not long afterwards, and were the first to leave traces of a modern culture, with their defensive structures, and their necropoli. But with the conquest of the last Etruscan strongholds in 265 B.C., the rise to power of the Romans was to proceed, unchallenged, for centuries, coming to an end (at least in the West) with the overthrow of the adolescent emperor, Romulus Augustus, by the barbarian general Odovacer in 476 AD . After long period of barbarian dominance, the papacy began to emerge as a major political and territorial player. And although conflicts between the Bishop of Rome and the princely families of Latium were to continue for many centuries, in the end by the 15th century the Vatican (sometimes with the help of the Spanish and/or the French) had emerged as the dominant force in the area . In 1870, after several years of conflict, the Pontifical State (which absorbed most of Latium as well as other areas) was absorbed by the new Italy, finally unified under the Savoy monarchs of Piedmont. The monarchy survived throughout the Fascist period (1922 to 1943) but, largely because of the behaviour of the royal family during the war, lost its Italian kingdom in the historic popular referendum of 1946.