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My New 'Hood in Rome

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Have I mentioned that I have a new, favourite neighbourhood in Rome? Yes, I have become a Monti convert. (Above, the twins Castor and Pollux from the Quirinale Hill in Monti.)

Monti is a very old part of Rome (which is saying something in a city so old) and a bit off the tourist path. To my surprise, I found that extremely appealing when I rented an apartment in Monti in June.

A bit of background: I always stay in the Campo de' Fiori area, which is adjacent to the Piazza Navona neighbourhood and therefore, Tourist Central in Rome. Usually, I like this. I think of myself as a traveller, not a tourist (an important distinction) but I admit that popular tourist areas are popular for a reason -- that's often where many of most interesting, appealing sights are.

But I found this year that I really enjoyed being just a bit off the tourist grid. Monti (which was a slum in Ancient Rome) was close enough that I could walk (or take a quick bus ride) to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and other popular spots. But the June crowds quickly drove me back to the relative quiet of Monti.

Don't get me wrong: Monti is a scene, but a more Roman scene. The shops are mostly local (though there was an American Apparel outlet just around the corner from me. And a faux Irish pub drawing North American students. Sigh.) And there were lots of very small coffee bars, a bustling piazza and not a Blue Ice gelato chain store in sight.

BTW, to help you get your bearings: Monti is very roughly bordered on the east by the Colosseum, with Santa Maria Maggiore on its northern border and the Quirinale on the western side.

A feature published in the New York Times recently about Monti described it as “a working-class neighbourhood in the heart of the historic centre, gentrifying around the edges. It is a place where a knife sharpener still makes monthly rounds even as young entrepreneurs are opening artsy bookstore-cafes, vintage clothing shops, organic markets and galleries.”

Alas, I did not see the knife sharpener! But I did find several good restaurants, amazing (and inexpensive) gelato, and great metro access. However, I could not find a forno (next time, I'll look harder) and there weren't enough churches close by the apartment I rented from Dolce Roma to allow me to hear as many church bells as I'd like.

Being in a new (to me) neighbourhood meant interesting sights to discover. I spent more time around the church San Pietro in Vincoli, which was right outside my door; and was surprised to find the Quirinale so close. And so interesting, particularly the Scuderie del Quirinale, which hosts major art exhibitions. Another spot I had visited once before but never got around to revisiting.

I discovered that the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was only a five-minute walk away. (All uphill, of course. Both ways.) I also discovered my new favourite church, Santa Prassade. A true gem chock-a-block with beautiful mosaics.

Much to my surprise, the UPIM department store across from SM Maggiore was really interesting (and even stocked Hello Kitty pantyliners. I have now seen everything.)

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Comments (14)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, I have not heard of Monti before. It sounds like a cool neighborhood near a wonderful church. Glad to hear that there is a great gelato place too. :)

Thanks so much for sharing your new hood with us. Have a wonderful weekend.

sandrac:

Thanks, Kathy. How is your trip planning going for the fall?
I hope you, too, have a great weekend!

Shelagh (SJ):

Hi Sandra;
I'm glad you liked Monti!
I've stayed there a couple of times, once in a hotel and once in a great little apartment that would have been perfect if it had only been cleaner and safer.(Glass shower doors hanging off ready to shatter and slice you, and electric cords that looked like a fire waiting to happen. I reviewed it here on SlowTrav.)
I love all the little alleys and streets, and not a tourist in sight!!!

sandrac:

Yikes, Shelagh, your apartment sounds like it was quite dangerous! Renting a place for the first time is always an adventure (and not necessarily in a good way.)

I'm not sure Monti would be a good pick for first-time visitors to Rome. Maybe too gritty and not enough grand palazzos. But for Rome veterans like you and me, it's a good opportunity to see a different side of the city.

Colleen:

Although it's great to stay in a district you're already familiar with - so can easily return to favorites - I also like staying in different areas of cities I visit.

I think that's how I learned Venice so well - at various times I've stayed in Dorsoduro, San Polo, San Marco, and Castello.

Monti sounds wonderful... I'll keep it in mind for my next Rome visit!

Colleen:

p.s. YIKES on the Hello Kitty product!!

Looks and sounds like a great area to explore. On our first visit to Rome we stayed south east of the Colosseum and loved it - it seemed far more authentic and less touristy than other parts of Rome. Of course, Rome being Rome, you have to go pretty far out of the centre to not hear a babble of foreign languages being spoken by happy tourists.

sandrac:

Hi Colleen, I'm envious that you know Venice so well. I always wind up back in Dorsoduro but staying in different neighbourhoods really does seem to me to be a great way to get to know them.

Jerry, it is pretty hard to avoid hearing English in Rome. Part of the reason I travel is to get away from that and go places where I won't know what's going on! I hope your travel plans for this fall are going well!

Well, I've been thinking of buying a pink "Hello Kitty" electric guitar lately. Might match the pantiliners :)

sandrac:

Lisa, I would check on the guitar with Krister -- the king of all things Hello Kitty!

But I have the sense that pretty much any product (especially a pink guitar) exists with the Hello Kitty branding. Come to Rome and we'll look for it!

Hello Kitty pantyliners?!? That is sick (but hilarious).

This does sound like a great neighborhood...off the beaten track but still walkable. I've only been to Rome once and need to get back there someday soon!

Brad'll Do It:

Any good/great/memorable restaurants in Monti?

sandrac:

Annie, it has a great neighborhour feel. I think you'd like it!

Brad, there are a lot of good restaurants in the area, I was surprised! They don't get a lot of buzz since they're not in the usual popular neighbourhoods, such as Piazza Navona and Campo di'Fiori.

But I really liked the winebar Enoteca Cavour 313; L'Asino d'Oro Monti at via del Boschetto 73 (I went twice);
L'Osteria della Suburra, next to the Cavour metro stop; and, of course, Slow Trav favourite Hosteria da Nerone! And those are just a few.

OK-Monte is now on my list too. Thanks for sharing your experiences and its history as well. M

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