Rione Monti is the first Rione (historic district) of Rome, making it Rome’s oldest neighbourhood! You won’t find any actual Monti (mountains) in this charming neighbourhood, but it’s a little Roman oasis filled with vintage and artisan shops, chic bars and local restaurants, nestled in the city centre between Via Nazionale, Via Cavour and Via dei Fori Imperiali.
Despite its modern appeal to locals and tourists alike, Monti has a torrid past. In Ancient Rome it was called Suburra and it was the seedy underbelly of Rome. It was overpopulated, full of poor, undesirables and to top it off; Rome’s red light district. Things changed rapidly in the Middle Ages when the aqueducts were damaged, meaning the water flow to Monti was stopped. With no water, the people left and the neighbourhood became bereft of human life and transformed to make way for market gardens and vineyards. It stayed this way until the 19th century when Rome became the capital of united Italy and urbanization was rife.
Now, it’s one of Rome’s most iconic neighbourhoods and with its charming cobblestoned streets and vine-covered buildings you could be content just wandering aimlessly and getting lost in its charm. While it doesn’t include any major tourist attractions, it is bordered by some of Rome’s most historical sites like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
When you need a break from sightseeing, Monti is the perfect place to shop and people watch during the day and eat and drink at night.
Where to Shop
If you enjoy vintage or artisan shops, Monti is the place for you. While you’ll stumble across many small, independent shops just walking around, here are some of our recommendations;
Though Monti is filled with vintage shops, Pifebo is a Roman institution. Known for its American vintage style, you’ll find a large collection of leather and jean jackets, sunglasses and boots.
If you’re an old-school music lover, then a visit to Radiation Records is a must. Selling new and used music, you can find something to suit every taste here.
Enjoy the nostalgia and satisfaction of holding a record in your hand and losing yourself in the search for that one missing cd or vinyl to complete your collection.
Mercato Monti is an ever-changing vintage and handmade market held every Saturday and Sunday.
Every weekend different designers and brands are selected to sell their unique clothes, jewellery and art.
Where to Eat
Navigating the dining scene in Monti can be difficult as there’s a real mix of quality restaurants and tourist traps. Here are our recommendations;
This half artsy, half industrial space is open all day. You can stop in for a coffee, lunch (including buffet brunch on weekends), or if you come in the evening don’t miss the hearty aperitivo washed down with a cocktail or two. Served every day from 7pm.
Buffet + alcoholic drink €12 / non-alcoholic drink €10.
Great for a casual or quick bite, this small eatery serves panini napoletani (a stuffed sandwich with different fillings) as well an array of other delicious options like meatballs or parmigiana di melanzane.
This tiny place boasts a small, cheerful and colourful interior, welcoming staff, and cheap food & drink. While not quiteauthentically Mexican, the soft shell tortilla tacos come in a range of tasty flavours. Choose 3 tacos for €5. Burritos, nachos and quesadillas are also available.
All cocktails (€5) are made with tequila, and you can grab a beer for €3.
Barzilai, Via Panisperna 44
A great spot for food or drink at any time of the day, Barzilai excels at lunch. It’s a popular spot amongst working Italians for its daily menu and home-style cooking. Skip the pasta, and opt for the meatballs (polpette), or meatloaf (polpettone) with a side of fresh vegetables.
This sleek restaurant serves prides itself on serving modern, innovative food using local produce, you can expect quality dishes here. Because of its hip vibe and move away from traditional Italian, the price point is a little higher than average.
It’s all in the name; Sciué Sciué, a Neapolitan term means something made in friendship with simplicity and genuineness. This little gem serves great food that lives up to the name, with a great atmosphere and friendly staff to boot. Many of their specialities include fish, so if you’re a seafood lover, this place is for you!
Fatamorgana, Piazza degli Zingari 5
While Fatamorgana isn’t the only gelateria in Monti, it is by far the most interesting. Not only does it serve gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and sugar-free options, it’s famous for its weird and wacky flavours! If you’re feeling brave try the pecorino cheese or the basil, walnut and honey. Don’t despair, however, you can still find classic flavours too.
Where to Drink
Monti is a neighbourhood that certainly won’t leave you thirsty. If you want to fit in with the locals, head to Piazza Della Madonna dei Monti to participate in a very Italian tradition of drinking and catching up with friends in a piazza. Grab a drink from one of the surrounding bars and find a place to perch on the fountain.
If this doesn’t take your fancy, don’t worry, here are our suggestions for local bars;
Blackmarket is a cosy cocktail bar and art gallery that looks like a mishmash of your grandparents living room and a second-hand store. Laid out with eclectic furniture and scattered with old books, you’ll feel right at home.
Settle in for a few cocktails and if you’re there at the right time you’ll also catch some live music.
Just a few steps away from its little sister venue sits the newer and bigger Blackmarket Hall. Still following the vintage style, each room in this space is carefully curated into a different theme reminiscent of the 1920s. The mixologists behind the bar make twists on the classic cocktails, and you’ll find jazz and blues bands on most weekends.
APT, Via Clementina 9
If you’re searching for something more low-key but still want to enjoy some quality cocktails, head to APT. Short for ‘apartment’, you really will feel like you’re in someone’s home with the leather couches, the abundance of bookshelves and gently lit atmosphere.
If wine is your prefered drink, Al Vino Al Vino has got you covered. This lovely enoteca has an extensive wine list and a buzzing atmosphere. If you’re feeling peckish try the tagliere; a selection of cured meats and cheeses to compliment your wine.
This historic enoteca could not get any more picturesque. With vines hanging down the building, it’s popular with locals and tourists alike and the crowd will often be forced to spill out onto the street. With a great selection of wine and food in a great setting, it’s not hard to see why!
Don’t miss this intimate little club if you’re passionate about Jazz. There’s live music every night. It gets pretty cramped, with patrons seated on wooden steps in front of a small stage, but if you’d like an up close and personal experience with music, then this is your place!
This cafe, wine bar, and library rolled into one is the perfect place to unwind after a long day. Choose a book to read and sit back in one of the comfortable couches or armchairs with a glass of wine, or artisanal beer.
We hope you found this neighbourhood guide helpful! Have you visited Monti yet? Tell us what you think of our suggestions and let us know about your favourite spots in Monti in the comments below!
For a specialized private tour of Monti or any part of Rome, contact us!
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Author: Rebecca Allison
Rebecca is an Australian writer and history lover who has been living in Rome since 2015. She loves travelling around Italy (and beyond), as well as marvelling at the many architectural and historical feats that Rome has to offer in the streets and museums.