The Monti neighborhood of Rome, which stretches from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to the Colosseum and from the Quirinal Hill to the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, is one of the oldest parts of the city. Nowadays the district, with its narrow streets and lively squares, has become one of the most popular night-time areas. Monti is the first rione (R. I) of Rome.
Rione Monti Rome (R. I)
History Monti neighborhood Rome
The name Monti signifies “mountains”: The reason is that when Rome was first divided into rioni, Monti contained the four hills Esquilino, Viminale, Quirinale and Celio.
Already in the times of the Roman Empire Monti was densely populated. The northern part of the area was full of residences called domus (a domus is like a villa, with the difference that a domus was within the city walls), whereas the southern part was a territory full of brothels (lupanari) and unsavory inns. The Fori Imperiali were also part of the rione Monti.
During the middle ages many inhabitants left and moved to Campo Marzio, then a vaster area than what comprises the area with the same name nowadays. The aqueducts leading water to Monti had been destroyed by the Goths so there was no drinking water in Monti.
Until the end of the 18th century nothing much changed. The area remained thinly populated and there were many vineyards and gardens. The biggest change took place in the 1930’s when the fascists ordered big public works like the construction of the Via dei Fori Imperiali and the excavation of the Fori Imperiali themselves.
The part of Monti that in those days came to be called Suburra, the picturesque area between the Via Cavour and the Via Nazionale with its myriad of cozy alleys and trendy shops, was however left unchanged by the fascists.
Tourist attractions Monti district Rome
Monti is dense with tourist attractions, like the Foro di Traiano and the other Imperial Forums, narrow winding streets like the Via Urbana and the Via Panisperna, lots of picturesque squares, the Domus Aurea (recently reopened to the public) and the Mercati di Traiano. The Palazzo delle Esposizioni is one of Rome’s most interesting modern art museums.
There are about 50 churches and basilicas in the rione Monti alone, some of which are extremely important, like the San Clemente, the Saint Peter in Chains and the two patriarchal basilicas Saint Mary Major and Saint John in Lateran.
Lately Monti has also become a bit of a night time area, with several pubs and lots of restaurants, especially in the above-mentioned Suburra area. This has unfortunately also led to arguments and even fights between the original inhabitants of the area and the more loutish part of the tourist crowd.
Main streets and squares
The main street in the Monti neighborhood is the Via Cavour. It is the main thoroughfare between the railway station and the Colosseum/Forum Romanum area. As a result, it is lined with tourist shops and, mostly, fast food restaurants.
The Via Urbana, which runs parallel to the Via Cavour, is more interesting. In recent years it has transformed itself into a street full of design and vintage clothing stores.
The liveliest squares in the evening are the Piazza Madonna ai Monti and the Piazza degli Zingari. The latter, like the Via degli Zingari, owes its name to the gypsies that used to inhabit the neighborhood in the 17th century.