A simple overview of the areas and districts or boroughs of Rome city
The best guide to Rome’s geography and maps is the river Tiber and the hills (image right). After a few thousand year’s worth of urban planning the latter have become a little difficult to distinguish in places.
From a visitor’s point of view the city is generally subdivided in such a way as to include a good mix of geography and monuments to visit, such as the Forum.
Stricter methods of subdividing the city include:
- Geography, ie the river and hills. Eg Trastevere is called that because it is across the Tiber river (the “Tevere”): Trans-Tevere.
- Administrative regions: the 14 “Regionis” of ancient Rome which became the 22 “Rioni” of modern times.
Rome Subdivision by Areas for Tourists
- Capitoline hill – The centre of power & the point from which all roads were measured from
- The Vatican – once just a hill across the Tiber river with attractions like Nero’s circus where loads of Christians got crucified. The possibility that Saint Peter might have been crucified there led to Saint Peter’s basilica being built there.
- Villa Borghese parks and Villa Giulia
- Piazza del Popolo area (the north gate of ancient Rome)
- Pantheon area (around the ancient Roman Pantheon temple)
- Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori (medieval Rome – the declining population shifted towards the river once the aqueducts had fallen into disuse)
- Quirinal hill
- Esquiline hill
- Caelius hill
- Aventine hill
- Palatine hill – Where the emperors had their palaces, where Romulus had his hut.
- The Forums: Roman, Imperial and Boarium. Markets, shopping centres and
- Trastevere & Janiculum hill. Trastevere has a reputation for bars and restaurants.
- Via Veneto (famous for Fellini’s film “La Dolce Vita”)
- Outside the city walls, including the Catacombs, old Appian way and a multitude of other sites eg Saint Paul’s basilica etc.
Rome’s Geography & the 7 Hills
Rome is famous for its 7 hills although in fact there are a few more hills than just 7. The city originally grew on the left bank of the river Tiber and then made its way across the river to include Vatican and Gianniculum hills.
In the early days the hills were really hills, with time and continuous building works they’ve tended to blend in to one another�.To see a simplified map: www.mariamilani.com/rome_maps/ancient_rome_geography.htm.
The first two hills to be populated were the Palatine and Capitoline but the city soon extended to include the Aventine, Caelius, Oppius, Viminalis and Quirinalis and others. Some of these were actually made up of a couple hills each with their own name. A curious one is “Testaccio” which is actually a hill entirely made of broken amphora pieces (the amphorae were the ceramic containers used for commerce).
In ancient Roman times the city was subdivided into numbered units called “Regio”. Augustus subdivided the city into 14 units possibly according to his own astrological birth stars (Capricorn if you’re interested).
After the empire we have the Dark Ages or early Medieval. The city’s population shrank from millions to tens of thousands who assembled near the river and literally abandoned the city around them. The 14 Regio were reduced to 12 but were then gradually increased and have become 22 “Rioni” as recently as the 20th Century as the population has reached the size it once was so long ago.
During the 18th century a good number of attractive marble plaques with coats of arms were placed to show regional limits and are still visible throughout the city. Look out for them. You may well notice a number of other plaques of various sorts including coats of arms (Rome was always a feudal system), rubbish collectors plaques placed between the 17th and 18th centuries, plaques showing the level reached during various floods of the city and a multitude of various inscriptions.
The major 14 regions are called Monti, Trevi, Colonna, Campo Marzio, Ponte, Parione, Regola, Saint Eustachio, Pigna, Campitelli, Sant’ Angelo, Ripa, Trastevere and Borgo. Each has its own coat of arms.
Areas of Rome: | The Vatican | Capitoline hill | Palatine hill | The Forums | Villa Borghese & Villa Giulia | Piazza del Popolo | Pantheon | Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori | Quirinal hill | Esquiline hill | Caelius hill | Aventine hill | Trastevere & Janiculum hill | Via Veneto | Outside the city walls | Overview of Rome’s districts and areas |