Pigneto, mon amour

Let’s do this!

Yep, this one is en anglais. Not because I want this blog to become an international sensation, but because since it’s a touristy-travel piece, I figured it would be useful to more people that way.

I also just moved to a country where I don’t speak the language and don’t know anybody, so I thought I could try and get out of my comfort zone a little. (Lololol.)

So bear with me, English is my second language. And fear not! I’ll come back to my good old Montreal’s franglais soon enough.

As you may or may not know, since my existence is constantly exposed on my social media platforms (#millenial), I recently moved to Rome, Italy, from Montreal, Canada, where I’ve lived since forever-ish. I’m skipping the why and the how of this life-changing event (cuz’ I talked about it in a previous post) to get right into the heart of the subject: Pigneto, my charming, unknown, perfect neighborhood, a vibrant and festive gem in the south-east centre of Rome. 

I was first drawn to Pigneto while I was doing some research about my new home country, a couple months ago. I came across a Vanity Fair article describing Pigneto as the «Brooklyn of Rome». Then, I learned that The New York Times has labelled the area «Rome’s Answer to Bushwick». As a hip-young-professional hungry for avocado toasts, overpriced cocktails in Mason jars and fancy craft beers, I was intrigued.

As I read more and more about this unique part of Rome, I kind of fell in love. Pigneto is a former working-class district which has in recent years become one of Rome's trendiest quarters. It is home to a diverse and eclectic crowd of cute families, students, young professionals, immigrants and old-timey Italians, that grew up in the area’s colourful and narrow streets.

Its bright graffiti covered walls have a particular charm. They can be intimidating, at first, and you catch yourself wondering if you ended up in a bad part of town. But, in Pigneto, the contemporary street art pieces decorate classic century-old building’s facades in a unique way. And walking around this modern always changing open-air museum is an endless adventure.

It is now more accessible than ever, since the bright and shiny Pigneto subway station opened a couple of years ago. Crowds of young and old people come here day and night to enjoy an espresso in a little caffé,  an apperitivo in a garden terrace or a fancy-yet-traditional dinner in a trendy trattoria. Every morning, the main street, Via del Pigneto, – a charming pedestrian area – is host to a handful of stands displaying fruits, vegetables, flowers, and craft items. In the afternoon, Italians of all ages and backgrounds swarm the streets to breathe the fresh air, read, speak with their neighbours or to have a good old people watching session. Just sitting alone on one of the many large benches of the avenue, under the pines that gave the neighborhood its name (which literally translates to «little pines»), is a worthy, and I dare say rather popular, activity.

I instantly felt welcomed in this leftist-feminist-power-to-the-people area of Rome. And I’m not alone. In the last couple of years, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ+ community took over this area, renowned to be a safe haven for people considered like «outsiders» in a kind-of-very racist, homophobic and misogynistic city. (Yes, Rome is beautiful. But yes, it is also deeply problematic. More on that later!) It was once a place known for drugs and violence, quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks, but turns out I feel safer here, surrounded by the tag-riddled walls, narrow alleys, crowded piazzas and traffic-jammed avenues, than in most parts of Montreal. (See, mom, relax!)

I’ve been here almost a month, and the neighborhood never ceases to amaze me: there are hidden treasures at every turn, and good people everywhere. Pigneto is a place I could call home…  for a while, at least!

If you ever find yourself in the area, here are the must-see bars, restaurants and shops. I’ll update the list as I explore cool new spots.

And don’t be shy; if you’re in the neighborhood, send me a message; we’ll go people watching together, under the beautiful pine trees of the piazza, with an aperol spritz in hand.

Salute!

 

Libreria Tuba

Via del Pigneto, 39

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Tuba is hard to describe. It is part library, part caffé, part bistro, and part bar. On their cute and colourful front terrace always full of people working, reading or having animated conversations, they serve good coffee in the morning, cheap and tasty panini for lunch and delicious aperol spritz from noon until late a night (or very early in the morning, depends how you see it). It’s a feminist library, so it’s putting women work first; novels, essays, illustrated books, poetry, etc. In fact, a couple of years ago, the library team created a feminist literature festival, Inquiete, which now takes place every year in the caffé and in a nearby public library. I was there for the 2018 edition, and it was awesome… even if I could not understand a word of what the authors were saying! I met interesting and brilliant women, and I felt the solidarity, the sisterhood , the bond between every attendee. I could not have asked for a warmer welcome to the neighborhood! And it largely contributed to the fact that Tuba is now my favourite caffé in Rome, and that I go work from there almost every day. (I’m here now, as I’m writing those lines, hiiii!)

 

Necci Dal 1924

Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 68

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Once a simple neighborhood hub and a full-of-life hideout for many artists, notably the famous screenwriter Pasolini, Necci Dal 1924 is now a trendy, very dans l’air du temps restaurant. It opened, you guessed it, in 1924, but it’s since been completely transformed, in and out. They serve pretty good food, but it’s a bit overpriced if you ask me. Still, the garden and its surroundings are beautiful, and are definitely worth a trip on a sunny day or a warm evening, for a brunch and a coffee, or an apperitivo, at least. With its charming garden lights and cute cozy hidden tables, it’s also a perfect date spot. (Trying to send subtle hints to Pigneto guys here. Oh hey!)

 

Mademoiselle Vintage and Second Hand Shop

Via Alberto da Giussano 62

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Shopping can be quite expensive in Rome. Even more if you’re getting paid in Canadian dollars (hmm, hmm). This is where shops like Mademoiselle vintage come in handy! The tiny off-the-big-street boutique just opened in Pigneto, and it offers a wide range of expertly curated vintage clothes in a variety of sizes and styles. You can also find trendy accessories like bags, hats and jewelry, for a quarter of the usual in-store price. And there are new arrivals every week! I already know that this is where I’m going to get all of my winter stuff: I’ll save a couple bucks while adding unique pieces to my wardrobe. #win #sorryithriftedthatinItaly

 

Bottiglieria Pigneto

Via del Pigneto, 106

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For a Sunday brunch in Pigneto, this is the place to go! First: the cappuccinos are just incredible. But the all you can eat Italian brunch buffet steals the show! For just 15 euros, including a coffee and a dessert, it’s more than a bargain. And it’s de-li-cious. Scrambled eggs with pancetta, seafood lasagna, cheeses, polenta, assorted vegetables, salads, fresh bread, frittatas; you’ll have more than you need. Once you’re full (and, trust me, you will be) go explore the nearby streets, lined by bright yellow buildings. And keep your eyes peeled, there is cool street art everywhere. (Very Instagram worthy pieces, too.)

 

Vitaminas 24

Via Ascoli Piceno, 40

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After a couple days of surviving mostly of carbs, cheese and wine, you’ll slowly begin to ear your organs scream for a vegetable or two.  This is where Vitaminas 24 steps in! This simple vegetarian-vegan joint is the place to go to fuel up on greens, salads, healthy juices and smoothies. Delicious, nutritive, local and organic, the food here is also reasonably priced. There is different plat du jour every day for lunch and dinner, and you can even make it a healthy date, since there is beer and wine on the menu. I can already hear your arteries thanking me!

 

Trattoria Pigneto

Via del Pigneto, 68

One of the best caccio e peppe I ever had. 8 euros. Enough said.