Find the Real Rome in These Unmissable Neighborhoods

Check out these five neighborhoods, replete with cobblestone streets, boisterous restaurants and bars, and shops that offer a delightful taste of la dolce vita.

Find the Real Rome in These Unmissable Neighborhoods

Visitors to Rome find myriad examples of the city’s ancient past, as well as its energetic present.

Courtesy of Scooteroma

With Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and other major monuments concentrated in Rome’s centro storico, it would be easy to spend all your time there. But then you’d be missing out on vibrant neighborhoods like boutique-filled Monti and lively Trastevere. For a truer understanding of the city—or ideas for where to stay in Rome—venture out to these five neighborhoods.

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Ai Tre Scalini in the Monti neighborhood has been in operation since 1895.

Courtesy of Ai Tre Scalini

Monti

Sandwiched between the Colosseum and the Termini station and about 1.5 miles from the student-heavy area of San Lorenzo, Monti has charm in spades. The neighborhood’s name alludes to the hills that characterize it. Cobblestone streets like the sloping Via Panisperna and Via del Boschetto are lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, such as Ai Tre Scalini, which serves local wine and cheese in addition to more substantial dishes like eggplant parmigiana and porchetta. Stroll down Via Urbana—one of the main streets running through the neighborhood—and you can stop for an espresso at the industrial-chic Urbana 47 and pop into Mercato Monti, where indie vendors sell vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, and other artisan goods. Whatever you do, don’t skip the all-natural gelato at Fatamorgana, which serves unusual flavors like ricotta and fig.

Not ready to leave? Check into the Roma Luxus Hotel or the luxurious Palazzo Manfredi, whose upscale cocktail bar and Michelin-starred restaurant boast jaw-dropping views of the Colosseum.

Trastevere

This neighborhood on the left bank of the Tiber has been on the radar for years, but that doesn’t mean it should be skipped. Often described as Rome’s buzzy, bohemian ’hood, it gets packed every night of the week and all day on weekends. Wander through the maze of winding narrow streets connecting lively Piazza Trilussa with Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, and you’ll feel like you’ve entered the city’s living room, as people congregate around the fountain and at the restaurants and bars lining the piazza.

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Chef Cristina Bowerman serves modern fare in a modern Roman setting at Glass Hostaria.

Photo by We Rise Studio

Although most places tend to be casual, you can find everything from no-frills spots like Pizzeria ai Marmi—where neither the recipes nor the decor has changed in decades—to gastronomic powerhouses like Glass Hostaria, where innovative chef Cristina Bowerman flexes her creative muscles. For a classic Roman trattoria experience, line up at Da Enzo al 29, which serves pasta staples like a killer cacio e pepe and amatriciana. For something more innovative, book a table at Eggs, which has a list of creative carbonara variations, including one made with shrimp, pistachio, and lemon zest. There aren’t any big chain hotels here, but there are a few budget-friendly boutique hotels, like Relais Le Clarisse, and plenty of Airbnbs.

Testaccio

South of the centro storico and Monti is Testaccio, a neighborhood built on a hill of ancient terra-cotta amphorae. For nearly a century, a slaughterhouse provided jobs to the neighborhood’s working-class residents, who developed quinto quarto—a subset of Roman cuisine that uses the animal parts leftover after the prized cuts were sold. Although Testaccio has become Rome’s nightlife hub, with rowdy dance clubs lining Monte Testaccio, it’s still the neighborhood to visit for a taste of the authentic Roman cuisine.

The Mercato di Testaccio is a great place to start; you can find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to made-to-order sandwiches. At the street food spot Trapizzino, thick pizza dough is stuffed with typical Roman recipes like coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) and carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes). For a classic old-school Roman meal, book a table at Flavio al Velavevodetto, which is built into Monte Testaccio and has the rough stone walls to prove it.

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By day, grab a coffee or smoothie at Chapter Roma’s lobby bar—by night, indulge in a glass of vino or a cocktail.

Photo by Paola Pansini

Regola

A micro-neighborhood within the centro storico, Regola is just far enough off the tourist path to be considered a secret. Bordered by the Tiber on one side and Campo dei Fiori on the other, it stretches down to the edge of the Jewish Ghetto. Within its borders, you’ll find under-the-radar shopping street Via di Monserrato; it is lined with art galleries and upscale boutiques like the cult-favorite concept shop Chez Dédé, bespoke handbag atelier Maison Halaby, and l’Archivio di Monserrato, which sells beautiful clothes and home goods curated by designer Soledad Twombly. In between shopping and strolling the charming Via Giulia, you’ll want to enjoy a meal at Pianostrada. Run by four women, this cozy restaurant has charmingly mismatched vintage furniture and an interior garden decorated by plants and twinkling lights. Want to make Regola your home base? Check into the new Chapter Roma, a member of Design Hotels with a glam-industrial style punctuated by street art murals and velvet sofas.

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Peruse the selection of feminist literature at Libreria Tuba (or stop by its bar for a snack).

Courtesy of Libreria Tuba

Pigneto

Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini grew up in Pigneto and filmed his 1961 movie Accattone in its rough-and-tumble streets, east of the centro storico. His old haunt—Necci dal 1924—is still the neighborhood’s beating heart, where hip locals congregate for aperitivi in the garden. Though Pigneto is a lot more developed now, it retains a gritty, alternative vibe. Right across the street from Necci, you’ll find the hip speakeasy Spirito by walking through a refrigerator door inside the Premiata Panineria sandwich shop. Stroll across the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks and you’ll come to Via del Pigneto, part of which is a pedestrian street that hosts a farmers’ market in the morning and restaurants and bars that get packed in the evening. Here you’ll find the feminist bookstore/café Libreria Tuba and the excellent Pizzeria Sant’Alberto.

Since the Pigneto metro stop opened on line C in 2018, the area is much better connected to the rest of Rome. But the most thrilling way to get around is to hop on the back of a Vespa driven by one of Scooteroma’s local guides. They’ll take you around the neighborhood to see the street art and regale you with tales of the area’s history.

>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Rome

Laura is a freelance journalist based in Rome with a passion for covering travel, arts and culture, lifestyle, design, food, and wine.
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