With eternal options in the Eternal City, find authenticity, charm and the perfect location in our favourite quarter.
Monti was the first Rione (district) of Rome, named as such for the hills it stretched over (Monti = Mountains). In ancient times the Monti district buzzed with overcrowded poverty, brothels and crime but emptied out during the later Middle Ages when Romans moved closer to the River Tiber, settling closer to drinking water due to a lack of functioning city aqueducts. Rione Monti lost its seedy edge and became rather rural with fruit trees and vineyards covering its sunny slopes. On the district's western border sat the Mercati di Traiano - the Trajan's Market, even in quieter times, the bustling market continued to grow with ever-expanding trading areas and offices constructed in layers onto the busy shopping area.
Between 1924 and 1936, with the boom of the Fascist period, a large part of Rione, consisting of narrow streets, markets and dwellings, was destroyed to make way for the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The grand street, lined with statues and busts of Emperors gone by, stretched majestically from the Altare della Patria to the Colesseum and Arch of Constantine dividing the Roman Forum and the Imperial forums. Excavation during the time of construction uncovered the resplendent archaeological buildings of the Forum Romanum and the intricate labyrinth of Rione homes left underfoot from a busy bygone era.
Now in ruins, one can stand and face the inside of Trajan's Market from the Via Dei Fori or walk the Via Biberatica in awe of the complex arches and myriad of 170 chambers making up this ancient 6-level shopping mall.
Next door, Foro di Augustus backs onto Rione's cobbled streets, almost an extension of these complex ruins. Walking the narrow lanes of ochre hues and lofty edifices of this quarter feels like it must have two millenia ago, with the glimpse of a column from the Temple of Mars at the end of the street.
If you close your eyes, you can hear the squabbling and bargaining of the nearby bustling market. Deals, coins and bargains exchanging lips and hands. Goods in, goods out, traders making a daily wage. The vibrance that lay at the end of Rione Monti now lies in the tourists that flock to Rome every year, camera clicks, selfie sticks and vlogger videos, it's a city that has buzzed since forever.
There is so much going for well-trod and well-loved Rione Monti:
It's a biggie.
Within a couple of minutes from wherever you are in Rione Monti, you can walk to the Colosseum. There's something magical seeing the unmistakable arches at the end of your street. Turn a corner and Hey Presto, you're faced with The Colosseum! It's almost a guilty pleasure having this postcard scene in your hood and a monument on your doorstep but then again, that's Rome.
Walk from Termini Station
A great way to travel Italy is by train, if you can get past the terror of announcements in fast Italian. Arriving into Termini Station can be a little daunting and then to have to find a taxi... just relax, you can walk it. Straight down Via Cavour, you'll be in your hotel room in 15 minutes.
We'll be bold and say, "Hands down, Rome does the best gelato."
And when in Rome, go to Flor.
Grab your daily gelato fix on your way out or way in, you'll walk past Flor a couple of times a day, it's strategically positioned at the end of Via Cavour on your way onto Via Dei Fori, just for your palatable pleasure.
There are so many options in this neighbourhood from Five Star Hotels to Air BnB apartments. Take your pick and rest easy knowing you can't go wrong area-wise. We stayed in a small flat just off Via della Madonna dei Monti and can vouch for this vibey area full of bars, tavernas, quirky boutique shops and incredible food any day.
Walk East along Via Baccina until the fountain in Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, stop for apertiivo time, sit on the steps, soak up the casual Roman vibe and then carry on along Via degli Zingari, there's a range of delicious spots along this stretch that will keep you coming back. Two of our all-time faves are here, read our blog post on where to find the best Pizza, Pasta and Panini in Rome.
A scenic twenty-minute walk and you're at the Spanish Steps. Cavour Metro Station is in Rione Monti but why not walk it? The Metro is functional and easy enough to use but there's a beauty in savouring the city while meandering at your own pace with the bonus of stopping off for a coffee to watch the city go by wherever takes your fancy or spotting a good place for dinner later on. Not to mention soaking up the atmosphere of la bella gente in a city all roads lead to for a reason.
The Cavour stop is handy, but even more so, are the number of taverns and trattorie on the streets nearby. Peruse the menus and take mental notes. The streets are your oyster.
One of our favourite things about Rione Monti are the little unexpected shops packed with character. We stumbled upon an unmarked corner shop stocking Pugliese products one evening, noticing a small crowd spilling onto the street. The shop stocks small bottles of Primitivo wine and enormous sheets of golden focaccia sold from large brown paper bags. It opens at lunchtime and stays open till late for locals to buy blocks of pecorino cheese, mixed olives and pieces of salami and right here, the owner will cut you a wedge of focaccia, sell you some wine and you can tuck into regional foods on the side of a cobbled street under the glow of an amber Roman streetlight. This is Italy - simple foods, tasting sublime.
Piazza della Madonna dei Monti truly warrants an evening stop. It's the perfect place to grab a casual aperitivo, an Aperol Spritz, a bottled beer or glass of wine, don't expect frills and fancy or even glasses! If you buy an aperitif from the takeaway bar on the corner, you'll most likely be given cups, but find a space on the fountain steps amongst the chatter of locals and soak up true Roman life a lot like 2000 years ago, without the plastic.
Having experienced Rome in many a season, Winter's charm of off-season prices doesn't warrant for the chill of slippery streets and dark, icy afternoons. New Year's Eve becomes a set six-course meal with crowded piazzas and few fireworks but a lot of merry bottle smashing at midnight and loud celebrations. Some love the exuberance but if this is not your festive cup of tea, avoid the Eternal City for New Year's and Christmas.
Summer dreams of romantic toe-dipping in the Trevi fountain, forget it. You're lucking if you get ten seconds to launch your lucky coin from the water's edge, or even get close to the crowded steps. Rome is a tourist haven and in the sweltering summer heat, every potabile water fountain is a heaven-sent blessing but every Roman sight to see is not. Trevi, the Colosseum, Pantheon and Vatican City all somehow become a chore on your to-do list rather than a celebration of bellissima Roma.
September is beautiful, with long, lazy shadows and warmth in the stone streets, but still popular with visitors and often very busy. Our advice is Spring. March and April are stunning months to experience la dolce vita - less crowded and cooler, you'll have the time, space and energy to amble her ancient streets and delve into her history and cuisine, without delving into her long queues. Enjoy every detail this majestic city has to offer and take a load off too. Pull up a chair on a sunny piazza, order un quarto di vino (a quarter litre of wine) and a carbonara. Sit back with a contented sigh to taste true Italy.
You're in the right place.