Rione Monti and Santa Maria Maggiore
The Suburra, a term which has the same origin as the Latin suburbium was the most populated part of ancient Rome. It was the area below the city, outside it or rather outside of the original area allocated on the Eternal City's Palatine Hill for nobility.
The area was a labyrinth of alleys, shops, markets, hovels and insulae - multi-storey buildings with rented apartments.
Actors, gladiators and courtesans lived in the Suburra. The most ill-famed of places such as taverns and dark alleys were also located there, providing ideal theatres for crimes and mischief. Numerous plebeian families lived in the area, which exhibited all of the human and social problems of the Emperor's capital.
According to slanderous ancient historiography, the alleys were frequented by famous personalities such as Nero, who strolled them incognito, and Messalina, who would leave the Imperial palace during the night in search of amorous adventures.
Nonetheless, the Suburra was not just a place of doubtful reputation. Although it did not have any important monuments or public buildings, it was rich in popular devotional sanctuaries such as the temple dedicated to Juno, patroness of women in labour. Furthermore, it was the birthplace of the very noble Julius Caesar.
The Suburra had an openly popular undertone. While its characteristics for the most part still survive today, at the same time, it is currently known as one of the most innovative areas of the city, fervent with cultural initiatives and brimming with night spots, shops and restaurants.
In this neighbourhood, be sure not to miss: the Madonna dei Monti (Santa Maria ai Monti), Santa Pudenziana, Santa Prassede, and Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major).