Where to stay in Rome that's slightly off the tourist radar and slightly less expensive? Consider that Central Rome is composed of 21 rione (see a rione map of Rome), and the one furthest to the northwest is called Prati, named after the grassy fields that used to lie underfoot before the builders moved in. Prati is just north of the Vatican.
West of Prati and wrapping around Vatican City is the neighborhood of Aurelio, called a quartiere di Roma, the 13th quarter to be exact.
These two adjacent sections of Roma are convenient to central Rome by a long(ish) walk or by taking the Metro that links them. It's not too far to the east to get to the Villa Borghese (and further east to one of our favorite unknown corners of Rome, Villa Torlonia), although there is also a good Metro connection to the Villa Broughese (plus a walk up the stairs) as well.
All of this can be seen on the map below.
Prati and Aurelio are to the northwest of the center of Rome and near the Vatican, as you can see on the map below. The area is served by the Metro Linea A line which gets you to Termini Station in 15 minutes (see our Rome Transportation Map for all the public transportation options).
This area is perfect, of course, for those mandatory visits to the Vatican, where you can be one of the 4.5-5.5 million people who visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's each year.
Prati is also a fine place for food lovers who can be lured to stay a while in a vacation rental apartment. For cooks: Rome's largest market, Mercato Trionfale, is just north of the Vatican. It's a blue-collar market that doesn't see many tourists, but you can get all the traditional Roman foods here. For specialty foods from all around Italy and deli foods you can warm up and eat, you can go to La Traditionale or La Pizzicheria Tradizionale Di Paciotti, both marked on the map with further information when you click the markers.
If you've shopped at the Mercato Trionfale and are feeling a little peckish, try the seafood at Il Bar Sotto Il Mare Restaurant, marked on the map. Try the skewered Cernia wrapped in lardo.
Like your perfect cappuccino served in Richard Ginori porcelain cups with silver spoons? Try Sciascia Caffe 1919, shown on the map.
For shoppers, Prati's Via Cola di Rienzo is the street to ply for expensive but lovely things. Die hard shoppers may wish to stay right in the thick of things at the highly-rated four-star Twenty One Hotel. Via Cola di Rienzo takes you straight across the Tiber to the Piazza del Popolo.
The Gelateria dei Gracchi, one block north of the Via Cola di Rienzo, is considered one of the best in Rome, if not Italy.
Like tiny, odd museums inside churches? Then the Museo delle anime del Purgatorio is for you. See the easternmost map marker, marking the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio near the banks of the Tiber.
Since you're near the Vatican, you'll want to walk over there and enjoy the museums and architecture. We like the Vatican Museums Night Tour with Sistine Chapel. See art with the cleaning crew. Early risers might enjoy the Early Entry Sistine Chapel & St Peter's Basilica Express Tour instead.
Also close by is the Borghese Gardens, which make a great evening walk around and perhaps a stop for a cocktail. You'll want to visit the museum with a guide, so we recommend: Borghese Gallery Tour & Tickets: With Bernini, Caravaggio & Raphael. Don't be misled, those famous artists won't show up, but their art remains a wonder today as much as it did when it was produced.
If you've been to Rome before, you might like Rome As A Local: Hidden Gems & Ancient Wonders.
For more on the weather Rome, see our Rome Weather and Historic Climate page.
We stayed at the spacious apartment marked on the map, Devoti Apartment. Huge, four bedrooms, many terraces, two bathrooms, all for the price of a tiny hotel room in a medium sized Italian city.
There are many fine highly-rated apartments in this area due to goings on in Vatican City. VRBO offers over 300 Vacation Rentals in Prati.
For hotels, see the booking box to the below to compare prices on hotels in Prati.