There are plenty of things to do and places to see when in Rome, but once you have completed the long list of tourist attractions, you need to get a bit creative on how to spend your days. There are various hidden neighborhoods that rest in between the great monuments of the ancient city, yet they hardly receive any recognition from tourists.
I recently had a friend visit me and I was at a loss on where to take her and what we should do. She had already toured the Colosseum, ate gelato in Piazza di Spagna, hiked up Gianicolo hill, and wanted to experience something different and more “authentic”.
Monti is a neighborhood that has been mentioned to me many times by locals: they described it as an “urban village for good food and thrift shopping”. This urban village sits beside the Colosseum, and despite its good reputation among the locals, it is often overlooked by tourists and visiting students. Monti is paved with cobblestone and lined by expensive real estate. It claims to house “artsy types”, with many of its residents being screenwriters, actors, architects, and novelists.
My friend and I decided to explore Monti, which I had only ever visited a few times at night, and was eager to experience what it had to offer during the day. The journey to get to Monti is one of its best aspects. We rode the tram from Trastevere to its last stop, Piazza Venezia, where we were greeted by the incredible “Monumento nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II”, often described as “the wedding cake monument”. We passed this gigantic white cake and walked along some of Rome’s best ruins, which is always a shock and reminder of just how ancient the city is. We eventually entered the urban village through small alleyways that opened up into larger piazzas full of restaurants, boutiques, and cafes.
We allowed ourselves to get lost, but we couldn’t ever get too far without running into some vintage store or organic café. The shop owners, customers, and people who made up the neighborhood were all incredibly stylish, and seemed to be in their early – mid thirties. The urban village was certainly inhabited by the more alternative/ creative types, and it instantly made me feel like I should ditch my heavily American-inspired outfit (aka my work-out clothes even though I had no intentions of working out) and buy some thrift shop gear. We loaded up on cheap finds, and lazily moved from store to store.
My friend and I decided to test out the international food, something that is pretty non-existent in my Trastevere neighborhood. We chose a Brazilian/Japanese restaurant called, “Temakinho”. I was happy to avoid pasta for once, and to show my friend that carbs are not the only option in Rome (just its main option). We ordered a few sushi rolls, one mixed with crab, papaya, and banana, which was just short of amazing. We filled up on some sashimi as well, and were completely satisfied with our anti-Italian lunch. We continued to explore and passed many smoothie bars and health food stores, things I normally don’t find in Rome, and my Californian self was very excited.
The sun started to set and we watched as the locals gathered for aperitivo, in preparation for a long night of socializing in the neighborhood. My friend and I decided it was time to leave, with full intentions to return soon. Overall, I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t been to Monti, to go and experience this urban village.
Class of 2017
Hometown: San Diego, California