The neighbourhood of Monti extends from the Colosseum all the way to the papal basilica of St Mary Major. Monti (Italian for ‘mountains’) gets its name from the three hills located within its borders. Of the 7 most reputable hills in Rome, the three in Monti are Esquilino, Quirinale, and Viminale. If you walk to the top of Via dei Serpenti you will have a breathtaking view of the Colosseum at night. As you navigate the cobblestone maze of streets and Piazzas, Monti has the feel of a small village. You can feel a hipster vibe intermingling with the centuries of history within it. With fashion-forward shops and new age restaurants and bars, this area is very popular with the under 30 crowd, but with all it has to offer can really be enjoyed at any age.
What to see in Monti
Stopping at the church of San Pietro in Vincoli is a must while checking out Monti. Built between 432–440 AD, this gorgeous basilica has 3 apses, and a frescoed ceiling by Giacomo Coppi. As I enter the giant doors, I notice busts high upon the walls. Upon closer inspection, I see that their heads are bent forward slightly. I start to feel as though they are watching me, I continue on further into the basilica escaping their stare. Glowing electric candles cast shadows, illuminating saints in reverence. There are 6 small chapels within the basilica, and two of them filled with patrons attending service. The calming voice of the priest echoes throughout the heavy stone walls. One of the most famous aspects of this basilica is Michelangelo’s Statue, Moses along with the chains used during St. Peters imprisonment in Jerusalem.
Leaving the Basilica, I peer down a small street and low and behold at the end of it, tucked away is another great sight: Basilica di Santa Prassede. I have been trying for a while to get a chance to see this historic site because you must visit in the mornings as basilica is closed from 12 to 4pm. Flipping through your tour book you may see this basilica described as ‘small’, and from the entrance, it appears that way.
However, upon entering you realize that a ‘small’ basilica is all relative when you are touring some the biggest and best basilicas in the world here in Rome. Within its walls you will find lots of hidden treasures tucked away in the small coves lining the outer edges of this magnificent structure. Three of these coves host extraordinary chapels while others contain masterpieces of art. Because of these inlets relatively smaller size, you are able to get close to the art for a great view. The mosaic Capella di San Zenone caught my eye with its exceptional level of gold detail. Standing directly in front of its glass-enclosed frame, I look directly above me and am mesmerized by the mosaic ceiling. A small inlet to the right is a glass-enclosed segment of the pillar on whichJesus was tortured before the crucifixion. As I describe this basilica I have yet to acknowledge the massive pulpit in the front of the church. Angels are lined up watching over this highly adorned memorable structure. This is a great site and I feel enlightened as I exit while angelic frescos see me out.
It is an easy walk to Monti after a day of touring the Colosseum. Here you can find restaurants that are off-the-beaten-path, away from the tourist traps. For those who want to splurge a little for top quality seafood check out Matermatuta. They know how to prepare and artfully plate some extraordinary dishes, check out their menu. My husband and I came here on date night. The raw oysters were so delicious that I had to order another 4 after I finished the first plate of them. The chef was very accommodating, usually, the tasting menus are set for two people. Unfortunately, my husband is not really a fish guy so they made a tasting menu of cooked fish appetizers just for me. I was delighted! Each bite left me wanting more. For those of you that prefer to eat food caught on land, no need to worry. Matermatuta has a great selection of meats and also vegetarian options. The braised beef with a red wine reduction was out of this world! Of course, we cannot forget dessert, and I highly recommend their take on a ‘Snickers’. As a chef, I would highly recommend this restaurant to a friend!
Shop: Vintage clothes
My nose is filled with the comforting scent of my grandmother’s attic. That nostalgia alone invites me to want to stay and look at the jean jackets lining the staircase. I’m talking about the Pifebo Vintage shop on Via Dei Serpenti. Descending into the basement, it is filled with retro clothes including formal wear. One of the best parts of this funky area are the numerous thrift stores lining the streets. The use of the word ‘thrift store’ conjures up ideas of extremely low prices in my mind. These stores resell very high quality, unique one of a kind clothing, and price it accordingly. Living two doors down from Pifebo Vintage Shop you can find their sister store Pifebo Kilo Shop for more exciting excavations.
Bars and Night Life
One of the best places to go to start your night in Monti is certainly the famous Piazzetta Monti, where young people gather around the fountain with their friends, creating an atmosphere of excitement and expectation. People drink and chat within the comfort of a warm vibe and get ready for the night to come, with their friends, in one of the many bars in the neighbourhood. And for the best live music in Monti, if not in the city of Rome, check out the calendar of the Black Market, just a short walk from the Piazzetta. The Black Market Bar offers a romantic yet lively environment with great drinks and an international live music calendar.