/Will The Real Rome Please Stand Up

Will The Real Rome Please Stand Up

Ostiense seen from Garbatella.

I’ve been in a rather cynical state of mind lately. What else is new, right? I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster since announcing my retirement from corporate guidebook writing, founding my own publishing company (might sound like a big deal but I haven’t published anything yet…), and diving head first into the tour season. I guess when I am busy, I don’t have much patience for many things, especially intellectual laziness and superficial nonsense. So as articles about Rome are rolled out by newspapers and magazines, I can’t help but cringe at how out of touch some of my colleagues are.


There are some ridiculous notions about Rome that are repeated over and over, year after year and they absolutely boggle my mind. For example, Pigneto is not up and coming because it is no longer 2007. Giolitti is not a good gelateria unless you are a fan of hydrogenated vegetable oils and artificial colors. Trastevere is not Rome’s Greenwich Village and its restaurants, for the most part, aren’t amazing. Testaccio is not in the periphery. Sora Margherita does not serve good or moderately priced food. And Centocelle is nothing like the South Bronx.


I know there isn’t not much sense in banging on about what “the real Rome” is because it’s different for everyone. But I do think that life beyond the Aurelian Walls deserves to be given a little bit of respect and not assigned fringe terms that only demonstrate a superficial or privileged understanding of Roman city life. The truth is, the vast majority of Romans do not live in the center, which is almost exclusively occupied by people earning well over the average annual income. So I guess that makes the real Rome everything but the center. Even so, guidebooks, magazines and other publications focus on Rome’s historical center and posit it as some effortlessly cool and perfect place. It’s hard to tell if this take is more boring or superficial. How bout some love for the rest of real Rome?


There are so many visually stimulating neighborhoods and, while they may not all be beautiful in the traditional sense, I do see elegance in the curving iron form of Ostiense’s Gasometro. And the rational simplicity of EUR’s Fascist limestone forms or Garbatella’s case populari are undeniably intriguing. So, following in the footsteps of my dear friend and awesome blogger Jessica Stewart, I have snapped some shots of Rome’s lesser publicized corners. Rome isn’t really all that big, and getting to these places from the center is a snap using the metro. Or even better, take a loooong stroll and see what the city has to offer beyond the obvious. Oh and I’ll be giving away a copy of National Geographic’s Walking Rome and a free Rome for Foodies app to the reader that can guess the neighborhood featured in each of the photos below. Please post answers in the comments section by midnight EST on April 23. In bocca al lupo!









2017-02-17T15:18:21+00:00 April 19th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Rome & Lazio, Travel|28 Comments


  1. Pete April 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Brilliant post. I think I’d only guess 25% of the photos, and that would be guessing. There’s so much to explore beyond the touristy centre.

  2. Peta April 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    A) eur
    B) Flaminio
    C) Garbatella
    D) Exmattatoio
    E) c215
    F) Tuscolana
    G) via-mandrione
    H) mandrione
    I) nervi_flaminio
    J) caffarella
    K) casilna-vecchia

  3. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) April 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Of course, as inhabitant of Borghesiana/Finocchio I can completely feel your pain here (and I totally agree about your setting a few facts back in the right track).

    Say you live in Rome and everybody will imagine you are living in a terraced attico on Piazza Navona or Campo de Fiori (which I would not live in anyway due to the hordes of noisy tourists that assault and deface those otherwise nice places).

    From the little I have seen, Monteverde has a lot of charms too and is completely out of the tourists’ way.
    I have a few colleagues who live in San Lorenzo and in Garbatella and love it. These areas have charm. Not postcard charm, perhaps, but their own.

  4. Acquafortis April 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I really like your post! So D) one is Monte Testaccio area, E) do not know but saw it somewhere and can’t remember maybe Garbatella, F) Tuscolana area near beginning of Via Palmiro Togliatti/ Via Papiria, G) beginning of Via Casilina Vecchia intersection with Via Aquila, H) Via Casilina Vecchia in the heart of Mandrione area, I) Palazzeto delle Sport Parioli , J) Caffarella park , K) Via Casilina Vecchia just before you turn round on the small bridge passing over railways.
    Geezzz 45mins on Google maps…hihihi

  5. Erica April 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Kick ass post, Katie– I’m very happy to see you heralding the Rome that most don’t get to see (in particular EUR b/c I have a love/hate relationship with it).

    Rome is a dream for many who dont live here, but unfortunately they only get a chance to see the Rome wrapped up in the perfect little box with bow…. says me, another guide book veteran. Getting outside of that box can be daunting for a short term visit, or even if you live here– but the blinders do have to come off if we want Rome in the 21st century.

    PS I can’t even front that I would win your game- i’m a good 67%.

  6. Marcus April 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    To pick up on your second statement, you may be retiring from guidebook writing for the big, bad publishing companies, but having just received via Amazon my copy of the Nat Geog Walking Guide, I would like to say that you signed off with a great addition to the canon. I can see your point of view though! As far as I can make out, acknowledgement of your authorship is limited to one sub heading on the title page!!! Thankfully, the blogosphere is more appreciative (if less remunerating)

  7. Pete April 20, 2012 at 12:41 am - Reply

    @Acquafortis – I feel your pain!! I started looking at a map and gave up! You’ve done far better than me! 😉

  8. lorenzo April 20, 2012 at 8:55 am - Reply

    There is only one problem in Rome. There is a song written by a singer that is called Alberto Fortis. The title of the song is “A Voi Romani” listen at this song and think about the magnificent Rome whitout it’s citizens. It Will be the most beatifull place in the word…………..
    All the best

  9. Irene April 20, 2012 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Stunning pictures, Katie!

  10. Sarah May Grunwald April 20, 2012 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Brilliant as usual Katie!! These photos are incredible and inspiring that you are able to see/show the beauty in “regular” places.

  11. Luca Moretti April 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    A) Eur
    B) Flaminio
    C) Garbatella
    D) Testaccio-Monte de’ cocci (ex mattatoio)
    E) Garbatella
    F) Tuscolana
    G) Mandrione
    H) Mandrione
    I) Palazzetto dello sport al Flaminio
    J) Caffarella
    K) Casilina vecchia

  12. Valerio April 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I definetely agree with you, regarding the “real” Rome not being solely represented by the center.

    Who is interested about the Real Rome?

    The city mayor and municipality, the ones promoting Rome as a whole, care little or nothing about outside the Aurelian walls. Speed Tourists, that have 2/3 days in Rome, have no clue about Roman sorroundings, and “all” they are told to see is the center.

    I believe that bloggers, who are closer to a much broader audience, which focuses not only on 2/3 days visit but also on “discovering” different areas should start to tell to the mainstream prospects about those peripheries. Bloggers represent the only communication power to help discover Rome.The real one.

  13. codecables April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Awesome, Katie! Agree with all of the above, but then again, I believe it is only when embracing all the different aspects and layers of a city that one can truly and fully enjoy it.
    Tried to participate in your game, but D, E and F elude me.

  14. Christine April 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I can’t even take it with your pix of my most beloved Mandrione + Casilina Vecchia. I love it. I can’t believe that once again you’re going to be away when I’m there next month.

    And I love how you worded your gripes; pure class, Parla. I mean, when even San Lorenzo is considered the back of beyond…

  15. Hounddogman April 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I like this post. There’s so much more to be seen outside the centro storico. I’m wondering, pace Lorenzo, if your title is a reference to that great Johnny Paycheck song ‘(Will) The Real Mr Heartache (Please Stand Up and Cry)’. I hope so.

  16. Lorenzo Casaccia April 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Great post!

  17. mart April 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Think this story goes for a lot of places. Only know 2 of the pictures… 🙁 But then I have hardly visited Roma.

  18. We’re with you on this one, as you know, Katie… our itineraries, and posts (about 360 of them), are almost always outside those Aurelian walls, and we’ve never lived within them (or wanted to). But of course that’s why the subtitle to ROME THE SECOND TIME is “15 Itineraries that Don’t Go to the Coliseum”… We’ll be in Coppede’ this June. Baci, Rome the Second Time. (http://www.romethesecondtime.com)

  19. Steve April 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Edit in something about Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love and I think this will be the post to end all posts on Rome. How many nails did you just hit on the head, Katie?

  20. Tom April 21, 2012 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Thanks for saying what needs to be said. I think there will be a lot more of this as Woody Allen’s film makes the rounds. Did you catch Sylvia Poggioli’s talk the other night–this was her point as well (though referring more to Italian culture as a whole)? Too late to name the sites but looks like they’ve all been ID’ed. I think my decision to move to Rome and develop unorthodox itineraries had a lot to do with a bike ride I took to Via del Mandrione in 1988.

  21. Conor (@HoganConor) April 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Damn right…having lived, worked or stayed in Giardinetti, Torre Angela, Tor Vergata, San Lorenzo and Bravetta, I am a bit tired of the whole focus on the historic centre, and frequently annoyed when people who live in Trastevere (etc) have no idea of what the average life is like outside it (and what a pain it can be to get in and out for a quick aperitivo or whatever). One comment though: Centocelle is not the south Bronx…that title is reserved for Tor Bella Monaca….or better: Corviale. Now there’s a place to bring your camera! (and leave without it)

  22. Heidi April 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Shake ‘um up Katie!
    When I’m in my own “terrain” I can show you where the locals go but when I venture out to Roma, I rely on folks like you to get me out of the tourist’s comfort zone.
    See you soon….

  23. Suellen Tomkins April 22, 2012 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Great to find your site and read this post. We’re travelling to Rome shortly and would love to find a couple of genuinely good restaurants. All the reviews I read so far leave me feeling a little uncomfortable so it’s great to read your thoughts.

  24. shayma April 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    what a brilliant post- and such gorgeous photos. i love Testaccio, but i have heard people refer to it as NYC’s Soho. ridic. i quite love San Lorenzo and Garbatella and am actually glad that it hasnt been attacked by tourists- yet. x s

  25. Sarah May Grunwald April 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    By the way, the only time I have spit out a gelato was the first time I went to Giolitti, and this was before I knew anything about real gelato, it just tasted like plastic, nothing real at all.

    I would like to propose another blog post about Castelli Romani. Arriccia is not the definitive town of the Castelli Romani and Lago Albano is a sewer compared to the two other lakes around here.

  26. […] week’s post Will the Real Rome Please Stand Up? really resonated with readers. There were lots of wonderful comments on the blog and I received […]

  27. Katie May 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    thanks for all the wonderful comments people! in case you missed it, we announced a winner: http://www.parlafood.com/and-the-real-rome-contest-winner-is/

  28. […] check out the heated debate about the real Rome and what it consists of, which has been led on Parla Food recently. Share this:ShareLike this:LikeOne blogger likes […]

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