Browsing Monti: ancient Rome’s most populous borough is now a posh area

Browsing Monti: ancient Rome’s most populous borough is now a posh area

Rome’s borough number 1 (out of the 14 mapped out under the rule of Augustus) has always been the core of Roman life.

And this is maybe the reason why its inhabitants (the monticiani) are very proud and sometimes braggart. Julius Ceasar was born here, Messalina – the wife of the emperor Claudius – practiced her amatory skills in its brothels, Nero, incognito, loved to hang out in its inns. 

Its ancient name was Suburra, and here, in a few aristocratic houses, some of the first Roman Christian churches like S. Martino ai Monti were created.

Monticiani hated and fought their Trastevere counterparts for centuries and even women from Monti were very brave. They used to say that they were “stronger than columns” in fighting…

Even after Rome became the capital of the Italian unified state, it was the city’s largest borough. But it dramatically changed in less than 50 years between the end of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th when Rome had to adapt to become an efficient capital with the construction of the Bank of Italy building, the creation of Via Cavour and especially Via dei Fori Imperiali.

The local identity has often been stronger than the city affiliation in Monti. The atmosphere is very relaxed, nearly lazy in this part of the town. Some say this is the last village of Rome. The focal point of the neighborhood, Piazza Madonna ai Monti, is one of the few spaces in downtown Rome where you can still see kids playing soccer. The homonymous church is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  

There is a good nightlife in Monti, not as lively as in Trastevere, Testaccio, San Lorenzo or Pigneto but still vibrant enough to give life to this area even at night.

The key event for the borough is the October Feast, the Ottobrata Monticiana, that this year will be on October 19-21.  

Many shops sell good quality products, some handcrafts activities still resist, art galleries, fashionable bars and workshops are expanding also thanks to the affluent tourists who choose this area for a stroll or their accommodation in Rome.

And then one more reason to be very proud of being monticiani: Italy’s president, the head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, lives in Monti. Better than the Quirinale Palace!?