Monti, Rome’s Centre Of Eternity/Modernity
Monti is central Rome’s secret urban village. It is the oldest neighborhood in the city and, arguably, in the Western world. Monti is Rome’s largest district, which up to the late 1800s included also a large part of the present Esquilino (XV) and Celio (XIX) districts.
From a physical point of view, Monti is a particularly hilly district, as claimed by its own name: it stretches from the southern side of the Quirinal to the Viminal, and then to the Esquiline, including also a small part of the Coelian Hill. The Esquiline is a larger hill than the others, with three different peaks, called Cispius, Fagutal and Oppius, on each of which features of interest can be found.
Monti is home to the Colosseum, part of the Roman Forum, the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (with Michelangelo’s statue of Moses) and Trajan’s Market… to name just a few of its UNESCO world heritage-listed treasures. The residential part features narrow streets with cobblestones and an architectural mix from every Roman age, including the fascist era.
The present look of the Suburra dates to the 15th-17th centuries, when once again regular houses were built there. The deep alterations carried out to Monti district by the end of the 19th century partly spared this neighborhood, where several old buildings were preserved. The typical narrow and sometimes crooked lanes, constantly sloping due to the hilly ground, are crossed by a few long and straight streets opened by pope Sixtus V in the late 1500s. One of them is via Panisperna. In ancient times, the local church of St.Laurence used to offer the poor bread and ham (in Latin, panis et perna) on the saint’s day, whence the name of the street, whose up-and-down course follows the shape of the district’s hills.
Until very recently, Monti was a district with a predominantly working-class population and a rough communal charm. Two millennia ago, Julius Caesar was born in this area, which was/is also known as the Suburra meaning ‘below the city’. It was a crowded inner-city district nestled right up against the Empire’s centre of power, and eventually divided from it by a long wall, designed to protect the Forum from the regular fires that would break out. Today Monti features a distinct hipster vibe (with packed bars, an American Apparel store, Italy’s premier jazz school, and indie designer markets).