Hotels in the ancient Centre of Rome - a good choice?
A visitors' briefing on staying at the heart of the ancient City of Rome around Trevi & Spanish Steps
Small Hotels: in ancient City of Rome
Staying in the ancient city centre of Rome would at first glance be an ideal location to base yourself for your visit to Rome.
It can't get any central after all. But is it a good idea in practise to stay here?
Well in summary, yes, the location is very good and your immediate environment in the ancient city is a delight with treasures to be found around every corner. A truly Italian experience too.
The ancient city
The downside of staying in the district is a direct consequence of its biggest asset. The ancient city is still medieval in layout, a maze of narrow lanes and streets. There are few modern roads that are wide enough for buses for example to go down.
As a result access is very restricted in many hotels except by foot or car. The Rome Metro can only skirt around the edges of the district. Airport transfers may be an ordeal without using a taxi.
The historic buildings in the area mean there are few hotels, and those that are there tend to be on the small side and independent. Don't expect large purpose built hotels, with spacious lounges or the familiar global four star chains. As a result there is a price premium over hotels of a similar grade elsewhere.
The ancient City of Rome
The oldest part of Rome, around Trevi fountain, Pantheon and the Spanish Steps is a honeycomb of narrow streets. There are a few major arteries that run through the district like the Via Corso, wide enough for two lanes of traffic, but these are the exception to the rule.
The only realistic way to get about is by foot and what a pleasure that is. There is so much of interest around every corner, just wandering independently making your own discoveries is recommended. The area is always a busy, bustling place.
Types of Rome hotels
Rome hotel districts
Major hotel chains in Rome
Rome hotel types
Small restaurants spill out onto the street everywhere. Shops are small, and their is some tourist tat around the immediate vicinity of the main tourist draws, but much else is high class designer boutiques.
The Via dei Condotti, right by the Spanish Steps is where you want to go if you want to shop for Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci. This is not only one of the richest streets in Italy but also one of the best for shopping in Rome.
There is a tourist 'rat run' through these narrow streets connecting the Spanish Steps with the Trevi Fountain, then onto the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The way is even sporadically signposted, but its arguably best to get off this run and its gauntlet of sometimes tacky shops aimed at the tourist.
Because of the nature of the streets and buildings most things are small scale. There are no large hotels or modern office blocks, that would destroy the whole feel of the place.
You should have no problem getting something to eat. It is a great area just to wander in the evening after a good meal.
Most places are small and of course heavily biased towards pizza and pasta. The familiar global fast food chains do exist but you may have to look harder than normal to find them.
Hotels around Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps
Everything here is on a small scale, there are no large hotels, the vast majority are just family owned hotels with a limited number of rooms. So don't expect familiar brand name hotels in modern blocks and facilities like gyms and swimming pools.
The Trevi Fountain
As a result of the limited availability of rooms, the excellent central position of the area and a degree of exclusivity you pay quite a premium to stay in the district.
Room rates in all of Rome are very volatile according to the seasons and this area is no exception. In the summer months rooms can be at least double that to the winter months and availability can also be a problem at popular times unless you reserve a fair way in advance.
Just to the east of this area is the famous Via Veneto that climbs up the hill from Barberini to the exclusive district around Villa Borghese. The wide avenues and villas up here contain far more hotels rooms in a much more relaxing environment.
You can walk down to the hectic, bustling ancient city below in ten minutes or so from most hotels, which include a lot of the chains trophy hotels in Rome.
Getting about Rome from the Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps area
The ancient city of Rome is within easy walking of much of what Rome has to offer. The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon are on your doorstep. It is hardly worth the effort either using transport to get to the Vatican, Borghese Gallery and Roman Forum/ Colosseum, it's just as quick to walk and a much more pleasant experience.
Electric Bus: in ancient City of Rome
Because for the most part the ancient city is so impenetrable for public transport, small electric buses run on several routes though the narrow roads providing some public transport provision.
However, these very small buses either seem very full or empty. Most tourists also are unaware of the routes of the buses so it is mostly locals who use them; visitors tend to treat them as novelties, good for a picture but no more.
Line A of the Rome Metro at both Spagna and Barberini stations are within 10 minutes walk of hotels in the district.
Local buses radiate out in all directions from the area. A cute little electric bus, route 116 goes through the area going where normal buses cannot go. It is a small electric bus able to carry just a handful of people but is able to wind through the narrow streets. Its not suitable for sightseeing but is a way of getting from A to B passing the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.
See our Rome bus page for more details of the bus services in Rome.
Most of the city's many hop-on hop-off tourist buses pick up in the area and are an extremely popular means of seeing the main sights by visitors. If you follow the link you will see that Rome has a bewildering number of hop on, hop off sightseeing buses all offering a very similar product with just subtle differences.
One of the major subtle differences is the route the various buses take in the ancient city of Rome addressing the need to provide a service for the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain but very much restricted by the size of the buses.
As a result there is a wide variation from company to company where their buses stop in and around the ancient city. Some buses even take a different route at weekends to the working week.
However, if you are staying in the ancient city of Rome you may be able to do all your sightseeing on foot. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are only about fifteen minutes' walk from the Pantheon and the Vatican about the same in the opposite direction on the other side of the river.
Free self guided walks in ancient City Centre
There really is only one way of exploring the ancient city centre of Rome and that is to walk.
Not only is walking the most practical way of visiting all the sights in the ancient city centre it is also by far the most rewarding way.
For those who want to explore at their own pace then we have a few free reference walks that connect some of the most famous sights visitors want to see on their visit to Rome. Evening is a great time to blend the sights with a meal and a romantic walk afterwards.
Transfers between the Trevi & Spanish Steps area and Rome's airports & cruise port
Airport Train: Leonardo Express
Termini Station is the main hub for public transport in the centre of Rome as well as being the central train station for Rome.
Termini Station is linked directly from Barberini and Spagna Metro. For most hotels, the metro station will still be a good walk away so you may well endure dragging luggage as a reward for surviving the crowded Metro train. Maybe a taxi to/from Termini is a better option.
From Termini Station, the Leonardo Express train runs direct to the main Rome airport, Fiumicino. See our Fiumicino train page for further details. There are also much cheaper airport buses from Fiumicino Airport that also terminate at Termini Station.
To and from Ciampino Airport, Terravision run frequent airport coaches from Termini Station. Ciampino has no train service into the airport. From both Spagna and Barberini Metro stations you can go to end of Line A to Anagnina where a connecting local bus goes to Ciampino Airport. See our Ciampino bus page for further details.
Civitavecchia is Rome's cruise port about an hour from Rome to the north west. Trains between Termini and Civitavecchia Cruise Port run twice hourly for much of the day from Termini Station and are a much more economic option to the alternative taxi/private car.