Nov 22, 2017

House-hunting in Rome? Follow your palate

The Eternal City is spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing neighborhoods where romantic attics, flats, condos and apartments are in close proximity to fine eateries and food shops in town. Here are some of the best food-centric Rome neighborhoods to live in, based on favorite foods.

Centro Storico – Family-owned "botteghe"

The historic center of Rome is a gorgeous tangle of alleys, busy squares, Baroque cathedrals and Renaissance palaces. The romantic, ivy-draped sidewalks are full of small family-owned shops, cafes, restaurants and stylish bars, market traders and historic food shops. Above these, locals dwell in small to mid-size apartments. 

This part of Rome is a food lover’s dream destination. In this cobblestone-paved corner of the ancient city, Romans rely on quality shops that have been in business for generations. If your favorite Italian specialties include bread products like pizza al taglio, rustic loaves of Lariano bread, artisan gelato, and sweet holiday treats like chocolate, panettone, sfogliatelle and cannoli, be sure to peruse real estate located in the surroundings of Campo de’ Fiori, the small alleys around Piazza Navona, via dei Coronari, and the gorgeous (yet pricey) Pantheon area.

Jewish Quarter – Tradition!

The Jewish presence in Rome dates back to the second century BC. As the oldest Jewish community in Europe, this gorgeous neighborhood locally known as “the Ghetto” was established in a flood- and disease-prone 4-block area near the Tiber River. Its borders and discriminatory laws regarding what professions Jews could and could not carry out were defined in a Papal Bull issued by Pope Paul IV in 1555. 

Though the neighborhood now holds some of the highest property prices in Rome, the original Jewish Ghetto was walled-in, crowded, enforced a curfew, and life was quite grim until the Ghetto was demolished and the ancient perimeter walls were torn down in 1888. Over the years the rebuilt area has grown into a beautiful neighborhood filled with great restaurants, churches, and synagogues and where a strong sense of community is still palpable.

Lovers of Roman-Judaic specialties such as carciofi alla giudìa (Jewish-style fried artichokes), unique pizza ebraica pastries, plus classic dishes such as concia (marinated zucchini) and aliciotti e indivia (a baked casserole of grilled anchovies layered with curly endive), should be house-hunting in the area surrounding the ancient via del Portico d’Ottavia, piazza Beatrice Cenci, piazza Mattei, via Arenula and via Santa Maria del Pianto.

Testaccio – Quinto Quarto at the Mercato

The Testaccio neighborhood is a working-class area of Rome that's wildly popular with locals who value traditional cucina romana and the Fifth Quarter (nose to tail) as much as they love the AS Roma soccer team. That alone should be enough of an invite to seek lodging here. But it's the area's small-town charm and laid back vibe that makes it feel like home. 

The neighborhood's pulsating heart is the Testaccio market, which is first and foremost a meeting place where neighbors catch up on daily news, sports results and gossip, and where the actual food shopping and transactions happen later. Testaccio is the place where locals source some of the freshest meat and seafood, and where they pick up trendy street food and fresh pantry basics. A good place to start looking for a flat in Testaccio is the grid streets and avenues surrounding the ex-slaughterhouse – now a reclaimed exhibition space housing art exhibitions and cultural events – and the Monte dei Cocci, an artificial hill made of ancient Roman amphorae clay shards.

Parioli – Michelin stars, museums and merchants

Conservative and 'old money' family-oriented Parioli is stately, elegant and safe. In fact, many governments have set up their embassies here. This obviously comes at a cost: homes in Parioli are bigger and are rented at higher prices. Quiet, refined, elegant and exclusive Parioli features a staggering number of supermarkets, markets, boutique grocers and assorted small merchants. 

Connoisseurs of fine wines and spirits, elegant delicatessens, Michelin-star restaurants and quality specialty stores should invest in an apartment located around viale Parioli, via Monti Parioli, piazza Euclide, viale Bruno Buozzi, via Civinini and via Giovanni Antonelli, as well as the more affordable via Salaria.

Collina Fleming – Posh pastries

The Tor di Quinto neighborhood, aka Collina Fleming is a hilltop residential district located just off the corso Francia boulevard in northern Rome, carved around the ancient Via Flaminia consular road. Elegant Collina Fleming is one of the most expensive residential areas of Rome.

From a fine food, drink and shopping perspective however, Fleming is becoming a foodie magnet. Elegant signoras traverse the city to Fleming to find some of the city’s finest pastries, cakes and other bakery products. There’s also a good choice of chocolate shops, gelaterias and organic juice bars on via Flaminia Vecchia, and sunlit apartments can be scouted in the surrounding tree-lined via Vincenzo Tiberio, via Achille Loria and via Alessandro Fleming.

Prati/Vatican – Elegant & tasty

Known for its elegant office buildings, courthouses and shopping streets, the Prati neighborhood is an equally interesting food hub. Located across from the Vatican's borders, the well-kept grid street layout contributes to an overall residential calm after office hours. Like in the rest of the city, a good meal is of crucial importance in Prati. So in the shadow of the dome of St Peter’s, lovers of fine baked products, fresh produce, rare cheeses and cured meats, sublime roasted coffee beans and all manner of delights sold in high-end delis, should be looking for a place to stay refining their search around via Trionfale, via Andrea Doria, piazza Risorgimento, Castel Sant’Angelo and via Cola di Rienzo.

Trastevere – Bohemian lifestyle

There’s never a dull moment in the winding alleys of Trastevere, busy 24/7 with a flurry of tourists, foreign students, street performers, and lovers of cacio e pepe. The formerly working-class district with a heady nightlife, now a charming medieval hamlet, is a reflection of its proud inhabitants: vivacious, temperamental and romantic. Lined with crumbling buildings, chipped paintwork facades and terracotta rooftops, the beauty of Trastevere lies in its contrasts: picturesque washing strung between buildings, and graffiti covering shutters and doorways. Despite the density of tourists, the bohemian "left bank" of the river Tiber River still retains its ancient charm.

Food-wise, Trastevere offers informal osterias tucked in secluded alleys, as well as critically acclaimed seafood restaurants, 3-generation family-run pastry shops, and local hangouts for food-loving insiders. Looking for the city’s best cheese, artisan biscotti and crisp supplì? Then look no further than the intricate labyrinth tangled around via San Francesco a Ripa, via della Luce, piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, via dei Vascellari and piazza di San Cosimato.

Pigneto – Liberal literati & libations

Gritty and dilapidated Pigneto has become one of the city's most beloved, and most popular Rome neighborhoods. The triangular area sits between two main consular roads, via Prenestina and via Casilina. The suburb’s upbeat vibe and rainbow of resident cultures makes it one of Rome’s most hip and funky residential destinations. The eclectic bars, unusual eateries and popular bistros attract a young crowd of locals and expats.

The ultimate Rome destination for emerging artists is also the part of town where locals come for fine street food, craft beer and simple cuisine, and where it’s cool to lounge in leafy patios, sipping vino with locals. Seek out lodging in the neighborhood along pedestrian via del Pigneto, via Fanfulla da Lodi and via Braccio da Montone.

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Nestpick, a search aggregator that helps expats, travelers and students find mid- to long-term rentals. All opinions remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.