Walking in Rome – 3 Itineraries
I lived in the Italian capital for four years and I experienced most of the activities in the city. Still, the thing I love the most is just walking in Rome, especially at night and in the early morning.
However, is Rome a walkable city?
Very shortly, yes, it is.
Indeed, you need to pay attention to the scooters all around, the pavement is not wide and sometimes not even existing, the zebra crossing in Rome doesn’t always give priority to pedestrians (although it should), but still, pay a bit of attention and you will be able to enjoy the city
Walking in Rome is like walking in a very busy open-air museum.
However, walking in Rome at night or at sunrise is like having a stroll in a unique art centre at the closing time when there is almost nobody around and you can stop and enjoy the many pieces of art on your own.
You can read also
- Where to stay in Rome (best areas and hotels)
- Best Airbnb in Rome (close to everything, with amazing view & more)
- All you need to know if you have just one day in Rome
- The complete guide to Tuscany with or without a car
- Best places to stay in Naples and where to eat the amazing pizza
- Where to stay in Positano (with a great view)
Self-guided walking tours in Rome – In a nutshell
Here below a map with 3 easy itineraries that you can do either during the day or the night.
Rome is a big city with many neighbourhoods, however, I highly suggest staying in the central area (see map below) where you will find most of the iconic attractions and unique accommodations.
- The Gianicolo Walk: part of it follows the “Passeggiata del Gianicolo” and the other part is through the hidden corners and secret lanes of Trastevere. Do it at sunset time and you will be almost alone. Do it during the day to experience the Cannon Ceremony in the Piazza Anita Garibaldi. Read more below about this first itinerary in Rome.
- The Pantheon Walk: this itinerary starts in the iconic Fontana di Trevi, one of the most iconic places of Rome. It cuts the central Via del Corso and it proceeds towards the Pantheon, the final destination and possibly one of the most underrated attractions in the city. The walk goes through the streets and squares of the political establishment, with the Government house right in the centre of it. I added a stop also to a secret tiny square which I absolutely love. Read more below about the Pantheon Walk.
- Vaticano to Navona Square itinerary: the first part goes through a popular part of the city, from San Peter Square to the Sant’Angelo Bridge. Once you pass the bridge, however, you will find yourself lost in the maze of small lanes and tiny squares to arrive eventually at the iconic Navona Square. I personally love getting lost in Rome, you always find a little gem not mentioned in any guide. Read more about this itinerary in Rome below.
- Best evening walk in Rome: the Gianicolo Walk is one of the best if not the best in Rome. Make it to Piazza Anita Garibaldi for sunset for the absolutely gorgeous view of the eternal city. Follow the walk down to Trastevere for the aperitivo and dinner time.
- Half-day in the Historic Center: if you want to cover more of the Historic Center you should check out this extended walk. It is a long one, however, you will be able to see so much.
- Half-day in Trastevere: this is quite a big area that deserves more time than just a couple of hours. I have organised another long walk that starts from the Gianicolo Viewpoint to finish at Porta Portese (flea market of Sunday mornings). You can check the full Trastevere itinerary as well as the spots to visit here.
- Best shoes for walking in Rome: consider that most of the time there is no pavement when you walk around the old part of the city. You would have to stay on the side of the lane/street which is built with cobblestones, the famous Roman Sanpietrini. Training shoes are the best
- Walk in Rome, do not queue: one of the worst things about Rome is the gigantic queues at most of the iconic attractions. I highly suggest booking in advance a skip-the-ticket-line for the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Palatine & Forum, Saint Peter Basilica and the Castel Sant’Angelo
- Other unique activities: once in Rome you should try either a Romantic Night Tour by Classic Fiat 500 or a Self-Driven Sightseeing Tour by Vespa to feel like a real local. For the more energetic travellers, there is also the possibility to cycle along the Appia Way, one of the oldest roads in the world.
- Where to stay in Rome: the central neighbourhoods (see map above) are the best choice, close to all the attractions. Trastevere is the romantic choice, the Historic Center is close to the most iconic spots, Prati is perfect for Vatican City. There are other 3/4 areas that work also great if you travel for example on a budget or with kids. I have listed all the pros and cons of every neighbourhood in my guide, with a few hotel suggestions.
- Best Airbnb in Rome: you have a wide choice, although the best ones tend to get booked out. For this reason, I highly suggest booking well in advance. I usually use the Booking.com platform also for apartments nowadays. The price is the same, however, they normally offer free cancellation (very useful on these uncertain days). My top 3 apartments are the Casa Ricci Marchetti (for the amazing Colosseum view), the Trevi Maison (the Trevi fountain is basically part of the furniture) and Garibaldi Rooftop Apartment (outstanding rooftop area, see photos here). You can read more on my full guide to the best Airbnbs in Rome
- Eating around Rome: there are limitless options around. Keep in mind only that the restaurant kitchens close between 2pm and 6/7pm. Grab a sandwich or a pizza slice at the bar if you want some food in the afternoon. Many local restaurants have special deals for lunch (menu a prezzo fisso) where you have a limited choice, but the bill is a fraction of what you would have for dinner. You may read more on this guide to eat in Rome.
- Is Rome safe at night: The central area of Rome (on the map above) is as safe as most of the big cities in Europe. You need to pay attention and be watchful. Try to walk with someone else and don’t go around alone. Keep reading below for more tips on Rome at night, including a central neighbourhood I would avoid altogether.
- Other unique activities and areas in Rome: The centre of the city is absolutely gorgeous, however, if you visit Rome for a long stay, you should try to broad up the scope of your trip. Read more below on other neighbourhood and activities
The Gianicolo Walk
- Grading: Medium-Easy
- Suggested time of the day: during the day or at sunset time
- Best for: view of Rome from the top, secret spots known only the locals
Walking in Rome can be tiring, especially when it’s uphill.
One of the highest points in Rome with an amazing view is right at the start of this walk, in Piazza Anita Garibaldi
You can decide to walk there or catch bus 115 from Della Rovere Square.
The best time to start this walk is at noon, when they do the Cannon Ceremony, or at sunset time for the great view of the city in a spectacular light
From Piazza Anita Garibaldi walk towards Trastevere, through Fountain Dell’Acqua Paola (see map for more detailed info).
This is a walk that is not that well known by tourists, in fact, you will most probably meet only locals.
Once arrived at Piazza San Pietro in Montorio, turn left in a no-through small lane, at the end you will see some steps that will take you down to Trastevere.
This is one of the most hidden corners of Rome.
Here you see the old entrance of the Real Accademia di Spagna and again another unique ancient corner of the eternal city.
Encounters with tourists are going be there unlikely, just a few locals that take these steps as a short cut.
Hidden between the trees is one of the most beautiful views of Rome with the Trastevere in the foreground.
Once you finish descending the steps you will be in Trastevere, the area of Rome after (“Trans”) the Tiber (“Tevere”) river.
This neighbourhood was considered to be the poorest area of Rome, full of tiny lanes, almost a small maze where it was difficult to move with a horse.
Nowadays if you venture with a car, well, good luck!
I used to go in with a motorbike and finding a parking spot was Mission Impossible!!
Today Trastevere is one of the most picturesque areas of Rome.
There is a trattoria every second corner, a tiny chapel every small square, a wine-bar every few hundred meters.
It’s a busy part of Rome, no question about it, however, you can still enjoy it almost on your own at sunrise time.
An interesting anecdote: the most popular car on this side of Rome is the FIAT 500.
There are two good reasons for that.
Firstly it is so tiny that it can get through most of the lanes.
Secondly, and most importantly, it fits perfectly in this environment 🙂
The Pantheon Walk
- Grading: Very Easy
- Suggested time of the day: at night
- Best for: iconic spots as well a few hidden boutique squares
This itinerary covers the Colonna area, where you can find most of the Government buildings.
There are some beautiful squares in this district, all very well maintained.
This walk starts from the famous Trevi Fountain. It’s a very easy-going one with a few pedestrian-only sections.
As you can expect, this is an extremely popular area of Rome, with plenty of tourists around.
Who does not remember the symbol of the Italian Bella Vita?
The best time of the day for this walk is late at night for three main reasons:
- lack of the day/evening crowd
- the street lights paint a different Rome, more romantic, mystical, full of character, different from the flat and busy daylight
- coolish weather, in case you visit Rome in summer
By the way, if you are looking for shoes, make sure to visit the Trevi Fountain during the day and have a check at “Sore‘“, a shoe shop on the corner.
It was my main provider when I lived in Rome. Great selection and prices.
From the Trevi Fountain, take Via Delle Muratte to end in Via del Corso and in the heart of the political power, Piazza Colonna e Piazza di Monte Citorio.
Both squares are very big and pretentious, both with beautiful cobblestones.
These are the Italian Government headquarters and you may see some personalities as well as politicians.
If you are there late at night you will not see anybody most probably, as in the photo here below
In the walk to the Pantheon, there are lots of nice small squares, all with the famous San Pietrini, the cobblestones typical of this city.
That is why it is far too easy to say that Rome is an open-air museum. Because every corner will leave you open mouth.
Walking in Rome is not an A to B activity.
It’s more about enjoying a stroll through a never-ending source of surprises like the Gelateria Della Palma with a typical Italian Ice Cream
To arrive there, just keep walking from Monte Citorio Square and turn left on Campo Marzio Square.
From the Gelateria, in a few steps, you will be in one of my favourite tiny squares, Piazza della Maddalena.
So beautiful during the day, so mystic during the night
The small lanes will get narrower and narrower and you may believe that you are going nowhere till Piazza della Rotonda suddenly opens in front of you.
That’s the beauty of Rome, you can walk in a tiny alley where the buildings are almost touching each other, and suddenly a few meters later you step into a majestic big square with an ancient monument and most definitely the Pantheon is quite old, being opened in the 126AD by the Romans.
You can seat in a nice bar or restaurant to have a cold beer and spend easily hours watching the beautiful area around you and the Roman life passing by.
But do not think this is the end of the itinerary.
There is still another secret spot you should visit, the Piazza di Pietra, a small square nested between 16th-century buildings and the famous Adriano Temple.
A perfect place to finish off this tour
- Grading: Easy
- Suggested time of the day: at sunrise time
- Best for: Vatican on your own and breakfast in Navona Square
Vatican City is one of the busiest, if not the busiest part of Rome.
For this reason, I suggest doing this walk at sunrise time
Access to St.Peter Square is limited however it is probably the most secure place to be in Rome with all that police around.
From St. Peter Square walk down Via della Conciliazione to St.Angelo Castle.
This is another popular area during the day; you literally struggle to walk through the crowd, however, during sunrise it is almost empty.
St.Angelo Castle was the refuge where the Pope hid during the foreign invasions.
There is actually a secret bridge that connects the castle to St. Peter Cathedral.
Unfortunately, it is closed to the public otherwise it would have been an interesting spot to visit
By the way, a few years ago they started a Vatican-by-night Tour including the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. A unique experience.
Cross the Tiber River on the pedestrian St.Angelo Bridge and you will be in the Ponte neighbourhood, right in the heart of the Historic Centre
Just a word of caution. You may be attracted by a walk along the river, under the bridges, it all seems so characteristic and romantic
Well, I would not suggest it. There are many people sleeping under the bridges. The majority is peaceful but, honestly, you never know, and you will be on your own.
Ponte area is absolutely gorgeous, a maze of small tiny lanes and squares
This is mostly a residential area, very quiet at sunrise when most of the people are still sleeping, as you can see from my above photos.
Follow Via del Governo Vecchio and you will eventually arrive to Piazza Navona.
This square has one of the most interesting stories in Rome.
Once you enter you realize how funny is the shape, almost an oval, the reason is that this square was built on the site of an old stadium dated back to the 1st century AD.
Navona Square has a small resident art market that usually set up in the early hours of the day
Once in this area, you should plan a stop at Sant’Eustachio Caffè, for one of the most traditional and characteristic coffee and cornetto (croissant) in Rome.
Just a quick reminder that in Italy they usually charge you a service fee if you seat at the table to enjoy your coffee (5 Euro in Sant’Eustachio Caffè). Stand at the bar and you will be fine; nice also to have a chat with the owner.
Have a walk back towards the river, from there you will have a beautiful view of St. Spirito.
The legend says that Rome started from the St Spirito area.
There is now a hospital, one of the oldest in the capital.
For the most energetic people, you can keep following the river 800m north to arrive at the imposing Museo dell’Ara Pacis, designed by the architect Richard Meier, where this itinerary finishes.
Is Rome safe at night
My experience during my walks in Rome has been always very positive.
There are dodgy people in every big city and with 6 million you are quite likely to meet a few.
However, there are areas I would avoid altogether.
The central area in the top map is fine except around Termini Station where you may find yourself uncomfortable at night.
As I previously said, I would not walk along the river during the night, way too dark.
I personally never experienced any problem in the city however I was always careful during my 5 years in Rome.
Never leave anything around, like mobiles or wallet on a table, for example.
Other areas and things to do in Rome
Rome is a big city, scattered through a big area delimited by a ring highway called Raccordo. Even if the most beautiful part of the city is the centre I would suggest visiting also other areas, especially for the nice “movida” of mostly local people.
- Testaccio: it used to be one of the poorest parts of Rome. Not anymore. It is one of my favourite for the big selection of local Trattoria and Pizzeria.
- Ostiense and San Lorenzo: these are the two districts that tend to attract a young crowd with bars and live music
- Ponte Milvio and Eur: for a more pretentious night. Some great night club but smart dressing is mandatory
- Estate Romana: if you are in Rome in Summer, remember to pick up the program of the Estate Romana (Summer in Rome), there are so many concerts, dancing areas, open-air cinemas etc
- Take a train down to Ostia for a swim and a sunset drink in the summer. Great vibe.
- Is it a hot day? Why not taking a bus to Fregene, where the Roma bene (wealthy Romans) go for in the summer months.
- Rent a bike and follow the Via Appia Antica, one of the oldest roads in the world or join this organised tour
- For a unique experience, go down to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, some of the most amazing Ancient Christian burial tunnels, built in the 3rd-century.
Where to stay in Rome
There is such a wide choice around Rome. Here below my shortlist:
- on a budget: Navona Theatre Hotel and Suite Art Navona
- mid-range: Palazzo De Cupis and Albergo Abruzzi
- luxurious: Palazzo Pamphilj and the iconic Hotel de Russie
However, I wrote more extensively in this guide about the best areas and hotel in Rome.
Moreover, in case you prefer an apartment, you should check out this amazing selection of Airbnb, with secret rooftops, lovely balconies and unique interiors, including a few budget options as well.
My favourite Airbnb in Rome is still the Garibaldi Rooftop Apt for its amazing view over Trastevere