I’m glad I waited until after our trip to Italy to post this guide. My husband and I had an overnight layover in Rome so we had the pleasure of meeting up with the fabulous Rachel Zitin, who had the difficult task of making us fall hopelessly in love with the city in a mere three hours whether she knew it or not. Lucky for us, she succeeded. In one night, we imbibed in the best cocktails of our entire trip at Freni e Frizioni (perhaps even beating out our favorite Aperol Spritz), devoured the food at renowned pizza chef Gabrielle Bonci’s Bir and Fud, met other locals, downed free shots, watched a semi-famous magician pull off his toupee and even hit up the Colosseum, Pyramid of Cestius and Aventine Keyhole. We were told by the cabbie that locals say you haven’t really seen Rome unless you’ve seen the dome of St. Peters Cathedral perfectly framed in this semi-secret keyhole. So we are practically Romans now.
My point being that if anyone’s going to show you the ropes in Rome, Rachel’s your girl. Lucky for you, she offered to write up a lovely guide to Monti, one of her favorite neighborhoods known for its cool boho vibe. She likened it to Fort Greene in Brooklyn, which is an absolute win in my book as it’s one of my favorite hoods I was once fortunate enough to call home.
Without further ado, some words of wisdom from Rachel:
“In the beginning, there was me, a girl from North Carolina who really liked that I could see the Colosseum (yes, THE Colosseum) from her bedroom window. It might have been a totally threadbare apartment but we called it home for over four years and in those four years as the international love affair with Monti deepened, so did my own personal one.
Monti has been getting international press for at least the past five years as the place to go to experience a hip and funky village inside a bigger city. Because of its growing popularity, there are also tons of new stores, restaurants and shops to explore.”
Image of Aventine Keyhole courtesy of italyguides.it
Farm to table defined. The lunch menu is set, which guarantees freshness. The dinner menu is seasonal and you can see into the kitchen. Eat outside to soak in the Monti vibes! Bonus: buy a jar of tomato sauce and try to re-create the experience at home.
Urbana 47 / Via Urbana 47
At breakfast time, go to the cash register first. Pay for your cafe and cornetto (a short shot of espresso with a big bang of caffeine plus a morning pastry) and stand at the bar with the rest of the locals for your 10-minute breakfast routine. Live Jazz on Saturday evenings with a tasty buffet makes this place all-around great.
La Licata / Via dei Serpenti 165
Being gluten free in Italy used to be almost impossible. Dall’Anto is changing that, with flour made with everything from chickpeas to chestnuts. Try the ‘necci di castagne con lardo di Colonnata’, a chestnut flour crepe with the juiciest cured fatback.
Dall’Anto / Via Madonna dei Monti 16
Image of La Licata courtesy of barlalicata.it
A “fafiuche” is a person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but this bar does food and wine so well that you can tell the owners are just being humble. We come at least once a week to eat the delicious aperitivo and drink wine or craft beer based on the owner’s recommendation.
Fafiuche / Via Madonna dei Monti 28
A seven euro plate of Rome’s famous Spaghetti Alla Carbonara? The waiters are dressed up, but the food is simple and never disappoints. Make a reservation and show up hungry.
La Carbonara / Via Panisperna 214
This newcomer has become our go-to lunch spot (they do serve food all day). They call themselves a gastropub which means that you order at the counter which actually contributes to the relaxed feeling even more. Order the fish balls. Trust me.
Mariolina / Via Panisperna 222
Image of Mariolina by Enrico Di Giamberardino
Ai Tre Scallini
Go inside to eat and catch up with friends, stay outside to mingle and meet with a glass of wine in hand. In one word: classic.
Ai Tre Scallini / Via Panisperna 251
Image by Zingarate
Piazza della Madonna dei Monti
Forget staying inside. This is what i Monticiani (residents of Monti) do, and it has become what everyone else does, too. Grab a bottle of wine from the myriad of places scattered around the piazza and find a good seat around the fountain. The best people-watching in the city!
Yes. It’s tiny. But live music is live music and here you can watch jazz, folk-rock or even some nostalgic Americana depending on the night.
Charity Cafe / Via Panisperna 68
Image of Piazza della Madonna dei Monti by Rachel Zitin
The owner, Clara, is a stylist and designer and has perfected the art of picking and curating beautiful and unique pieces with fabulous patterns from designers all over Europe. A ‘street-chic’ aesthetic means you can wear the dress from daytime until the wee-hours of the morning and always be appropriate. A dress from Avanguardia guarantees a “where did you buy that?” at least once a wear.
P.S. She’s setting up her online store at press time. Watch for it!
Avanguardia 105 / Via Madonna dei Monti 105
Handmade clothes and leather bags guarantee that no piece is the same. The colors and cuts are up-to-date with fashion and yet totally timeless. Watch the talented young designers sew on their sewing machine as you browse. Plus- if you are worried about being too ‘out-there’, sweet Federica will talk you into the most phenomenal fashion choices.
Sufir Roma / Via del Boschetto 113
Image courtesy of avanguardia105.com
Vintage plus more vintage from grunge to downright dressy. They now have two stores in “central” Monti plus another even larger collection 15 minutes down the road. This is THE place for vintage lovers and with any luck, you might even meet the masterminds behind the vintage love: Cristiano, Francesco and Elisa work in their shops truly living their passion for classic style.
Pifebo / Via dei Serpenti 141
No two trips to this phenomenal and creative market are the same. Earrings made from buttons on vintage sweaters? Coasters with pictures of unique angles of Rome? Designers from Italy and beyond rotate booths at this weekend display every Saturday and Sunday. The market opened the same year I first moved into Monti and has become a weekend staple where I can buy everything from funky house decor to baby gifts for friends, to designer samples – all at reasonable prices.
Mercato Monti / Via Leonina 46-48
Image courtesy of Pifebo
We are in Italy, after all. This adorable shop is where you go to buy an olive wood cutting board for someone who might not appreciate all the funky vintage listed above. They have a great assortment of packable food goods from truffle oil to chili-infused honey. Oh right, and they have affordable wine by the bottle. I’d buy a bottle of red, open it and head down to the Piazza to drink it out of plastic cups.
Podere Vecciano / Via Vecciano 23
Image by Podere Vecciano
Just as a note, Rome is filled with enough activities and places to visit and museums to see that no single human could possibly do it all in a lifetime, let alone one single trip. Here are three unique things to visit in Monti.
Regardless of your religion, you have to visit a few churches when in Rome. This ancient phenomenon is recognized as the oldest place of Christian worship and dates back to the 4th century AD. The steps which bring you down to the entrance of the church remind you of how much the ground level of Rome has risen since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Via Urbana 160
Image by Rachel Zitin
The View on Via Baccina
You know how you see a picture of a beautiful place and you become determined to find the actual location? This is one of those. I think the photo below speaks for itself. Augustus Caesar’s Temple of Mars looks like it is photoshopped onto the dreamy streets of Monti. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
Via Baccina (all of it)
Full disclosure: this gem of a park has been closed the past two years for ‘restoration’ but when it re-opens it is the perfect mini escape in the chaos of the city. If you are of any artistic persuasion, go there to write, draw, sketch, compose or design. Or, if you’re me, go there with a good book or a good friend, some sunscreen and a picnic.
Via Mazzarino 11
Image of Via Baccina by Rachel Zitin
Rachel Zitin was raised in Asheville, North Carolina and moved to Rome accidentally in 2009. She divides her time between showing travelers and tourists the delights of Rome through customized and group tour itineraries and exploring them on her own. In 2013 she completed a Master’s Degree in Corporate Social Responsibility, dedicating her thesis research to creating more sustainable options for tourism in Rome. You can find her blogging, Instagramming and generally promoting LivItaly Tours at: www.livitalytours.com. If you have questions or you want to see Monti or Rome through my eyes, contact me at: Razitin@gmail.com.
Image by Francesco Pasqualotto