Tesoro Irlandese: Day -66 (July 26, 2021)
How to find a home in Rome when you have literally no idea where you want to be or what you want to do or who you even are half the time
Do you ever have those moments that fill you up instantly with an overwhelming sense of dread?
Well, this morning, I had one of those moments (momenti). My soon-to-be landlady (la proprietaria) called me and I missed it. Completely convinced that I had just lost the apartment (un appartamento) that I have been dreaming about living in for weeks now, I called her back and anxiously chewed at my fingernails (le mie unghie), each ring causing my stomach to flip-flop.
Turns out, I’m deeply paranoid (no surprises there!) She was just calling to double-check that, even with the COVID-19 case numbers rising all over the world, I would still be coming in October to take up residency. I admit my response was embarrassingly too eager (troppo ansioso) and most certainly not very ‘la bella donna figa‘ of me. But it got me thinking, maybe I should write up how I found my apartment… and some of the vocabulary (il vocabolario) I’ve learned on apartment-living.
So, lets begin.
Firstly, I lay the disclaimer that by the time I decided to move (cambiare casa) to Rome, I had already been to the city three (tre) or four (quattro) times and I’m fairly confident in my ability to potter around the city centre and main tourist areas. But Rome is a big city (una grande città), especially compared to my home-city, Dublin. Finding out where is safest (più sicuro); where has good amenities (i buoni servizi) and transport options (le opzioni di transporto); where I can be close to the centre but not too close (vicino al centro città ma non troppo vicino); these are things best left to the Romans to know.
So, I asked a great family friend and, somewhat nervously, asked an ex’s housemate, both of whom are Romans, where they recommended to live for a young woman who is fairly feisty and strong, but does not really feel like being harassed (essere molestata) or predatorily pursued on a daily basis (una base quotidiana).
First piece of advice is:
Know about your transport routes and where you’d like to be based. This will determine where you can even consider moving to. Public transport in Rome can be quite a disaster (un disastro) and nobody wants to spend their time moving from bus-to-bus, metro-to-metro everyday because they did not check their routes before renting, so make sure to do some research before you go.
Living on the metro line can be a complete life-saver (un salvavita). I chose to live fairly close to one, however, I was not clever enough to ensure that I didn’t have a massive highway to cross in order to get there… But, you win some, you lose some (ne vinci un po’ne perdi un po’). Said highway has many, many bus routes to the city centre and to the outskirts, so I will pick my transport battles as they come.
It is not a great idea (non è una buona idea) to live very, very close to Termini. It can be quite dangerous at night, not to mention very busy and loud, considering it’s the main transport hub in the city. Best to avoid it, but this is not limiting your options really! As you will see below, there are plenty of options to suit where you need to be located in the city with loads of enticing reasons to stay in those particular neighbourhoods.
Suggested Neighbourhoods and Areas
Luca’s List (La Lista di Luca):
Trastavere, Appio e Tuscolano, Garbatella, Ostiense, EUR, Flaminio, Rione Monti, Monteverde, Prati.
Luca also recommends living between the arrows on the A and B lines of the metro. A clever way of being close to a metro (vicino alla metro) and also being in a safe, central neighbourhood (un quartiere/rione sicuro e centrale). Genius.
Annachiara’s List (La Lista di Annachiara):
Prati, Delle Vittorie, Flaminio, Trastevere, Testaccio.
So, let’s have a look at some of their choice picks…
The Prati Report – Il Rapporto di Prati
So, Prati is pretty pricey (caro). And by that, I mean VERY pricey. It’s one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Rome and is home to a lot of high-end branded shops (negozi). But with that said, it is also incredibly beautiful – there is a reason the wealthy want to live here. Prati boasts a location (un posto) right beside the Castel Sant’Angelo as well as the Vatican and sits itself beautifully on the west banks of the Tiber. It is positively bursting with edgy (spigoloso), cool bars and night venues, as well as restaurants (i ristoranti), cafes (i caffè) and eateries (le trattorie).
Your choice of Prati-serving metro stations are Lepanto and, a little farther away, Ottaviano. Across the Tiber, you have the Flaminio neighbourhood too, and the metro stop there (more on Flaminio below.)
You’re roughly looking at paying between €500-€1,000 a month for a room in a Prati apartment or student residence. You’re looking at anywhere between €850-€3,500 a month for an entire apartment (though you could make this affordable if you’re willing to share an apartment with close friends or two couples.)
The Flaminio Report – Il Rapporto di Flaminio
Flaminio can be found north of the city centre, on the opposite bank of the Tiber to Prati. It is serviced by a tramline as well as the Flaminio metro stop, almost equidistance from the river as the Lepanto stop is in Prati.
Flaminio is the perfect location, in my opinion, if you want to tour the usual spots with relative ease. It’s in close proximity to famous sites such as the Villa Borghese, The Spanish Steps, The Piazza del Popolo and also the Teatro Olimpico. It’s also incredibly easy to get to other historical and cultural sites a little south of Flaminio, such as the Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Imperial Forum. It also has some lesser known sites, like the Santa Maria del Popolo which houses 2 Caravaggio paintings and the Ponte Milvio, an historical bridge from the Roman Empire under Constantine I.
Expect to pay anything between €450-€800 a month for a room in Flaminio or between €800-€2000 for a place by yourself (but again, some of these apartments are 3-bed, and could easily be shared between close friends or couples!)
The Trastevere Report – Il Rapporto di Trastevere
Just below (sotto) Prati and somewhat opposite (parallelo) the Tiber to Flaminio, you have the Trastevere neighbourhood. Formerly a working-class area, Trastevere is a hidden gem (una gemma nascosta) and is affectionately labelled as ‘Rome’s favourite neighbourhood’ by Lonely Planet.
It has an edge to it with graffiti (graffiti) and street art (arte di strada) covering its walls. Some find this awfully off-putting; I, however, am a big lover of things being ‘lived-in’ – the perfect (perfetto) white-walled neighbourhood is not where I will be found. This edginess feeds the incredible atmosphere of Trastevere too, with markets, artisan shops and fantastic eateries. It’s a great location, being central to many of the ancient and historical tourist sites in Rome, but retains its own modern vibe.
It’s most well-known site is arguably the Basilica di Santa Maria. There is a tram route running straight through Trastevere towards the Imperial Forum and other famous sites, as well as the Trastevere railway station. However, you are going to have a fair walk to the nearest metro station, so if you need to be across the city every single morning and don’t like to walk, this may not be the place for you. Your closest stations are across the Tiber, with the Piramide metro stop or the Circo Massimo metro stop.
Expect to pay between €750-€1,900 if you’re wanting a full apartment to yourself here. If you’re happy to rent a room or rent out of student residences, prices fall roughly at €400-750 a month.
The Testaccio Report – Il Rapporto di Testaccio
Arguably one of the trendiest (di moda) places to live in the city, Testaccio sits on the east banks of Tiber, almost opposite Trastevere (it’s just a litttttle bit south) and just above Ostiense (more on this deadly** place later.) Testaccio was a fairly modern (moderno) build, comparative to the more central neighbourhoods. Historically (storicamente), this was an area inhabited by poor farmers and labourers, as land was cheap (economico) (read: it was constantly being flooded by the Tiber.) However, the area was ‘rebooted’ during the 19th century in order to house Ostiense’s industrial workers and ever since, has gone from strength to strength***.
Serviced by a city tram as well as by the Piramide metro stop, Testaccio is a great place to live if you need to be close to the centre, but not too close. There is plenty to see in Testaccio, such as the Pyramid of Cestius, the Fontana delle Anfore as well as the MACRO, a museum of contemporary art (I told you – it’s artsy now.) There is also the brilliant Testaccio Marketplace. My favourite place in this area that I am DYING to return to is the Tram Depot, a small tram-turned-bar nestled into the side of a green area.
Rent is roughly around €400-€700 for a room or a studio apartment. On the bright side, renting a whole apartment to yourself is more affordable than the above neighbourhoods, with rent coming in between €500-€1,200. Between two friends sharing or three friends in a 3-bed, it really can be astonishingly cheap (I’m from Dublin, where currently the average rent is around €2,150 for the fancy parts and €1,800 for the shabbier parts.)
**deadly, as in cool or class, not as in dangerous or lethal. I won’t apologise for being Irish but I do apologise for the confusion that is more than likely going to occur from Irish slang in this blog series.
***This is a semi-tongue-in-cheek way for me to say it has undergone some gentrification (gentrificazione), from a traditionally working-class area to one very popular with tourists (i turisti), the young (il giovane), and the artsy (l’artistico).
The Ostiense Report – Il Rapporto di Ostiense
And finally, my own personal choice – Ostiense. Located just south of Testaccio, Ostiense is just far enough away from the madness (la follia) of the city centre but close enough to hop on a bus (l’autobus) and be in within half an hour (usually) or if you like the journey on foot (a piedi), just over an hour.
Ostiense was at the centre (il centro) of the industrial expansion that resulted in the urban renewal of Testaccio and Ostiense itself. It was home to a working power-plant (la centrale elettrica) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The same building (lo stesso edificio) now houses the Centrale Montemartini, a must-see, lesser visited (comparative to the Trevi Fountain and its like) museum (il museo) that houses some of the incredible sculptures (le sculture) and works of art from the Capitoline Museum. This creates a fascinating (affascinante) counter-play effect between ancient art and urban, grungy industrial machinery.
Ostiense is also well-known for its street-art and painted murals (i murales), which again, creates an incredible contrast between industrial buildings (gli edifici industriali) and modern, vibrant art. Ostiense also boasts the impressive Eataly, housed in the abandoned Air Terminal building right near the Ostiense railway station (la stazione ferroviaria). It is a renowned food market (il mercato alimentare), serving the best of local and seasonal Italian produce (i prodotti italiani di stagione). In this area, there are some of the edgiest, more urban bars (il bar) and clubs (le discoteche) than you’d find in central Rome. It is also just off Via Ostiense that you will find Romeow Cat Bistrot (save it to your ‘must-go list’. Absolutely adorable and you can best believe I will live in this place).
Serviced by the Piramide, Garbatella, Marconi and the Basilica San Paolo metro stops and the Ostiense train station, Ostiense is considerably well-connected and easy to get around. And if you’re really feeling like a bus-ride, Ostiense is bordered in by the Cristoforo Colombo highway (l’autostrada), where you can jump on one of the many of the buses that take you to Termini.
Renting in Ostiense comes to the rough estimates of €275-€500 a month for a single room or a room in student residency. For a full apartment to yourself? Rent ranges from around €750-€1,000 for a studio apartment and from €950-€1,900 at the very upper end of the scale, but again, most of these apartments are 2+ bedrooms, so rent can be split between couples or friends sharing.
And that’s the 411 on Roman Neighbourhoods.
Hopefully this has helped you to narrow down your hunt for a home in Rome. This list is by no means exhaustive and there are definitely other exciting and interesting places to live that I haven’t mentioned here, however, I hope it gives you a small bubble of joy to read about the city and what Rome has in store for those who visit, or who, like me, become so enthralled they decide to pack up and hightail it to the Eternal City.
See you in the Romeow Bistrot!
– Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)
Here are my top tips:
- If you do find a place you love, on a website you trust, and have slapped your deposit down ASAP – get in touch with your landlord/landlady and say hi. Start the communication early and tell them a bit about yourself, why you’re coming to Rome and what you’re like as a tenant. It’s always nice to know who’s coming to live in your spaces.
- Try to rent somewhere close to the metro lines where possible. Rome can be a dodgy place after dark, like all big cities, and it’s always good to be a short walk from the station or bus route to your place.
- Do what I did and ask your Roman friends! They’ll have great insights about the city that only those who grew up or lived there could know.
- Once you’ve found a place you like, take a Google Maps walk around your neighbourhood and orientate yourself in the space. It puts the fun in functional time-use lol.