Rome is an amazing city, one that we’ve been to a couple of times now. The stunning architecture, the fascinating history and the delicious food are just some of the things that tempted us to go in the first place and mean we still recommend it to people who haven’t yet been. But the crowds, especially in summer, the bus companies touting business at every corner, the traffic – all mean that Rome can be a bit much once the initial buzz has worn off and the main tourist routes and attractions are not somewhere that we would want to spend much more than an afternoon in now.
If you think you’ve ‘done’ Rome, don’t write it off just yet. Check out Monti, a really cool, bohemian neighbourhood full of locals, close to the centre but far away enough from the crowds to make you feel like you’re outside the city. It’s one of the reasons we will keep going back to Rome.
Monti is a bit of a hidden gem really, as it is a stone’s throw from the Colosseum, right between that and Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, another tourist hotspot. Taking the usual tourist routes around the city, that make beelines for the next monument to tick of the list, might cause you to miss Monti entirely.
It was once a crowded inner-city district inhabited by craftsmen, artists and prostitutes and still has a very bohemian vibe – which we love! Now its cobblestone streets and ivy draped buildings make it seem far away from the hustle and bustle only a few streets away. It’s one of Rome’s most charming old neighbourhoods and is crammed full of great bars, restaurants and vintage and alternative shopping!
Piazza Della Madonna dei Monti
Right in the very centre of Monti is the large square of Piazza Della Madonna dei Monti. In the evenings and weekends, this really gets busy with a vibrant and friendly feel as people spill out of the bars and drink together on the steps of the 16th century fountain in the centre. Even in the day, it is worth a visit as its quiet and calm makes a nice place for a drink or snack stop – or even just a few photos of a quintessential Italian scene.
Find it: Where Via dei Serpenti meets Via degli Zingari. Or head for the church – Santa Maria ai Monti
Ai Tre Scallini
Our favourite bar in Rome! We first discovered it a few years ago on our first trip to the city and enjoyed it so much we always go back.
You can’t miss it – look for the bridge of ivy that spans the entire street as you walk down Via Panisperna away from the Colosseum and you’ll find this great little bar. It’s small, but popular and when it gets busy, people spill out on to the streets to continue drinking. It’s a rustic place, with really friendly bar staff, a delicious menu of fresh bar snacks and a great range of local wines as well as a good selection of beers and spirits. Try a quarter litre of the house wine – about 5 Euros and grab a snack for lunch here.
Find it: Via Panisperna 251 – look for the bridge of ivy!
This is a hidden vintage market underneath the Hotel Palatino in Monti. It actually started as a way for Monti shop owners to burn through left over stock, but the market now houses around 30 vendors each Sunday, with a live DJ to entertain you as you browse. There are designer vintage clothes and sunglasses, independent jewelry makers and unique nick-knacks on offer – it’s well worth a trip to browse for an hour or so, even if you don’t end up buying anything!
Find it at: Hotel Palatino Via Leonina 46/48 – check here for opening times as it depends on the season – mercatomonti.com.
If you fancy some shopping during the week, head to Pulp Vintage, as cute little vintage shop that is a weekday alternative to Mercato Monti. You can find cheap clothes, shoes and accessories here – some are vintage, some new. Once a week Pulp Vintage gets brand new pieces from famous designer brands.
Find it: Via del Boschetto 140
Church of Santa Maria ai Monti
This church is located in the heart of Monti and is a rare example of a building erected for a painting’s sake instead of a painting being created for a church. The church was built following a ‘miracle’ of a blind woman who it is said was healed after finding an iconic image of the Madonna near the site. The main attraction is the frescoes of the four Evangelists on the dome inside the church.
Find it: Santa Maria ai Monti, Via della Madonna dei Monti, 41