Tucked between the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Piazza Venezia, Rome’s urban village of Monti flies under the radar. What was once a cesspit of prostitution and crime is now home to bookstores and galleries, as well as the locals’ choice for low-key drinks.

Feel like taking a break from the crowds? Grab this guide and head to Monti.

Most days in Rome begin with a cappuccino and a pastry, but Monti’s cafés also offer more substantial options. Make your way to the beautiful, ivy-clad La Casetta for pancakes, omelets, croissants, or cakes. Or, for an outdoor setting, cross Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and find a table on the terrace of La Bottega del Caffè. There, you can sip your coffee while watching people trickle across the piazza and into the nearby сhurch.

Plaza in Monti

Don’t linger over that cup for too long, though! You have a mosaic-making lesson at 10 a.m. at Studio Cassio. This makerspace, founded by a third-generation mosaic artist, shares the centuries-old Roman craft with its patrons. After a two-and-a-half-hour class, you’ll leave with your very own piece of art, or even a self-portrait mosaic — the best selfie you could possibly bring back from Rome.

Arched tunnel in MontiIf you’re not hungry yet, take some time to gawk at the lovely Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. One of the city’s four main churches, it’s brimming with eclectic architecture and sculptural masterpieces. As the name Maggiore suggests, it’s also the biggest basilica in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

When your stomach signals lunchtime, head to one of Monti’s classic Italian restaurants. There are more than a few, but La Carbonara and La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali are excellent options. True to its name, La Carbonara offers a variety of fresh pasta dishes in a cozy setting. La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, once a secret gastronomic escape, is now an uber-popular restaurant, but it’s still worth checking out. It’s a family-run establishment, so trust the waiters to give you local recommendations and let the chef surprise you!

After lunch, burn some of those calories by gallivanting around the neighborhood. You’re sure to spot some cute old Fiats and photo-worthy corners, so remember to document your surroundings. After all, Monti is photogenic and knows it very well.

Yellow taxi in front of a pink facade in Monti
Small truck in front of a building in Monti

As you start feeling warm from all the walking, take a break and relish Italy’s favorite dessert — gelato. Luckily for you, one of Rome’s best gelaterias has a shop right here in Monti. Fatamorgana uses original recipes and organic ingredients to make their all-natural gelato. Once you’ve decided between mouth-watering flavors like pineapple and ginger or ricotta and fig, take your treat outside into Piazza degli Zingari (which is more of a tiny cobbled clearing than a square). Or, for a different kind of dessert, wander around the corner to Grezzo. This picture-perfect storefront sells gourmet chocolates made from raw cacao. Trust me when I tell you they are to die for.

But with so many artists, designers, and craftsmen living in the area, raw chocolate isn’t the only gift you can take home. On Saturdays and Sundays, be sure to catch Mercato Monti, a market where new fashion designers showcase their latest work while vintage collectors sell jewelry, clothes, and decor from previous decades. On weekdays, you can stock up on rarities at Pulp, the neighborhood’s best vintage consignment shop.

Consignment shop in Monti
Bookstore in Monti

After you finish your shopping, take a stroll along Via Urbana. This promenade is packed with art and design shops, so all you need to do is wander out of one and into another! There’s Galla, a small art gallery and store featuring no more than five local painters at a time; a fashion boutique called lol; a small designer lamp shop named Rigodritto; a no-name nook that sells handmade candles across the street from Grezzo; and many, many more. Across the square from Fatamorgana, you’ll also find a bookstore — even if you don’t read Italian, it’s worth peeking inside to check out the beautiful mess.

By now, it’s evening, which means it’s time for a brilliant Italian ritual — aperitivo. To have your pre-dinner drink with a knock-down view of the Forum at sunset, secure a table on Hotel Forum’s rooftop. This is a popular place, so it’s best to make a reservation beforehand. Alternatively, you can do as the Romans do and have your aperitif right in the square. Come summer evenings, people flock to Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and relax by the fountain with their beer bottles and paper cups of wine.

Lights in a room in MontiNow that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to decide where you’re going for dinner. If you’re craving something that’s not traditionally Italian, Monti has more than a few options. The area boasts several international restaurants, such as Indian Maharajah and Japanese Doozo, among others. It’s also brimming with trendy new eateries, including Urbana 47, a fresh take on Italian cuisine, and Aromaticus, half-garden store, half-organic café.

Monti may not be a party-hard neighborhood, but it offers some wonderful places to finish off your day. Feel free to bar-hop between Ai Tre Scalini, a bottiglieria where you’ll have dozens of wines to choose from; Black Market, where you can sample some of the city’s best cocktails while enjoying an art exhibition or a music performance; and Libreria Caffè Bohemien, a quirky bookstore that doubles as a bar.

When you’ve had enough fun and Spritz, call it a night! But if you’re lucky enough to be staying within walking distance, take a detour on your way back and catch a glimpse of the Colosseum by night. It’s more than worth it.

Buona notte!

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Alice Melnyk
Alice is a traveler, writer, and rookie iPhone photographer. She loves capturing places through funny encounters, odd dialogues, and telling scenes, which she scribbles down on her blog. Her second favorite thing about travel is, strangely enough, picking places to stay (check out https://bestplacetostayin.com/). Follow Alice’s Instagram for new photos from her trips.