Officially known Rione Monti, Monti prides itself on being Rome’s very first neighborhood because it has existed since ancient times and is listed as Rione I in the city’s list of numbered municipalities. Today, the central district is a mix of bohemian boutiques, contemporary street food spots, trendy bars, and traditional artisan workshops.
Bordered on one side by commercial Via Nazionale with busy Via Cavour on the other, the quiet area of cobblestone streets manages to stay far removed from the constant motion of Rome, even though it sits in the shadow of the Colosseum.
Here is how to discover the hidden corners in one day in order to make the most of your time in Rome’s charming Monti neighborhood.
Join the crowd of locals Bar La Licata for a morning pastry filled with pistachio cream and a strong coffee. If you don’t want to eat at the counter, the busy coffee spot has a few high tables for a more relaxed morning start. Find one by the window for a view of the Colosseum over your morning cappuccino.
Spend the early hours of the day exploring the archeological and artistic treasures that are tucked away throughout the neighborhood, beginning with the Michelangelo statue inside the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains).
Cross Via Cavour and climb the ivy-draped stairs to reach the church, which sits on a hill near the Colosseum. Inside the tranquil interior is a monumental tomb designed for Pope Julius II. Plans for the freestanding tomb included 40 statues, but Michelangelo became so caught up in creating the Sistine Chapel that he was unable to finish his original design.
However, the glorious marble figure of Moses with horns hints at what could have been if the illustrious sculptor had found more time. You can also wander through the church to discover the chains which once bound St. Peter in Jerusalem.
Once finished inside, stroll down Via Cavour to Trajan’s Market. This set of ruins marks the edge of the Monti neighborhood and the beginning of the Roman Forum. The multi-level archways were once a thriving market, which is often described as the world’s first shopping center. Meander along the elevated walkways to take in the scenery of broken columns or pay a visit to the museum for a closer look at the Roman artifacts.
Chef Lucio Sforza is originally from Umbria but chose to move his celebrated restaurant from the small town of Orvieto into the center of Rome. L’Asino d’Oro serves refined takes on the country dishes of the chef’s childhood, elevating the rustic recipes into memorable meals which are best enjoyed at one of the outdoor tables along Via del Boschetto.
After a morning of artistic appreciation, stay in the heart of Monti to explore Via Urbana, one of the neighborhood’s main shopping streets, which is dotted with boutiques, plant shops, and eateries. One of the best independent boutiques in Rome can be found at the dual storefront of lol. Filled with bold prints, soft fabrics, and unique cuts, the shop features small-scale European designers and has a constant stream of on-trend arrivals.
More small businesses and design studios can be found on Via del Boschetto, but on Saturdays and Sundays, the best place to find creations by local artisans, as well as vintage Italian accessories, is inside the pop-up market known as Mercato Monti. Taking over the ground floor of Hotel Palatino, the weekend market offers everything from handmade semi-precious jewelry to retro designer handbags, as well as a mix of locally made designs.
Monti rests between some of the busiest areas of Rome but still has a small neighborhood feel. The district’s laidback ambiance is reflected inside Black Market. Stuffed with vintage furniture spread thorough an inviting warren of rooms, the bar is overflowing with cozy corners and has a regular lineup of local indie bands who stage intimate performances in the main room.
If you prefer wine, cozy Al Vino Al Vino is a must – with a fantastic selection of Italian wines by the bottle and an ever-changing line up of wines by the glass. Don’t miss the homemade caponata on the side.
Monti is a fabulous Rome stop for contemporary designs and small boutique shopping, but for a more traditional taste of the neighborhood, book a table at homey Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. The atmospheric restaurant is within sight of the ruins of the Roman Forum which is renowned for its cheesy cacio e pepe pasta topped with shaved truffle. Family-run for four generations, the classic eatery is one of the best places in the area to sample traditional Roman cuisine all paired with a bottle from their notable wine list.
With the Roman Forum and Colosseum within view, and winding lanes filled with small artisan shops, Monti can feel frozen in time, but there is nothing old fashioned about Drink Kong, a new cocktail bar with the gorgeous neon-lit design and complex cocktails. The gregarious half-Italian-half-Irish owner has long been known as one of the city’s best barmen, so don’t be surprised if you lose track of time once you dive into their modern mixology philosophy.
At the end of the night, slip into the slick bar at Madre for a nightcap before heading up to sleep in the suites of the Roma Luxus Hotel.
Want to learn more about the different areas of the city? Here is a guide to Rome’s neighborhoods to help you find the perfect place to explore.