Saturday, 5 January 2013

Full Monti

An itinerary designed for first time visitors to Rome who are staying in the Monti area.
First of all congratulations on choosing this atmospheric area of Rome in which to base yourselves. Tucked between Termini station & the Colosseum, Monti offers tantalising glimpses of the surrounding city from its streets.The Dome of Santa Maria Maggiore is perfectly framed by a curtain of ivy on Via Panisperna

Ancient columns from the Forum of Augustus are to be seen from Via Baccina
And the view of the Colosseum from Via dei Serpenti is beautiful, especially after dark

In ancient times Monti was a slum known as Suburra.Julius Caesar grew up here and the area was home to the poorest locals and low life who inhabited five storey high insulae which were susceptible to fire, hence the building of the wall by Emperor Augustus to protect the Imperial Forums. The wall can still be seen today along Via Tor de Conte.
The focal point of  local street life is a small piazza half way along Via dei Serpenti - perfect for people watching by day or night....or even just to sit with the daily newspaper.
The area is home to trendy artisan work shops as well as everyday stores. It has many bars & restaurants covering local & ethnic cuisine which I will cover later in this post.

As this is your first time in Rome I would strongly recommend a private transfer from the airport to your accommodation. We have used Rome Cabs in the past and have always found them to be reliable and not much more expensive than a taxi.
Once you have settled in to your home in Rome it is time to explore. If you are ready for a quick snack then I suggest
Piadineria (Via del Boschetto 98) for take out flatbreads which you can then take in to the aforementioned piazza to enjoy whilst watching the world go by. Directly opposite Piadineria is Er Baretto, my favourite cafe in Monti. The staff here are very friendly and if you would prefer you could enjoy a light lunch sitting at an outdoor table. The salads are particularly delicious especially when accompanied by a glass of chilled wine or a beer!
At this point you will need to pick up your bus tickets for later. It is possible that you may be able to purchase them at Er Baretto if the sign shown below is displayed. If not, then the bar on the corner of Via dei Serpenti and the piazza will be the place to go

Today you will need a BIT ticket which costs €1.50 per person which you will use  on your evening passeggiata .
When you are ready to venture for your first taste of Rome by night head for the 117 (Corso/Popolo) bus stop on Via Milano. This little electric bus runs approximately every 7 minutes and will take you almost to the Spanish Steps. Once on the bus make sure that you validate  your tickets in the machine
like the one pictured here.

You will need to watch out for the Due Macelli/Mignanelli stop (3rd stop after Via Milano) Look for the column pictured below & you can't go wrong.

Walk beyond the column towards the Spanish Steps themselves. Our first night tradition every time we visit Rome is to sit on the steps & take in the atmosphere usually with a glass of something in hand that we have bought along with us - not a bad way to start your very own Roman Holiday!

 If you time this correctly you should be able to take in the sunset from the top of the steps & watch the city illuminate before your very eyes.
After you have spent enough time people watching take the street immediately in front of the steps - Via Condotti. As you walk along imagine how you could spend that lottery win in any one of the luxury stores that line both sides of the street. Turn left once you reach Via del Corso and walk down as far as Piazza Colonna which you will not miss thanks to the column of Marcus Aurelius.
Walk along the left hand side of the piazza which will bring you to another piazza this time with an ancient obelisk at its centre.Carry on walking left along Via D Guglia then right on to Via D Pastini which will bring you to the Pantheon. Built by Hadrian in 118 AD.  I defy anyone not to be moved by their first sight of this amazing building.

The Pantheon closes at 7.00pm so here is a photo of the oculus inside. Retrace your steps along Via Pastini and carry on to Piazza D Pietra where you will see the remains of the Temple of Hadrian.

Cross the Via del Corso & take Via delle Muratte to the Trevi fountain. Take your place in front of the fountain & throw a coin over your left shoulder to ensure that you will return to Rome!

Take Via del Lavatore from the Trevi until you see the walls of the Quirinale Palace then turn right and walk up the steep slope alongside the walls themselves. Turn left at the top & walk to the steps that will take you to Piazza del Qurinale.

 Pause here to take in the view of St Peters

Cross the road and take Via della Consulta which will lead to Via dei Serpenti. You must now be ready for dinner. My suggestion for tonight is Vino al Vino (Via dei Serpenti 19) The owner's mother prepares delicious Sicilian dishes such as caponata or meatballs or you could just enjoy a plate of cold meats & cheeses. Alternatively, if it is before 9.00pm you could enjoy 'aperitivi' at Libreria Caffe Bohemien on Via degli Zingari. The price of a drink (around €8) includes a help yourself buffet. And for dessert? If you are lucky Fatamorgana (in the small but delightful Piazza Zingari) will be open & you can sample their heavenly gelato. A nightcap in Piazza Madonna dei Monti or the aforementioned Libreria caffe would bring to an end a perfect evening in Rome.
Day 1
Today is an 'Ancient Rome' day. Before you head off on your history lesson I suggest picking up the makings of a picnic. If you are early birds then the best place to go would be the Conad supermarket (Via Boschetto 62 - opens 8.00am) There is a good deli counter here as well as ready made panini. As you can see it is the chosen store of local pets !

An alternative would be Delize di Calabria (Via dei Serpenti 20a - opens 10.00)which stocks delicious mozzarella, olives & bread.

 It really depends on your interests as how you plan this day. Obviously you will want to see the Colosseum and if it is a major part of your reason for coming to Rome then I would suggest booking the Underground & Third tier guided tour before leaving home. For detailed directions on how to do this see 'What Lies Beneath' post (November 2012). If you choose this option then I would book a morning tour which would enable you to have a picnic lunch on the Palatine hill and then explore the Forum at your leisure in the afternoon (your ticket covers all three sites).
If you would rather tour the Colosseum on your own then I suggest obtaining your tickets at the office just off the Via dei Fori Imperiali which is much less busy than buying your tickets at the Colosseum. This ticket office is almost opposite the end of Via Cavour which makes it perfectly placed for those of you coming from the Monti area.If you choose this option then explore the Forum in the morning, picnic on the Palatine then tour the Colosseum in the early afternoon.
Whichever option you choose I would strongly recommend downloading a free guide to the Forum as without one the site appears as 'just a pile of ruins' but is actually full of fascinating stories if you know what you are looking at. Another good tip is to obtain a copy of 'Rome Reconstructed' which has pictures of historical sights overlaid with how they would have looked when built. You can pick one of these up at the bookshop near the ticket office (approx €12).
Your picnic on the Palatine will also give you the opportunity to glimpse a 'bird's eye' view of the Forum which will help make sense of it all.

 If the weather isn't suitable for a picnic then a good choice for lunch would be Nerone on Via Terme di Tito. As you make your way here don't miss the 'photo opportunity' for an elevated shot of the Colosseum.

On your way back to your accommodation it may be worth picking up your BIT tickets for tomorrow. You will need 6 in total (3 each)
After all your sightseeing today I'm sure you will not want to venture far for dinner. Thankfully you don't have to as Monti has more than enough dining options to keep you happy. As I hinted before the choices include ethnic restaurants too. There are four Indians (the best is reputed to be Sitar, Via Cavour 256) as well as a  Japanese with a secret garden (Doozo, Via Palermo 55) but as we are in Rome my recommendations are for local cuisine. The first is La Carbonara (Via Panisperna 214). Fantastic atmosphere, fantastic Roman cuisine - love it!
Secondly Trattoria ai Tettarello, Via dei Capocci. This was our local pizzeria when we stayed in Rome last summer (outdoor tables seen here from our 4th floor apartment - no lift!!)
The food here is not fancy - Roman style pizzas with a thin crust and delicious bruschetta big enough to share. Everything is delicious & incredibly cheap.
Also it is very handy for the aforementioned Fatamorgana for your after dinner gelato.
Day 2
Today is your Vatican day and again you can either visit independently or invest in the Early Morning Vatican Tour organised by Italy with Us.  I can strongly recommend the latter. Whether you look at it from a religious or art appreciation view,  the Sistine chapel is one of the most sublime sights on earth and the Vatican museums one of the major art  collections in the world. We visited twice before taking the Italy with Us tour and both times were totally underwhelming. We thought that the only alternative was a private after hours tour which was out of the question financially. We then discovered the tour offered by Italy with Us which, although not cheap, does give you the best opportunity of seeing the Sistine Chapel in a relatively peaceful manner and then time to explore the museums at leisure.
If you do take this option then you need to be at the meeting point ( Via Vespasiano) at around 7.45. The easiest way to get there from Monti is to take the number 40 bus from Via Nazionale. Click here to see the exact location of the bus stop. Take the bus as far as Borgo Sant'Angelo (where the bus terminates) then walk towards Piazza del Risorgimento. Via Vespasiano leads off the piazza.
If you would prefer not to take the Italy with Us tour then I would still suggest that you book your tickets in advance here to ensure that you 'skip the line'
After you have toured the museum then you could have lunch in the cafe. The outdoor tables have a lovely view of St Peter's Dome.
Alternatively you could retrace your steps to Piazza del Risorgimento for Insalata Ricci. Here you can sample beautifully fresh salads at reasonable prices. Ideal for a light lunch.
After lunch make your way to St Peter's Basilica by walking alongside the Vatican walls on Via di Porta Angelica.If you look to your left just before you head through the colonnade you will see a stall selling all sorts of sweet treats. This is your opportunity to pick up a unique souvenir....... a lolipope!!
As you enter the square don't be put off by the huge queues to pass through security as they move very quickly. Make sure that shoulders and knees are covered as it is a strict dress code to enter the basilica. Once inside be prepared to be awed by the enormity of the building and to be moved by the art contained within - notably Michelangelo's Pieta which he completed at the age of 24. 
After your visit walk across the piazza and exit through the colonnade to your right and take Borgo Santo Spirito then turn right on to Via Penitenzieri. Walk down as far as Piazza della Rovere then cross the very busy road and start your ascent on Via Giancolo. After a little way you will see steep stairs that are a short cut to Via Sant'Onifrio which eventually leads to Passeggiata Giancolo. Don't worry if you miss the short cut - you will still end up at the same place - Piazza Garibaldi. Here you will find refreshment & a stupendous view. If, on the way up, you turn around & look to your right you will get this view of St Peter's dome

Then you will see the Manfredi Lighthouse, a gift to the city of Rome from Italians in Argentina

 Once you reach Piazza Garibaldi not only do you get a stupendous view but also a chance for refreshment from the little kiosk.
Carry on along the Passeggiata and you will come to the Aqua Paolo fountain and  yet another city vista

Follow Via Garibaldi down into Trastevere and continue on to Via Benedetta. If you are into draught beer then look out for the tiny 'Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa' on the left hand side of the street which has beers on tap from all over the world. Carry on to Via del Moro where you will see Valzani - a long standing family run firm specialising in Sachertorte.

At Easter time they sell delightful chocolate eggs with a hidden surprise in the centre. Turn left at the end of Via del Moro on to Via della Lungeretta. If you are ready for gelato then Fior di Luna on the left hand side about half way along this street is the place to go. Carry on until you reach Viale Trastevere. Head for the number 8 tram stop which will take you to Largo Argentina. Pause here a while to take in the ruins from  Republican times, reputedly the site of Caesar's murder.

Turn left on to Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II, cross the road and look for the signs to Piazza Navonna. Enjoy strolling around this beautiful piazza with the Four Rivers Fountain at the centre.

 You may even have your caricature done as a souvenir of your time in Rome.

 Leave the piazza and head to Corso del Rinascimentoook for the 70 bus stop. This will take you to Via Nazionale. Turn right at Via Mazzarino & this will bring you to Via Panisperna.
For dinner tonight I have a couple of suggestions from Elizabeth Minchilli who lives in Monti & writes a 'foodie'blog. Her favourite neighbourhood restaurant is Taverna dei Fori Imperiali on Via Madonna dei Monti. She suggests trying the daily special. She also recommends Pizzeria alle Carette, also on Via Madonna dei Monti which has outdoor tables at the back.
Day 3

Your last day in Rome and still so much to see. Before heading out of Monti why not enjoy a cappuccino (complete with a little work of art on the foam) at Er Baretto.

Pick up 2 BIT tickets each then head to Via Nazionale and the bus stop which is right outside Palazzo delle Esposizioni. You can take either the 64 or 70 which will take you to Piazza Venezia.
Admire the Victor Emmanuel Monument (known as 'the typewriter' or 'wedding cake' amongst other names) and then head round to the magnificent staircase, the Cordonata, that leads to Piazza del Campidoglio. On the way round look for the remains of the Insulae (apartment block) This type of building would have been home to the residents of Monti 2,000 years ago.

Climb the stars and once you reach the piazza head to the right hand side and walk between the buildings. Here you will see a view of the Roman Forum with the Colosseum in the distance.

Walk back down the stairs, cross the road and head down Via D'Aracoeli. Look for Via Margana on your left and follow this along to Via Delfini then Via Funari to Piazza Mattei and the delightful Tortoise Fountain. The story behind this fountain can be found in 'Waters of Rome' post (September 2012).

Take Via dei Falegami, Piazza Benedetto Caroli, Via Giubbonari until you reach Campo di Fiori. The market will be in full swing, watched over by the brooding statue of Giordini Bruno, burnt here at the stake for heresy.

This is the place to pick up packets of spices to recreate Roman cuisine once you return home as well as provisions for your picnic lunch.Obviously you can pick up salad & fruit from the market stalls but why not try some delicious salami from Antica Norcineria on the corner of the square and freshly baked bread from Il Forno di Campo di Fiori.
Take Via dei Baulari which leads into the elegant Piazza Farnese, home to the French Embassy with its Michelangelo facade then walk down to the river. Stroll along the Lungotevere until you see the remains of two Republican era temples

then head to Piazza Bocca della Verita & the iconic image of Rome from Roman Holiday - the Mouth of Truth. Chances are there will be a long queue of tourists waiting to recreate the Gregory Peck scene but if you don't wish to wait you can get a good photo through the railings.

Carry on walking and look for the steep cobbled street on your left - Clivo di Rocca Savella that will take you to the Giardini di Aranci or Orange Garden - an ideal spot for your picnic and another fabulous viewpoint.
After lunch carry on walking until you reach the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. Look for the green door on the right hand side of the piazza & squint through the keyhole. There you will see St Peters perfectly framed by a line of trees.


 Retrace your steps and then turn right on to Via di Sant'Alessio. Carry on until you see Via del Decci on your left then follow this road until you come to Via Santa Prisca. Turn right & follow this road until you reach the extremely busy Viale Aventino. It is worth taking your life in your hands to cross the road at this point to sample the divine gelato at Claudio Torce. Once your gelato craving is satisfied then carry on until you see the Metro sign for Circo Massimo. This metro line will take you back to Cavour and the Monti area. 
For dinner tonight I have a further suggestion which although we haven't tried is on our list for the next visit - Trattoria Valentino, Via Boschetto.The sign says Birreria Perroni, but that's just an old fresco. This is an odd, and delicious, place that often gets overlooked. They usually don't serve pasta, but have excellent hamburgers.
Enjoy a nightcap in Piazza Madonna dei Monti and then wander down Via Serpenti for a last look at the illuminated  Colosseum.

Arrivaderci Roma

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