- Within the famed ‘seven hills’ is Ancient City, founded in 753 BC by Romulus of Roman legend. Once the epicentre of a magnificent empire, Ancient City is now a beautiful and calm neighbourhood, where every corner is worthy of a photo. The area is dominated by ancient ruins and monuments.
A walk back in history
Traditionally the epic centre of Rome since its founding in 753 BC, Ancient City is the area from Largo Argentina to the Coliseum, and from the Tiber River to the side streets of Monti. With the Roman Forum as the area’s centre, additional points of reference include Piazza Venezia, Rome’s most travelled roundabout with looming Vittoriano monument, the Coliseum in the southern corner of the neighbourhood and Largo Argentina, a piazza with several temple remains. Trajan’s Column, with St. Peter standing to attention on its capital, is both an excellent landmark as well as a reference to the direction of the Vatican.
Ancient City is keystone to districts Centro, Colonna, Trevi, Monti, Celio and Testaccio. Centro, Colonna and Trevi make up the majority of the historic centre and are home to all of Rome’s principle piazzas including Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, Pantheon and Trevi. Monti is Rome’s favourite gentrified boho area while Celio is a quiet, residential district. Traditionally working-class Testaccio is known for its late-night clubs.
Know your neighbours
Since the area is dominated by archaeological ruins, it’s seemingly more of a tourist destination and less an opportunity to interact with local residents. The Ancient City is surrounded by niche neighbourhoods including the Velabro area, to the west of the Roman Forum, and the former Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, to its north. Head to the Ghetto/Largo Argentina area and you will find families, schools, shops and restaurants. At any time of the day, there will chatter so don’t hesitate to ask questions.
As mentioned previously, Ancient City is dominated by archaeological ruins, which means these protected areas are free of commercial and residential buildings. However this is Rome - a historic contradiction, so around these sites are historic palazzos with businesses and residences. Walk any street from the Roman Forum and you will find all sorts of goods from housewares to clothing. Affordable clothing shops can be found on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, just off of Piazza Venezia and in the north-western section of the area. Home goods, supermarkets, second-hand shops and knickknacks all have a home in the former Jewish Ghetto. In fact, for any need, we suggest heading to this quaint and residential area.
Walking is the best form of transportation when getting around the area as traffic is heavy, and, on Sundays, several streets become pedestrian-only. The Ancient City district is connected to the entire city via Piazza Venezia, which has bus stops at three points around the piazza. It is also an easy walk to the historic centre, Trastevere and surrounding hill neighbourhoods Monti, Celio and Esquilino.
Buses 40, 44, 63, 64, 117, 119, 160, 271, 628, H (to name a few) connect the neighbourhood with Centro, Piazza del Popolo, Vatican, Prati, Parioli, Villa Borghese, Nomentana, Gianicolo, Termini and Tiburtina stations and Testaccio. Tram 8 has its hub at Largo Argentina and runs through Trastevere. Metro B stop Colosseo connects to Termini and Metro A.
- Ancient City is best known for the Roman Forum and Coliseum, two of Rome’s most important historical monuments. However the area also has several equally important museums, churches, restaurants and even evening bars which complement its ancient reputation.
The two most recognisable sites in the Ancient City area are the Roman Forum and Coliseum, and are included as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage site, along with the rest of the historic centre. Sites equally important and worth your time are the Imperial Forums and Trajan’s markets. The forums can be viewed for free from the street along with Trajan’s Column or more in depth by visiting the Imperial Forums museum and walking through the market place. Largo Argentina is another free site with viewing from its perimeter wall. Crypta Balbi is a quiet hero for archaeological fan.
The museum contains Roman and medieval house, metal and ceramic treasures, and a very large excavation site. The Capitoline hills have the very important Capitoline line museums, the first museums in the world. And immediately adjacent is the Monument to Victor Emanuel - aka the Wedding Cake - a large monument complex with museums, terrace café and amazing rooftop panorama. Finally, there are several historic churches throughout the entire area and are worth a peek inside when passing by.
The Jewish Ghetto and its surrounding streets are a good option when it comes to looking for a great place to eat. Restaurant favourites include da Gigetto, Taverna degli Amici, Piperno and Ba Ghetto. More recently, the Velabro section (just west of the Forum) has surprised us with some great spots such as Ristorante San Teodoro and the famed pastry shop Cristalli di Zucchero. For something more family friendly, Largo Argentina’s Rosso Pomodoro pizzeria is the best solution.
There’s not much nightlife in the very centre of Ancient City, though more recently Via San Teodoro and Via dei Cerchi have opened evening bars. Most would suggest heading toward the Jewish Ghetto area and Largo Argentina for bars and pubs. Or else take advantage of the proximity to Monti and the Centro.
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