Rome, the Eternal City, is a place full of surprises and charm. The historical eras have followed one another stratifying themselves and leaving an indelible mark of the passage of peoples and cultures. Even today, to visit this city is a marvellous experience. Even the less known sights, the neighbourhoods farther from the centre can hide a little surprise for us.
Among the various areas of the city, Rione Monti, is a place full of attractions, home to art galleries, bars, clubs, taverns, narrow streets, where you can taste Roman culinary specialties. Yet, once this neighbourhood was not so highly considered by the citizens of Rome, as it was considered a run-down area of the city. That isn’t the case anymore, indeed, the situation has changed so much that the neighbourhood can now be considered among the coolest in the city and is loved even by celebrities. Art galleries, shops, wine bars adorn the streets of this area, which boasts also an interesting nightlife!
The area’s name comes from the expression lì monti (the hills), which indicated an area including the hills Esquiline, Viminal, part of Quirinal and of Caelian, arriving up to the Aurelian Walls. Although today some of these areas are excluded from this topographical subdivision the name has remained unchanged.
Rione Monti is also one of the oldest districts of the capital and was once densely populated. It appears as a very heterogeneous area as it has undergone various experiences throughout history. For example, despite its enormous development in Roman times, the aqueduct that supplied this urban area with water, was damaged during the Middle Ages and interrupting the urbanization, which resumed only in modern times and is still continuing.
It currently appears as a neighbourhood full of alleys, tiny streets and rather high buildings, dating from different periods and styles. Via del Boschetto, Via Urbana, via Baccina are some of these characteristic narrow streets, while Piazza degli Zingari and Piazza Madonna dei Monti are among the most populated areas.
In Piazza Madonna dei Monti we find the church that has the same name as the square and which in the thirteenth century was monastery housing a community of Poor Clares. This area, later a place of worship, was originally a barn and owes its change of use to a curious episode. Some labourers who were working in its vicinity heard a voice begging them not to hurt the child. Precisely in this spot a fresco representing the Virgin and Child was found; today in this area we find an altar. The church was designed by the famous Giacomo della Porta in the sixteenth century and is considered a true architectural masterpiece in two orders. We find rises also a characteristic fountain known as the Fountain of the Catechumens, a seventeenth-century construction located near the square where there is also the College of Catechumens, which gives the fountain its name. The fountain also was designed by Giacomo della Porta and commissioned by Pope Sixtus V.
Another particularly interesting church is the Basilica of Saint Praxedes, dating back to the first century AD. The church, which all art lovers should visit at least once in their lives, has three naves divided by columns and pillars and houses some really magnificent mosaics. The theme developed by the mosaic in the apse is that of the apocalypse, with the Christ and the golden halo and the roll, the lambs, Saint Paul, Santa Praxedes and the city of Jerusalem.
Alongside these tiny streets, palaces and religious buildings, there are also other places of cultural interest. Among these there are various theatres in the district that are among the most famous in the city. The Eliseo theatre and the Opera House are located very close to the Rione, and in general, this neighbourhood is very close to Rome’s major attractions. From here everything can be easily reached, so even with just a short walk we can admire monuments and sites of interest.
A curiosity related to this neighbourhood is the fact that it seems to be particularly popular with celebrities, so, if we were to head for this area, perhaps, while shopping around the many stores or craft shops or while sipping a coffee in one of the bars, we might meet a show business celebrity!