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Exploring Rome’s charming Monti neighborhood should be top of any visitor’s list. Enviably central and effortlessly cool, it lies just steps from the Colosseum yet manages to stay surprisingly local and exudes plenty of small-town charm. Monti was once a notorious red light district, yet it has evolved into one of the city’s most coveted areas. It is now home to hipsters and artisans who run the trendy shops and restaurants that make this a perfect place to spend a day strolling through the tiny cobblestone streets.
Start your giro of Monti the Italian way with a cappuccino and cornetto at Er Baretto, a quaint little café on Via del Boschetto that specializes in latte art and serves some of the best coffee in the city. Then make your way up the street to peruse the dozens of hip boutiques in the neighborhood that sell everything from upcycled furniture and hand-made jewelry to vintage wares and local food products. Try Estremi for funky home designs, Perlei for colorful accessories and Rome-favorite Pifebo for cool vintage clothes (priced by the kilo).
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to Zia Rosetta for lunch. This hole-in-the-wall sandwich joint dishes out petit paninis, salads and juices for a tasty pit stop. Save some room for a cone of gelato at nearby Fatamorgana, a crowd pleaser for its creative flavors such as rose petals with black rice and banana with lime. Then it’s time to soak up some culture.
Make your way up the steps of the Salita dei Borgia, a lovely ivy-laden staircase, to visit San Pietro in Vincoli. This fifth century basilica is home to Michelangelo’s Moses, a stunning statue in which Moses is depicted with horns on his head (apparently due to a mistranslation of Hebrew in the Bible in which the words ‘rays of light’ were interpreted as ‘horns’). Pope Julius II commissioned the statue for his tomb and it is the striking focal point of the colossal structure. After visiting the church, take a leisurely stroll through the nearby Parco del Colle Oppio for your fill of greenery and to take in impressive views of the Colosseum.
Head back to the center of Monti and grab a seat at the fountain in the central Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, the neighborhood watering hole and a favorite with locals of all ages. The best way to enjoy the early evening atmosphere is with a beer in hand, so grab one from the Forno on Via dei Serpenti, along with a slice of pizza al taglio, for a make-shift Roman aperitivo. If wine is more your style, Ai Tre Scalini is a bustling wine bar on Via Panisperna that offers several options by the glass, as well as small plates to whet your appetite before dinner.
Enjoy the best of Italian cuisine at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, a fourth-generation, family-run restaurant that executes dishes such as bucatini all’amatriciana and saltimbocca alla romana to perfection. It is renowned for its homey vibe and honest prices, so be sure to book well in advance because it’s popular.
After dinner, Monti comes alive with young people out enjoying la movida Romana, Rome’s nightlife. An absolute favorite spot in the city is Black Market, a cozy hipster bar that has expertly crafted cocktails and plays an excellent selection of indie tunes until late. It also hosts local and international musicians in its back room during its intimate Unplugged in Monti sessions, making for a truly unique experience in the city.