Once a red-light district, Rome’s Monti neighborhood is now red hot. Just a short walk from the Colosseum, the trendy bohemian district is a mash up of old-world traditions sharing the limelight with funky shops, bars, and restaurants from up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Hipsters sit shoulder-to-shoulder with elder neighborhood fixtures at a Renaissance-era fountain, Monti’s unofficial gathering place in the central Piazza della Madonna.
Rome's Monti district. Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn.
Spagnulo loved the Monti vibe so much, she opened her third Fatamorgana (5 Via degli Zingari; +39-06-4890-6955) outpost here, on the same corner where director Mario Monicelli shot his 1958 masterpiece I Soliti Ignoti or Big Deal On Madonna Street.
For craft cocktails and live music, visit the cozy Black Market (101 Via Panisperna; +39-339-822-7541), where indie musicians line up to play unplugged sets, or enjoy a leisurely lunch at Aromaticus (134 Via Urbana; +39-06-488-1355) a daytime, health-focused café that doubles as an urban gardening shop, with plenty of aromatic plants lining the shelves to take home.
With all the influx of modern hangouts, Monti's past remains evident, especially in one of its most visited sites, the church of Santa Maria dei Monti (41 Via della Madonna dei Monti; +39-06-485-531). The ornate interior is filled with phenomenal 16th-century frescoes, and locals share the lore of the miraculous event that prompted the building of the church—a miracle attributed to a perfectly preserved icon of the Virgin Mary, which was found in the ruins of a 13th-century convent. A blind woman in the 16th century is said to have regained her sight after praying to it. After news got out of the healing, donations began pouring in for a church to be built on that very location. Today, the icon hangs over the altar.