The Historic Centre, the Jewish Ghetto, Monti and Trastevere
The “centro storico” is the most characteristic area of Rome, where ancient ruins alternate with Medieval churches, Renaissance architecture and stately 19th century buildings around the major roads and squares from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo and West towards the Tiber. This is also the commercial centre of Rome with hundreds of fashionable shops, restaurants and various outdoor markets.
The former Jewish Ghetto has maintained its distinctive atmosphere, even though it is no more than a row of small streets between Portico d’Ottavia and the Tiber to the South of Largo Argentina. Situated to the East between the Foro Romano and the Termini train station is Monti, a former working class district with narrow cobble stone streets. Across the Tiber to the West, below the Gianicolo, lies Trastevere where artisan shops and a bustling nightlife coexist peacefully.
Living in these neighbourhoods means being in the centre of history and culture, but you also have to put up with old walls and fixtures. Often those lovely apartments with beamed ceilings tend to be a bit dark, unless you are lucky enough to find yourself a bright - and expensive - penthouse. Generally, good quality housing in these areas is extremely costly, while lower priced options might be in rather bad condition or on noisy lower floors.
Aventine and Monteverde
These are the residential areas closest to downtown and therefore very sought after. South of the Circo Massimo there are the two neighbouring hills of the Aventine and San Saba, with beautiful 2-3 level buildings dating back to the 1920’s and a few buildings from the 1960’s and 70’s with surrounding gardens and high trees that create a distinct quiet atmosphere, despite the vicinity to the Centre. Rents here are usually as high as in the historic centre, as this area is more suitable for families. The nearby located FAO headquarters and several embassies add to the constant demand.
Monteverde is similar to the Aventine regarding the distance to the centre and the green areas, but it is not quite as elegant and it is harder to find big apartments in this area. On the other hand it boasts two public parks, Villa Pamphili - the largest green area in Rome - and Villa Sciarra, as well as the Gianicolo hill with its gorgeous view over Rome. The area divides into Monteverde Vecchio, a quiet neighbourhood which developed along several alleys above Trastevere at the turn of the 20th century and Monteverde Nuovo, which spread out between the Trastevere train station and Villa Pamphili shortly before and after World War II. The latter has less prestigious housing, but is better serviced and less expensive too.
Testaccio, Garbatella, Esquilino, San Giovanni and San Lorenzo
These neighbourhoods surround the historic centre in the South, East and West and find a common trait in the fact that they were developed close to the railway for the working class at the beginning of the 20th century. Buildings are higher than in the historic centre, usually between 6 and 8 floors, and have small or no balconies even though they usually host beautiful internal courtyards with palm or pine trees. Some gracious Liberty style “villini" with gardens are found in quiet side streets. All of these areas have a characteristic vaguely bohemian touch with lots of grocery stores, artisan shops, markets and an interesting nightlife.
Prati, Flaminio and the Parioli
These are higher middle class districts that were originally designed at the end of the 19th century to house the officials of the newly born Italian national state. In Prati and the Flaminio, long alleys lined by 8-10 floor neoclassical buildings lead to impressive squares such as Piazzale Mazzini and Piazza della Marina, while the posh Parioli district hides quiet green neighbourhoods behind the major streets which are home to banks and public offices.
Prati proudly surrounds the Vatican walls, but has few green areas to offer, apart from the beautiful park around Castel S. Angelo and the walk along the Tiber. The Parioli and Flaminio are adjacent to Villa Borghese where the zoo and several museums are located. All of these neighbourhoods are linked to the A and B subway lines and are very well serviced with shops, schools and restaurants. The Parioli also hosts the French Lycée Chateubriand and several English schools and therefore attracts many foreign families.
EUR, Aurelio and Gregorio VII
EUR was originally designed as the Universal Exhibition of Rome during the fascist era and as a new government district, it has developed some very nice residential areas since the 1960’s, providing headquarters to many multinational companies. The streets are wide and lined with modern multi level buildings, and in the centre, close to the Palalottomatica auditorium, there is a beautiful green area around an artificial lake. Flats in this area are usually of higher quality and cost less. Public transport downtown, to the seaside and the airport is guaranteed through subway B and the metropolitan train.
The Aurelio and Gregorio VII areas to the West resemble the EUR as they are modern residential neighbourhoods with 4-6 level buildings, good quality infrastructures and accessible green areas. Excellent public transport connections are available as well, with the subway A and the metro train. These districts are also very popular with German speaking families due to the proximity of the German school.
Balduina, Camilluccia and Vigna Clara
All these neighbourhoods spread around the Monte Mario hill to the North of the centre, offering very good residential housing. Here it is much easier than in other areas, apart from the Aventine and Parioli, to find spacious apartments with more than 3 bedrooms, terraces and gardens. While the Balduina, which is located right above Prati, is also a commercial hub, most side streets of the main roads Via Trionfale, Via della Camilluccia and Viale Cortina d’Ampezzo are very quiet and green. These areas are ideal for large families who send their children to the International schools on Via Cassia, but wish to stay relatively close to the centre. Flats for singles are rare.
Casal Palocco, the outer Cassia and Olgiata
Casal Palocco is located south of Rome, between the EUR and Ostia on the seashore. Developed in the early 1970’s as a private consortium with villas and common green areas, it has always attracted families for the good air and quiet neighbourhoods. Together with the Olgiata, which is exactly on the opposite side of town to the North and a few residential complexes along Via Cassia, these are the only true suburban areas of Rome where you find large villas with gardens and a well organized social life, sport clubs and foreign schools. The distance to the centre is formidable, which means a long commute for those working downtown. But there are good rail connections, with trains departing every 15 minutes.