See a different side of Rome in the Monteverde neighborhood: Rome's biggest park, catacombs, a villa with secret garden, and some great Roman food.
We began our mornings in Monteverde with a view across the grassland of Villa Pamphili Park that stretched all the way to the Vatican dome.
We were spending a few days in an apartment above an artist's colony and below a rooftop basketball court / soccer field. Windows all around.
The booking site called our apartment a "Romantic attic with views over the beautiful St. Peter's Dome" and it was, except for the attic thing. The place is a school on the ground floor, an artist's colony in the center, and the apartment is just below the rooftop, where the owner has an apartment. Recommended--and right on Rome's newest metro line.
Monteverde has some very good restaurants and fantastic pizza. But first, let's see how it all fits into Rome on our map. Everything you know, central Rome, Trastevere, Testaccio, is all to the west and northwest. Monteverde is only represented as a half slice on the tourist maps.
Click or tap the map markers to find out more about these attractions.
The green area in the northwest corner of the map is Villa Pamphili park, the largest in Rome. to the south and east lies an area called Monteverde. Across the river to the east is Testaccio. To the northeast, just behind the north-south trending ridge that is known as the Janiculum, is Trastevere.
Despite the fact that the area is outside the tourist zone of Rome, you might hear younger folks in Monteverde speaking English. The American University of Rome is here, as well as the American Academy in Rome.
The map marker in Villa Pamphili park just south of the Via Aurelia Antica shows you the location of the villa or casino, called Casino del Bel Respiro, the country house of good breathing because it was high above the malarial marshes of Rome with a good view. To the south of the villa is the giardino segreto or the secret garden, which is visible from the park paths, as you can see in the picture. It is a parterre, a formal garden of symmetrically trimmed hedges with gravel pathways in between. The building is covered in niches where statues, ancient and modern, are displayed. It is an impressive site. The villa and garden were completed in 1653. To see art from the villa and era, see Galleria Doria Pamphilj on Via del Corso, 305 in the historic center of Rome, marked on the map (upper right).
The park itself is the largest landscaped park in Rome, 1.8 square kilometers of space without cars or motos, an oasis of calm in the raucous city. It's a relatively new park, having been wrestled from the hands of the family in 1960.
The park is peppered with drinking fountains, and is a magnet for runners and walkers.
The Church of San Pancrazio was founded by Pope Symmachus in the 6th century. It's known for its catacombs, which can be visited only on Wednesdays between 9:30 am and noon, and 4-7 pm, and on Thursdays from 9:30 to noon. The church itself is open daily, closed for lunch between noon and 4pm.
We stayed in a very interesting apartment over an artist's colony south of the Villa Pamphili park, marked on the map. It was conveniently located at the end of the tram line 8, providing transportation down the center of the "Circonvallazione Gianicolense", a way around the Janiculum hill. You can see the Vatican dome through the windows over the bed in the picture on the left.
There are several very fine restaurants in the area, many along the tram line, all marked on the map (see the map above).
Other well-reviewed apartments include the Casali Papareschi Apartments inside a renovated 19th century farmhouse. For a location on the edge of the Villa Pamphili park, try the huge, four-star Atahotel Villa Pamphili. To the west of the park is the EcoHotel, which garners excellent reviews and offers free bikes for use in Rome.
Papetto is one of those neighborhood places that specializes in seafood. It's a fabulous value. It's not what you might call gourmet. There are no sauces to pimp up the fish. They have a paper menu, but only give it out if a tourist asks for it. "You want a little antipasto?" the waiter will ask, and you're off. The plates keep coming. You have no idea what it will cost. Then, "Pasta?" and when the choices prove overwhelming, the waiter says he can give us an assaggio or tris of primi piatti. Three pastas it is then: Ravioli with mushrooms and salmon, seafood risotto, and a perfect spaghetti alla scoglio made with first-of-the-season telline, tiny clams. We had to stop there. We were quite full. But then they mentioned sorbetto al limone. It was a perfect end to a seafood meal, and the best I"ve ever tasted. The bill? 57 euro for two, with sparkling water and a liter of the house white. In Rome? You gotta be kiddin' me. Like I said, great value.
Like Papetto, Il Giardino is also along the Circonvallazione Gianicolense. Another neighborhood place. The decor is old-school, or, you might say, just old. The lighting isn't the most fantastic in the world, casting a jaundiced glow randomly amongst the diners. There are people here, some celebrating, some just eating alone.
In other words, my kinda place.
You won't go away hungry here. The portions are humongous. And look at that tagliata over there, draped over arugula with tomatoes. Comfort food. After a most perfect penne amatriciana. The platter of agnello scottadito Martha ordered was way, way, too much, but delicious. Both meats cooked over a real hardwood fire. Unadorned and very, very nice.
Don't worry about getting too full in Monteverde, there is another place where you can get that thin, Roman pizza by the slice (you are charged by the weight, and a Roman pizza is very light). Disney Pizza is a modern pizza joint with a great many wines. Yes, It's a trademark lawyer's dream, what with all the Disney characters printed on the wrapping paper and all, and the place doesn't seem to get the reviews it deserves, but when you want just a couple small slices of thin crust pizza...oh man I miss the place!
For upscale eating when you want a gourmet bite or 15, Food guru Elizabeth Minchilli, aurthor of the app Eat Rome, recommends a place quite close to the apartment referenced above, which some say is the best trattoria in Rome, Da Cesare, sometimes called Cesare al Casaletto, on Via Del Casaletto 45. Read Elizabeth's review. It was closed for vacation when we went.
We also missed Da Simone (recommended by Martha Bryan on our facebook page and loved by thousands). Find it at Via Giacinto Carini, 50, Rome.
The apartment owner recommended the neighborhood favorite La Gatta Mangiona, a ristorante pizzeria with an extensive wine list--wines from every region are represented.
And of course, if you want a different cuisine, real Roman cuisine, you just need to go east and cross the river to Testacchio.
You will, of course, want to explore the historic center of Rome, which is easily done from Monteverde using public transportation. Tram line 8, Rome's newest, plies the Circonvallazione Gianicolense to piazza Venezia, via the Trasevere train station. Buy your tickets at a news stand (edicola) or tobacco shop (tabacchi) for 1.50 euro each, or a Biglietto giornaliero B.I.G., an all-day ticket for 4 euro. Stamp it when you get on.
For more information on Rome, see our Rome Neighborhoods Guide. For another quiet place to stay, check out Aventine Hill. When you've had your fill of very old things, head north for the interesting Flaminio neighborhood.
Just outside of Rome is Tivoli. You can easily get to the ancient port of Rome, Ostia Antica from the Porto San Paolo station. If you find yourself in Rome during a summer heat wave, you might want to head out to the Alban hills wine country: Castelli Romani.