- The name Castro comes from castro praetorio, or ‘ancient barracks’ for the Praetorian Guard. Built during the 1st century AD, the emperor’s elite guard resided in this neighbourhood until the fall of the Roman Empire. Eventually, the neighbourhood was left alone until the late 1800s, upon the unification of Italy when modern apartments and building were constructed. The 20th century brought life into the once abandoned area thanks to the construction of several ministries and Policlinico, Rome’s teaching hospital.
Castro Pretorio is a small neighbourhood immediately north and east of Termini Station. Via Policlinico is its eastern border, marked by the large hospital complex. Its western border is just below Piazza della Repubblica at Via Torino. Castro Pretorio can be referred to as both an area of monuments (west) and residential district (east). Piazza della Repubblica (formerly Piazza Exedra) serves as the main landmark in the western part of the neighbourhood, while hospital Policlinico is an excellent landmark to the east. The smaller Piazza Indipendenza is another convenient landmark. Streets of useful reference include Via Enrico Nicola, which bisects the neighbourhood from southwest to northeast, and runs in front of Termini Train station. Via Policlinio runs from north to south in the eastern area of Castro Pretorio.
Bordering Castro Pretorio are neighbours Esquilino (south), San Lorenzo (southeast), Monti (west) and Ludovisi (North). Ludovisi, noted for Via Veneto, is an elegant neighbourhood for diplomats and businesses. Monti is Rome’s ‘it’ neighbourhood. Esquilino is a hub for Rome’s central train station Termini, and San Lorenzo is home to a large student population, now reincarnated as hipsters.
Know your neighbours
Similar to neighbourhoods Nomentano, San Lorenzo and Appia Nuova, Castro Pretorio is filled with local-owned shops, businesses and cafés as well as hostels, B&Bs and hotels. It is often very busy with traffic from Termini Station and definitely caters to tourism. Don’t be surprised if the local barista speaks English, French, Spanish or Mandarin. Getting to know your neighbours may be harder here as the area can best be described as transient.
The best shopping references for the Castro Pretorio neighbourhood are Piazza Indipendenza and Termini Station. Piazza Indipendenza and surrounding streets have home wares, clothing, souvenirs and food shops. Termini Station will provide more replete shopping with its vast selection of shops (and restaurants) in its ground and underground levels. Shops are well known names, such as department store UPIM, Bore bookstore, Benetton, Calzedonia and Nike.
Connections to all areas of Rome are made quite easily from Castro Pretorio, thanks to the metro stops, bus hubs and very useful proximity of Termini station. Bus lines include: 40, 42, 64, 360, 492 and 910 which connect the area to Vaticano, Centre, Parioli, and Olympic Stadium, as well as Monti, Appia Nuova and Testaccio.
Both of Rome’s metro lines have stops in Castro Pretorio. Line A (red) has stops at Repubblica and Termini, connecting with Vatican, Piazza del Popolo, Centre and Agnagnina. Line B (Blue) has stops at Termini, Castro Pretorio, and Policlinico, and connects to Tiburtina station, Cavour (Monti), Colosseo, Aventine and Piramide (Ostiense).
- Castro Pretorio can be divided into two almost themed areas: residential and monumental. Though small in area, the neighbourhood is filled with cultural sights ranging from museums to music halls. Its reputation as a hub for tourist arrivals and departures means it is lacking nightlife.
In the western area of the neighbourhood is the majestic Piazza della Repubblica (formerly Piazza Exedra), which isn’t only beautiful but full of historical sites. Here you can find Terme di Diocleziano (Baths of Diocletian) complex, Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (a large church based on a design by Michelangelo) and a planetarium. The nearby Palazzo Massimo and Baths of Diocletian are part of the National Museum of Rome ticket (and archeological card) and both house wonderful antiquities collections of marbles, metals and frescoes, et al.
Via Nazionale, one of Rome’s major thoroughfares that runs directly to the historic centre, has the famous Church of San Paolo “inside the walls” as one of its addresses. Via Cavour, another major thoroughfare to the centre, runs parallel to Via Nazionale and nestled between both streets is Rome's famous theatre, the Teatro dell' Opera. In the eastern area is the Piazzale Porta Pia with its famous portal, known for the battle that ended the domain of Rome as a Papal State.
Because Castro Pretorio caters to a more touristy crowd, the neighbourhood is filled with restaurants from fast food to more formal dining. This also means the area is less likely to be relegated to only Roman cuisine. Some of its more noteworthy restaurants include Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant (vegetarian), Aristocampo, an excellent sandwich shop, Grappolo d’Oro, a more traditional Roman trattoria and Est Est Est!, a trattoria/pizzeria. Trimani Wine Bar also has a small but delicious food selection to go with that bottle of Brunello you covet. Noteworthy is that Castro Pretorio has the most McDonald’s per any area in Rome.
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