Rome's city centre is divided neatly into distinct blocks. The warren of streets that makes up the centro storico occupies the hook of land on the left bank of the River Tiber, bordered to the east by Via del Corso and to the north and south by water. From here Rome's central core spreads east: across Via del Corso to the major shopping streets and alleys around the Spanish Steps down to the main artery of Via Nazionale ; to the major sites of the ancient city to the south; and to the huge expanse of the Villa Borghese park to the north. The left bank of the river is oddly distanced from the main hum of this part of the city, home to the Vatican and Saint Peter's , and, to the south of these, Trastevere - even in ancient times a distinct entity from the city proper and still with a reputation for separatism, as well as the focus of much of the city centre's nightlife.
To see most of this, you'd be mad to risk your blood pressure in any kind of vehicle, and really the best way to get around the city centre and points east to Termini is to walk. The same goes for the ancient sites, and probably the Vatican and Trastevere too - although for these last two you might want to jump on a bus going across the river. Keep public transport for the longer hops, down to Testaccio, EUR or the catacombs, or other more scattered attractions.
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