- The Esquilino neighbourhood resides atop one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome, asserting its reputation as one of Rome’s original neighbourhoods. Until the late 19th century, Esquilino was considered practically a suburban niche in the city centre. Upon the unification of Italy with Rome as its capital, Esquilino experienced a rich and quick urban development. The bustling neighbourhood is full of turn-of-the-century charm and is now a multi-cultural mélange.
The skewed rectangular-shaped Esquilino neighbourhood flows down from Termini Train Station in a south-east direction. With Termini defining its north-east side, the downward-sloping Via Merulana provides the western border and the ancient Aurelian wall neatly cordons off its south, running east to west. Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, a large square in front of the basilica of the same name, is the north-west entrance to the neighbourhood.
The centre of Esquilino is Piazza Vittoria, a 20th-century-designed square piazza with basketball courts, palm trees and ancient ruins. Additional landmarks include the large Termini station, whose area is the northern third of the neighbourhood and the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in its southernmost corner.
Esquilino is surrounded by the following neighbourhoods: Monti, Castro Pretorio, San Lorenzo, Appia Nuova and Est. Rome’s ‘it’ neighbourhood, Monti, flanks Esquilino to its west, slightly downhill from Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. In front of Termini train station and to the north is the congested Castro Pretorio whereas Appia Nuova is to Esquilino’s south. Heading east are the traditional university neighbourhood San Lorenzo and the large Est, an all-encompassing eastern neighbourhood.
Know your neighbours
Getting to know your neighbours in Esquilino will prove to be a lot of fun. The area is best described as Rome’s multi-cultural mecca. Apart from the area immediately around Termini train station, Esquilino has recently become home to many of Rome’s immigrant communities. Piazza Vittorio is home to Rome’s Chinese community, along with smaller Korean communities. Lined with shops, bars, restaurants and businesses, there will always be someone to talk to - or else pick a bench at Piazza Vittorio and start up a conversation in whatever language you prefer.
Esquilino provides shopping resources for anything you might need, from chemists and food shops to clothing and home goods stores. The streets bordering Piazza Vittoria are filled with shops, including MAS, the large discount store selling everything and anything. In addition, there are several small, boutique grocers featuring hard-to-find essentials for non-Italian cuisine.
The large Piazza Vittorio market (in a building just east of the square) is a citywide draw for its fresh produce, meats and fish, however throughout the neighbourhood there are many name brand supermarkets. Via Merulana has a variety of boutiques lining both sides of the streets, with excellent shopping for children. Single-stop shopping can be found at Termini train station. The central station has a vast selection of shops (and restaurants) in its ground and underground levels. Shops are well recognised such as department store UPIM, Bore bookstore, Benetton, Calzedonia and Nike.
With Termini Station in Esquilino, getting to all the corners of Rome is easy and convenient. Termini is the hub for several buses that head to all areas in Rome, and is also the crossroads for Rome’s Line A and B metros. Useful buses include 40, 42 and 64 which link to Centre and Vatican. Bus 75 stops include Termini, Coliseum and Testaccio before arriving in Monteverde. Buses 910 and 360 link to Parioli area, with 910’s final destination Piazza Mancini, stopping directly in front of the train station.
Metro A connects Termini with Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo and Vaticano. Metro B connects to Cavour (Monti), Colosseo, Aventine and Piramide (Ostiense). Several airport buses to and from Ciampino and Fiumicino dock at streets adjacent to Termini. In addition, trams 5 and 14 run through the neighbourhood, excellent for the lazy walker. Esquilino is also easy walking distance to Monti and Ancient Rome.
- With the train station dominating Esquilino, you wouldn’t necessarily identify the neighbourhood as a cultural mecca. However, Esquilino’s over 2500-year social history means that the neighbourhood is home to not just historical monuments and museums but a noteworthy social scene.
There are several things to look for when in Esquilino, starting with your arrival at Termini. The ancient Severan walls, marking the 4th-century BC city limits, are just outside Termini’s entrance. Nearby, there’s the Arch of Gallienus, a mid-3rd century architectural wonder. Another ancient site is the Temple to Minerva Medica, a lovely round structure situated on the southern side of the train tracks.
At the north-western corner of Esquilino is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four important churches. At the opposite end of the area is the Basilica of Santa Croce di Gerusalemme, a 4th-century church housing relics of the cross and the finger of “Doubting” Thomas. Esquilino also has several museums. Two of note include the Museum of Liberation, dedicated to the Nazi occupation and subsequent Allied liberation of Rome, and the Museum of Oriental Art.
More recently, Esquilino has become a magnet for great restaurants starting with Agata e Romeo. Other great dining spots include Panella, an informal café/pastry shop/restaurant focusing on Roman cuisine. Restaurants Da Danilo boasting the best carbonara and Taverna Monti are local favourites. It seems that foodie bloggers ParlaFood and Elizabeth Minchilli are forever in search of ‘real’ Roman restaurants and have a definitive fondness for Esquilino.
Esquilino’s nightlife is not as obvious at the Centre or Monti, with most preferring to head toward those neighbourhoods when the sun goes down. However, the area has several bars, clubs and bingo halls, all with different levels of expectation. Most people would suggest grabbing a drink on the rooftop of the ES Hotel, which overlooks Termini station and its train tracks (an amazing urban panorama). Or, in colder months, Casa Clementina, a hybrid home-lounge that has recently become one of Rome’s cocktail spots.
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