Neighborhoods in Rome: Where to Wander and Where to Stay

Rome is a sprawling city, covering 3,000 years of history and almost 500 square miles of land. It isn't always easy to decide which neighborhood in the city center to choose as your base, and which to explore during your stay. The Eternal City is made up of 22 different rioni, or districts, many of which contain a cluster of neighborhoods, each with a distinct character and vibe. Some of the more chic areas are a delight to explore on foot, but can be loud and crowded with revelers after sunset. The stately upscale districts are home to the finest hotels, but have little to see aside from designer boutiques and restaurants filled with VIPs.

Capitoline Museums, Rome(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Here is a brief guide to the main neighborhoods in the city center to help you decide which suits your travel style for hotel accommodations, and which beckon with unique sights, dining, and shopping options.

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48 Hours: Ticino

We understand your dilemma: you've decided to add a couple of days to your next Italy trip and explore Switzerland just to the north, but aren't sure where to go. Zürich, the country's largest city, and its Old Town of pastel-hued buildings along the Limatt River? The postcard-perfect capital of Bern, with its steeply pitched rooftops and excellent pastry shops? Or perhaps the lakeside cities of Lausanne or Lucerne, both set against a backdrop of snowcapped mountain peaks.

ticino-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We suggest dipping your toe in gradually, with a stop in the Canton of Ticino just across the border with Italy. The only Canton where Italian is recognized as the sole official language, Ticino has a unique landscape that blends dramatic Alpine peaks with the lush, palm-lined shores of Lake Lugano, and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the picturesque cities of Lugano and Locarno. Here, you can discovery the beauty of Switzerland, tempered by the cultural and climatic influence of the country's warm southern neighbor.

lugano-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

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Porcini: Italy's King of Mushrooms

Of all Italy's fall foods, porcini mushrooms are among the most eagerly anticipated. The decisive, nutty flavor of the famous Boletus edulis gives depth and richness to dishes from risotto to soup, their high protein content make them an excellent substitute for meat, and the spongy underside of their massive caps melts down during slow cooking into a rich earthy sauce. The perfect blend of comfort food and gourmet specialty, fresh porcini are a highlight of any fall trip to Italy and can be found on menus from tiny trattorias to Michelin-starred restaurants.

Boletus Aureus(Photo by Pietro Bertera via Flickr)

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Art Inside: Exhibitions to See in Italy This Fall

The month of September in Italy has been glorious: temperatures have plummeted from the record highs of the summer heatwave that brought much of southern Europe to its knees, a few heavy storms have washed the dust off the countryside and brought a pleasant crispness to the air, and the each evening's sunset seems to be more breathtaking than the one before. This is the golden moment of autumn, with balmy days and cool evenings perfect for outdoor touring.

caravaggio-palazzo-barberini-cr-brian-dore(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

As the season moves into October and November, however, the weather will gradually become less ideal for spending long days outside. Nippy winds and cold showers that hint at the oncoming winter will make you want to duck inside to dry off and warm up...luckily, there are a number of excellent art exhibitions planned this fall in museums across Italy that are perfect for coming in out of the cold.

Here are a few of the most noteworthy to keep in mind during your fall trip to Italy:

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The “Mountain of Fire”: Mount Etna

Mount Vesuvius may be Italy's most famous volcano, its place in the annals of history guaranteed with the destruction—and, more importantly, preservation—of the Roman town of Pompeii in 79 A.D. Vesuvius looms over one of the most densely populated stretches of coastline near Naples, and is generally viewed as a benign giant, quietly venting steam and smoke and ultimately fated to erupt again. The King of the Bay of Naples is your neighbor who keeps a friendly but unpredictable watch dog chained in his yard.

mt-etna-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Mount Etna, on the other hand, is your neighbor who has a pack of snarling, howling beasts roaming the streets, terrorizing the neighborhood and posing a constant threat of death and destruction. This lively volcano on the east coast of Sicily between the cities of Catania and Messina is the largest in Europe, and one of the most active in the world, a hulking yet dramatically beautiful mountain in a constant state of eruption. From belches of gas, bursts of steam, to full-on lava flows, Etna makes no bones about its danger to the millions of residents who live at its foot and the thousands of tourists who visit the hissing craters at its summit each year.

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