Leaving the Colosseum behind me, I continued my casual Saturday afternoon stroll. Instead of stopping to observe each ancient Roman ruin or famous monument, I turned on a street completely foreign to me and suddenly I was in the rione (neighborhood) of Monti. I wanted to see where it would lead me.
Tucked between Via Cavour and Via Nazionale, I was at a crossroads: working-class village meets urban metropolis. Once a densely populated area with a forum, ancient Monti was home to poor, lower-class citizens. Today, the rione represents an entirely different category of people. Buildings which once served the purpose of modernizing the city during the Fascist regime have now become stylish residential housing areas, quaint fusion restaurants, and not-so-Italian cafes.
The truth is, Monti did not lead me to a neighborhood, but to a lifestyle.
As I explored the area, I shared the streets with a wide variety of different people. A mother and daughter passed me on the sidewalk as a happy couple nearby window-shopped. A middle-aged woman hung her laundry out to dry on a line next to her window boxes full of bright geraniums, and then shook out the dust from an old rug onto the hospitable and charming streets below.
While crossing a busy intersection, I noticed a large church casting its shadow on the street and went inside to get a closer look. As I approached the basilica, an old woman, slightly hunched over, struggled to push open the door. I sped up to reach it on time and held it open for her.
The shining golden ceilings, never-ending marble floors, and bright mosaics left me speechless. Strolling through the monumental pillar-after-pillar walkway I was led up to an alter full of perfectly preserved frescoes. Touring the impressive Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was not the intent of my journey through Monti, but it was a cool discovery–an outcome of deciding to explore a new part of town!
The inclining roads and brightly painted buildings guided me through a unique neighborhood: one that is both vintage and modern, classic and chic at the same time.
My afternoon in Monti is a perfect example of what can happen when you step out of the comforts of your own neighborhood. You just might find some of Rome’s most beautiful spots right around the corner.
Alexa (Shearer) Vujaklija
Class of 2015
Grew up in The United States, Germany, The Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria