History, art, architecture, shopping, cuisine, culture… Grasping all of Rome in one single visit is virtually impossible. We always suggest planning travel itineraries by neighborhood. Kicking off a new series, The Neighborhoods of Rome, we begin breaking down the Eternal City by exploring the Monti quarter in Rome.
Rione Monti is Rome’s oldest residential neighborhood. Now a center of nightlife, Monti has excellent restaurants, enoteche wine bars, and second hand vintage shops. Among the best connected with public transportation, Monti is in fact hub for buses, metro, and the city’s central train station is located nearby. Shall we also mention that it’s close enough to walk to the Colosseum, Nero’s Domus Aurea and the Roman Forum?
The name Monti literally means ‘hills’ and this is due to the fact that of the famed seven, the Esquilino and the Viminale hills––as well as parts of the Quirinale and the Celio hills––once belonged to this neighborhood.
Nestled between Piazza Venezia, the Termini train station and the Colosseum, Monti is a small safe haven wedged between the otherwise tourist traps on noisy Via Nazionale and busy Via Cavour. Monti is also much more Roman than the overrly visited areas of the historic center, like Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona. The uneven streets and alleys are paved with sanpietrini cobblestones. The place to start exploring Monti is the lovely piazza Madonna dei Monti, with its central Fontana dei Catecumeni designed by Giacomo della Porta.
History of Monti
In the ancient Roman period Julius Caesar lived in what was known as Suburra—the source of the word ‘suburb’—a densely populated slum, with a terrible reputation, home to assassins and prostitutes. The military general lived here until he was elected Pontifex Maximus at the age of 37, since the lower-class Suburra (in antiquity also spelled Subura) had grown around his family’s property many years before his birth. Separating it from Imperial Rome was a wall that is still visible on Via Tor de’ Conti. Then, in the Medieval era, the situation shifted completely: the ancient Roman aqueducts were damaged, and it was nearly impossible to bring water to the area’s elevated position. Many locals moved to lower parts of the city. This area became known as Monti, and remained full of vineyards and vegetable gardens until the beginning of the 19th century. Over the millennia of its history, the inhabitants of Monti––called monticiani––developed a strong identity: their Roman dialect is still different from the romanaccio spoken in other areas of the city. Monti has this same village-like characteristic in common with Trastevere, another one of Rome’s unique neighborhoods.
What to See in Monti
At a stone’s throw away from the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (with stunning Cosmatesque floors) and from the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains (where you can stand speechless before Michelangelo’s glorious sculpture of Moses), Monti is also home to the Colosseum, the Ludus Magnus (where the gladiators trained before the “performances”) and baroque basilicas like San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Under a 5-minute walk art-lovers can also visit the Scuderie del Quirinale, Trajan Markets and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni exhibition spaces.
Where to Eat in Monti
You can never go wrong by strolling down Via del Boschetto, which is the street in Rome with the most restaurants per square-meter. You know you’ll also find great places to eat on Via Panisperna, whose name comes from Panis et perna, Latin for bread and prosciutto… Here are a few of our favorite places to sit down for a fine meal:
Pizzeria alle Carrette
Cuoco e Camicia
Interested in a personalized food walk around Monti, snacking on typical treats in the company of a local food expert? Email us!
Where to Drink in Monti
What mostly defines Monti’s character are the throngs of young artists and bohemian types that hang out in the rione’s many fine quality enotecas, wine bars and aperitivo spots.
Black Market Bar
Ai Tre Scalini
Al vino, al vino
La Casetta a Monti
Would you like us to arrange a custom wine tasting in one or more Monti wine bars? Email us!
Where to Shop in Monti
Monti boasts a network of small businesses and artisans: think gilders’ and jewelers shops, carpentry workshops, blacksmiths and second hand furniture dealers that sell their goods on Monti’s small streets, along with contemporary vintage and consignment markets and art galleries. Every weekend deal-finders can browse the lovely Mercato Monti, with crafts and vintage finds by local retailers, craftspeople, artists and world-known designers. The small neighborhood produce market (mercato rionale) is located on Via Baccina. Try to keep your credit card from jumping out of your pocket as you stroll down Via dei Serpenti, Via del Boschetto, Via Urbana and Via Leonina, to mention a few.
Looking for a personal shopper to take you around Rome? Email us!
How to Reach Monti
Linea B (blue) Cavour or Colosseo stops
C3, 40, 64, 75, 81, 84, 117
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.