Our series of microguides are inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travelers to relax their pace and dive deep into a particular neighborhood of a beloved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary that aims to hit all the must-see attractions, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to focus, take your time, and really explore like a local.
Rome is the eternal city, but visiting it can sometimes feel like an eternal journey from ruin to ruined museum, which could exhaust even the fiercest amateur archaeologist. To recapture the true slower rhythms of Roman life, try moving to Monti. The area sits between the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and Rome’s massive Termini Station, making it ideal for sightseeing trips — but it feels hidden from tourists trotting between these spots.
You’ll see the Colosseum looming romantically at the end of Via degli Annibaldi as you stroll from an aperitif to a restaurant, but most of the people in this neighborhood are fashionable locals. It is full of chic independent shops, narrow alleys and delicious little trattorias. You’ll feel like you’re seeing it for the first time, but Monti’s coolness is nothing new – a Roman sitting next to me called it the city’s original “downtown.” If you lived in Rome, this is where you would want to feel at home.
The famous golden palace of Emperor Nero, destroyed and buried after his death, lies beneath the Parco del Colle Oppio and is still an active archaeological site. Tours are offered to visitors wearing headsets (ideal for photos) and provide a trippy yet effective virtual reality experience, showing visitors what the palace looked like during Nero’s time and the Renaissance, when painters like Raphael rushed there from above. It’s only open on certain days, but this under-the-radar historical fix is worth planning your visit.
Basilica of San Clemente
Bordering the Celio district, but still technically in Monti, you will learn a lot in this church. The basilica was built in the 4th century on top of a pagan temple and a Roman house, the ruins of which can still be seen in the church’s crypt. Seeing layers of history literally stacked on top of each other helps put the city’s long, breathtaking history into perspective.
San Pietro in Vincoli
You cannot miss the chance to see a real Michelangelo – in this basilica it is the artist’s statue of Moses on top of the tomb of Pope Julius II. The basilica adjoins the building of the engineering department of La Sapienza University; if you pass by at the right time, you might see graduating students wearing their traditional laurel wreaths (or covered in prosecco and confetti, depending on what time it is).
Ai Trei Scalini
This place is a house party of a restaurant with good times galore. Tre Scalini’s menu is heavy on the sfizi, or snacks, such as hot sausage or honey gorgonzola, plus first and second classics like ravioli di ricotta with spinach, butter and sage and a particularly delicious porchetta. The scene is still boisterous but friendly, with generous wines and outgoing, talkative patrons. Don’t miss a photo along its quaint, ivy-draped street.
Sciuè Sciuè Cucina
For something more gourmet and a bit fancier, try Sciuè Sciuè Cucina, with a modern exposed-brick indoor dining area and contemporary takes on classic Roman cuisine. The inventive, minimalist menu changes with the seasons, but you might find fried stuffed zucchini flowers, linguine with turnip green pesto and prawns, and a gorgeous cod parmigiana among the highlights. The careful presentation of the dishes and the staff distinguishes this place from the rest of the trattorias in the area.
Gelateria Fatamorgana has some of the weirdest and craziest flavors in Rome, made with the freshest ingredients. You’ll find a queue here at all times of the day, but it’s worth the wait. Sitting perched on the stone wall of a small square, eating wild basil, dark chocolate or fresh raspberry ice cream and watching the world go by, is a perfect way to recharge after a long morning of walking. Don’t wait until after dinner – opening hours here vary and it closes between 8-11pm.
Piazza della Madonna dei Monti
By late afternoon, this Plaza Monti is awash with locals sipping aperitifs at tables emerging from its two cafés, Civico 4 and La Bottega de Caffe. Order a spritz – Aperol or Campari – and enjoy the last rays of the sun as it sinks behind the Chiesa di Santa Maria ai Monti. You may have to wave to a waiter to order, like the locals do – you’re here for the atmosphere, not the service.
If you fancy something a little less chaotic, with candler cocktails, try the Suburra 1930. Sitting in the shade of an ancient ivy-covered stone wall, you can sip the house creation the Suburra, a basil version a mojito, or the Mandarin Sour 1930, an orange and citrus sour tequila. Their aperitif offer is also a treat: €10 for a glass of wine, prosecco or a classic cocktail plus the sfiziosita’ dello chef (small bites from the chef) which change regularly.
Sacrificial Art Gallery
This art gallery with bar is a common haunt for local creatives. Open late with regularly changing exhibits and installations, Sacripant currently features works that address and critique Italian art from Antiquity to the Baroque period. It’s a great place to see something contemporary while sipping an excellent Martini.
Monti is full of great vintage shops. Any thrift store is hit and miss, so it’s a plus to be able to go to many places: don’t miss Pifebo, with two floors of leather bags, leather jackets, trainers, jeans, graphic t-shirts and more. Humana, Pulp and King Size are full of cheap and mixed clothes to browse, and Flamingo and Blue Goose, plus boutiques, offer a more curated vintage shopping experience, with designer pieces, handbags and classic shoes.
For something high-end, try AZ Camiceria, a small but gorgeous menswear boutique where you’ll be mesmerized by the selection of socks. Another gorgeous hole in the wall is Kokoro, a women’s clothing boutique with a curated range of artistic clothing and accessories that mixes vintage, new and handmade.
There aren’t many hotels directly in Monti, but you’ll find rental apartments and some budget options. Alternatively, the Lancelot family business is near Celio, a 15-minute walk away. Ask for a top-floor room with a terrace for stunning views of the Colosseum. The service is generous and warm, and the classic but not stuffy Italian decor has an old-fashioned charm. Staying at Celio is a little more out of the way than staying at Monti proper, but the charm and authenticity of this hotel (plus excellent value for money) make it worth it. Doubles from £118, B&B; lancelothotel.com
The fifteen keys
If you’re looking for Italian charm without gilded bed frames, frescoes on the wall or lacework, the elegant Fifteen Keys is a great choice. This chic hotel offers modern and tastefully decorated rooms and serves breakfast in the peaceful leafy courtyard. It’s quiet, but just around the corner from the bustling Monti – and less than 10 minutes walk from Rome’s main Termini station. Doubles from £184, B&B; fifteenkeys.com