Thanks to Google Maps, I think we are all able to navigate Rome a bit easier – even Romans who have lived in the city their entire lives. That is because finding an address in Rome takes practice, but first you need to know how to read one.
One thing I hear from a lot of first time Rome visitors is that they are frustrated by the lack of street signs in Rome. How can you know if you are walking down the right charming lane if you can’t find the name posted anywhere?
Every so often, you may find a brown street sign indicating the way towards certain landmarks. For example, if you are walking down Via del Corso (one of the main shopping streets in Rome), you will find small signs pointing you towards the Pantheon in one direction and the Trevi Fountain in the other.
Street names, however, are really never posted this way. If you want to find the name of the street, you have to look up. At almost every intersection of two streets or alleys, the name of the street is indeed posted – just not as a sign.
Street names in Rome are carved into marble plaques which are posted about 15 feet off the ground, near the corner. The plaques are always on the side of the building which is on the whichever street named on the sign. Walk under it and you will be on the road in question.
Addresses in Rome are always listed: STREET NAME (or PIAZZA NAME), BUILDING NUMBER. For example, you might be looking for Via Giulia, 181.
Now you know how to find the name of the street, but there is no real trick I can give for building numbers except to keep your eyes peeled. Rome does not have a color-coded system like parts of Florence and does not always make sure that the odd buildings are on the right or that numbers go up from the south to north, etc.
Along some of the older streets in Rome, numbering might seem like it goes practically at random. Numbering might begin at 1 in the middle of the street and then seem to dole at house numbers in no numerical order in either direction. (See Via Giulia, for example).
How Rome Addresses Work
In addition to being written in terms of STREET NAME, STREET NUMBER – some Rome addresses include even more information to help you find the exact location of the apartment or office within the building. This might be written in terms of:
- Scala – literally “stair,” when the building has more than one staircase inside the front door, these are usually lettered. If the address is for Via Giulia, 181, Scala A. Go to number 181 and then look for the staircase with the letter A above it once you are inside.
- Int/Interno – apartment number. Sometimes this includes a Scala (see above), plus an apartment number. Example: Via Giulia, 181, Scala A, Int 8. Go to the A stairs and then knock on the door of apartment 8.
- Citofono – In Rome addresses, a citofono is a bit like a doorbell from outside the main door of the apartment building. They are either numbered with the numbers of the apartment inside, or they have names listed next to them. If you are given an address and told the Citifono is Garafolo, that means you should go to the portone main door and look for that last name. Push the button next to it and you will be connected via a small speaker to the person in the apartment, who can then buzz the front door to unlock it and let you into the building without having to come downstairs to open it themselves.
- Piano – Piano means floor. If you are given an address that lists “piano” or has a number with a degree sign after it (ex: 3°, 4°, 5°, etc), then that tells you which floor to go to. This is a very precise way to give an address but it means that after you ring the citofono and are let in, you can go to the elevator or stairs and know exactly which floor to go to find the interno, or apartment.
Finally, some buildings in Rome (both business or residential) might have a portiere – a doorman. The doorman (or woman) does not actually stand at the door like the ones you might be thinking of at fancy Manhattan addresses or outside of luxury hotels. Rather, the portiere usually has a small office just inside the main gate or main door. If they don’t know you, you will probably have to tell them who you are there to see before they let you go gallivanting through the halls.
There you have it – now you can read street signs, ring the citofono, climb the scala and find just about any address in Rome.