Esquilino District Rome (R. XV)

The Esquilino district is one of the oldest of Rome, although it is not considered to be part of the historical center. It is a neighborhood with many tourist attractions and, especially in the area south of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, outdoor cafes and eateries. Thanks to the presence of the main railway station there also is an abundance of affordable accommodation options.

Esquilino District Rome


Piazza Vittorio Emanuel II, Esquilino district Rome
The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the only square surrounded by porticoes in Rome.

Esquilino was situated outside the Servian Wall, the first defensive walls that were built around Rome, but within the more recently built Aurelian Walls.

The Latin meaning of the word esquiliae is “suburbs”.

The rione consists of three hills, the Cispius, the Oppius and the Fagutalis and was one of the first inhabited parts of the city. The first time Rome was divided into districts, in the times of Emperor Augustus, the neighborhood now called Monti was also part of Esquilino.

In those days part of the area was used as a garbage dump and a burial place for slaves and poor people. However, when August became Emperor he had 10 meters of earth poured onto this dirty and unhealthy area.

Mecenate had his gardens built here, but unfortunately there is hardly anything left of these. When the population started growing and more housing was needed, the gardens were destroyed. In 1874 the Auditorium was discovered.

Also after Augustus‘ reign the rione was mostly used by the wealthier Romans in orde to have their villas constructed. On the central square of the area, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, ruins of one of these villas can still be seen in the shape of the Trofei di Mario and Porta Alchemica.

In later years many churches were built in the direct vicinity of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. This church was originally part of the rione Monti, but came to be within the borders of the rione Esquilino in the year 1921.

The district is characterized by late 19th and early 20th century so-called Umbertine buildings. The name is a reference to Umberto I of Savoy, who was King of Italy from 1878 t0 1900. The buildings were meant to house the many government workers that came to live in the area after the construction of the railway station.


Together with Rome’s central station, Roma Termini, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the most important building of the area. Thanks to its high position on top of the Cispius hill it also very visible.

Nowadays Esquilino, and especially the area directly around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, is an immigrant district, with a number of streets completely taken up by shops selling cheap Chinese clothing and trinkets. In the streets directly adjacent to Termini, you will find many cheap Rome b&b’s and hostels.

More tourist attractions

Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

The main churches of the district are Saint Mary Major and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Other Esquilino tourist attractions are the aquaducts at the Porta Maggiore.

Take the Via Giolitti exit from Roma Termini and walk along this street till you come to the second tunnel under the railway tracks. The small church before the tunnel is the Santa Bibiana, the facade of which was designed by a 26 year old Bernini, who also contributed to its interior design. Walking further down the Via Giolitti you will come to the Temple of Minerva Medica on your left, and finally to the enormous Porta Maggiore city gate. It is here that most of the city’s aqueducts used to enter the city.

Useful information

Eating and sleeping

Esquilino is bordered by the Via Marsala in the north, the Via Cavour and the Monti neighborhood in the east, the university district San Lorenzo in the south and the Prenestino-Labicano district in the west. Since both the university district and Monti are popular night life districts, it is very easy to find good restaurants, bars and pubs nearby. Lately, the area around Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II has become a bit of a hot spot in itself.

The part of the neighborhood around the railway area is characterized by many cheaper hotels and other accommodation options.

Public transportation

The presence of the main railway station also assures easy access to public transportation. From Termini, bus lines travel in all directions, and there are several metro stops (Termini, Vittorio Emanuele and San Giovanni) in the area. The buses to the airports of Ciampino and Fiumicino also leave from Termini.

Esquilino District Rome

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