P intro


Benvenuti a Roma!

It seems fitting since we’re in Christianity’s HQ to begin with a confession – I’ve never been crazy about the place. It’s partly because the two times I’ve been weren’t exactly a load of laughs. The first time was as a kid, when I spent most of my Roman holiday in bed with glandular fever and acute tonsillitis. The last time was around 10 years ago, with my then partner. It was meant to be a break from a particularly tough time. Instead he and I fought like cat and dog.

Aside from that, the other reason I’m underwhelmed by what most people find to be an overwhelmingly beautiful city is my complete lack of the tourist gene. I know I should be struck with awe when I visit the Colosseum et al. And maybe, if I didn’t have to queue for hours, I would be. But any time I attempt to do the tourist thing I get really stroppy. In short, it ruins the ruins.

So, much like Paris, I’m hoping that by stepping off the tourist trail and exploring lesser known neighbourhoods, I’ll finally ‘get’ Rome.

Confession over, let’s get on with it. Rome – famous for the Colosseum, St Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps etc etc etc. Less so for Pigneto, our first neighbourhood in the eternal city.

Sitting just outside the Aurelian Walls that enclose Rome’s historic centre, Pigneto isn’t one of Rome’s 22 rioni but rather a quartieri urbani – one of the 35 districts that surround the historical centre.

I chose it on the recommendation of Lisa, an Australian blog follower who lives in Pigneto. She said it wasn’t charming or postcard pretty but worth a look.

Some history: While much of Rome is almost 3,000 years old, Pigneto is mostly a mix of low rise and high rise apartments from the 30s and 70s. Name has something to do with the curiously shaped ‘Umbrella’ pine trees in the area. Was working-class and dangerous, now trendy with an edge – pushers live on the same street that sells the best gelato I’ve ever tasted.

Andiamo Pigneto!


Part 1: Day one, a wander through the neighbourhood

Pigneto is only a 15 minute bus ride from the tourist trail but so far it’s escaped the spotlight. It helps that it’s not on a metro line (they’re building one, line C, but it’s delayed every time they discover yet another thousand year old bit of Rome) but the main reason is, there’s nothing much to see. Not a ruin in sight and aside from some lovely weathered buildings, pretty charmless.

Which is just fine with the locals. The ones we met were more interested in the low-key vibe of the place and the creative community that hangs out here…


pedestrians only on Via del Pigneto

the heart of Pigneto – the pedestrian only strip, Via del Pigneto




First up we meet Mauro, a choreographer who’s lived here for 10 years. He liked Pigneto better when it was full of old people instead of the young crowd of today. “Too trendy now”.


Mauro the choreographer

Mauro the choreographer




Coco shows Mauro her dance routine – as you do when you meet a choreographer – then we wander around the back streets until we notice an open door – Francesca, busy at work fashioning pieces of wood into whimsical sculptures.


artist Francesco

artist Francesca





recycled into art

recycled into art




Around the corner from Francesca is architect Azzurra, who enlightens us about the extreme challenges architects face in getting anything done in Rome. Not only because of the ancient ruins but also the different approach to time – “It’s the eternal city after all”.


architect Azzurra needs divine intervention to get anything done

architect Azzurra needs divine intervention to get anything done




Later in the day we meet a beautiful family on a bike ride around the neighbourhood. Simone and his wife, Ana, live in Pigneto with their two year old son, Yago. While Ana loves it for its authenticity, Simone is concerned it may not be the best place to bring a child up.


bella boys - Simone and Yago

bella boys – Simone and Yago





bambini - Coco and Yago

bambini – Coco and Yago




By early evening Pigneto is picking up pace. On the pedestrian-only main street the food markets from the morning have been replaced by tables and chairs for the crowded bar/cafes. Someone’s giving a book reading, kids are running around, people are coming home on their bikes.

We meet Greta outside one of the bars. Originally from southern Italy she’s lived in Pigneto for years. To her it still feels like a little village, but one that’s more exciting than her home town.


Greta and Marilyn

Greta and Marilyn





burnt sienna

burnt sienna




Coco demands gelato so we finish the day with two scoops of fragola, per favore. Right near the gelato bar is our last Roman for the day, Roberta, a photographer. I comment on her look of senza reggiseno – bra-less. She says they don’t really get it in Rome but in Milan, for sure.


dreamy - Roberta

dreamy – Roberta





to wear or not to wear

to wear or not to wear




Part 2: La dolce vita

Life is sweet, particularly when you have some of the best gelato in all of Rome on your doorstep. Its maker tells me it’s because of the love he pours into it. Well, what he actually said was that he uses the best ingredients – but I reckon one of them is love.

Hanging around outside the bar we meet Adiba, from Bangladesh, and her mate, Chrisler, from the Philippines. Just two of the many nationalities that call Pigneto home.



Adiba, hanging out in front of the best gelato bar in town












la dolce vita

la dolce vita











mmm, yum - Chrisler

mmm, yum – Chrisler











after gelato - play time :: 1

after gelato – play time :: 1





after gelato - play time :: 2

after gelato – play time :: 2




While we’re talking pink…



Pigneto's feminine side :: 1

Pigneto’s feminine side :: 1





Pigneto's feminine side :: 2

Pigneto’s feminine side :: 2





green and pink

green and pink




Part 3: Aside from fabulous gelato…

Eating and drinking well is a national pastime in Italy and Pigneto is no different. Whether you’re after pizza or an aperitivo, there’s a handful of cafe-bar-restaurant options, from the classic unadorned to the hip retro-inspired and more chic.


life is beautiful

life is beautiful





pizza run

pizza run





where coffee is a religion

where coffee is a religion





and a cool pair of shades - bar/cafe Necci

and a cool pair of shades – bar/cafe Necci





strong Romans

strong Romans





a fish out of water - Primo

a fish out of water – Primo





aperitivo time :: 1

aperitivo time :: 1





aperitivo time :: 2

aperitivo time :: 2




Part 4: Inked

Pigneto may have a healthy mix of different groups, but they seem to hang out in their separate corners. There are the African guys (who politely refused my camera) on one corner opposite the laid back crowd that hangs outside “the cafe with the plastic red tables”. And then there are the tattooed all-in-black dudes outside the beer bar.


freshly inked - Lidya

freshly inked – Lidya





cherries and Frida

cherries and Frida





Frida would've liked that

Frida would’ve liked that










 In fact, Pigneto in general seems to be tattoo central.


golden light

golden light





jungle girls

jungle girls




Part 5: Older Pigneto

Where we met two Marios and a Gina…


Mario - his past and present

Mario – his past and present





old Pigneto






classic Italy - another Mario

classic Italy – another Mario





coffee at Gina's

coffee at Gina’s




Part 6: You gotta have faith

There are hundreds of churches in Rome but I could only find one in Pigneto, and not a very memorable one at that. But there were quite a few street chapels and madonnelle, small shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


roadside flowers

roadside flowers





a modern day madonna

a modern day madonna





maybe Saint Giacinta could hurry the metro up

maybe Saint Giacinta could hurry the metro up





children, time to go home

children, time to go home





a prayer for Pigneto

a prayer for Pigneto




The Wrap

Call me strange but I got so much more out of our time in Pigneto than I ever did in previous visits to the famous stuff in Rome. While the neighbourhood ain’t much to look at, it houses a diverse and interesting crowd that is mercifully tourist-free. But a word of warning – if you take the 105 bus there from Termini, hold on to your valuables – I almost had my stuff nicked by a sleazy little man I hope never to see again. Shame on him.



Coco, last day in Paris

Coco, last day in Paris



On the ‘home front’

As promised, a photo of Coco in Paris. She looks happy then but you should see her now – she’s landed in a world of pizza and gelato and she’s permanently beaming.

This suburb has been brought to you by Mackenzie Pronk Architects

See you next Monday.


  1. Brent Wilson says:

    Bella! So many fantastic images Louise I love the rich warm colours in this post.

  2. Millie says:

    LOVE your blog and your images.

  3. Chantal says:

    I need gelato now!! This post makes me yearn for Italy – – its tastes & smells & people & architecture.
    How surprising to see the ink revolution is just as strong in italy as here…

  4. Sarah says:

    Fantastic, shots Louise! I love the gelato colours that you found in Pigneto!

  5. Kristin says:

    Now that temperature has dropped here it’s very enjoyable to look at your warm shots from Rome.
    Burnt Sienna is my fave.

  6. Leonie Brennan says:

    Love this one … travelling to Rome with my son (who is doing his Master of Architecture) at the end of the year … Le Grand Tour … so these posts are definitely wetting the appetite! Enjoy!

  7. Kalinda says:

    Lovely! The men are so good looking. And so is the Roman lupus.

  8. Aimée says:

    Thank you as always, Louise. I’m envying your healthy dose of gelato. We’re looking forward to the next installment of Roma – which we’ve had the pleasure of visiting only briefly, but we walked as much of the city as we could. Warm wishes to you and Coco in your current digs.

  9. Donna says:

    thank you yet again Louise, what a beautiful distraction from my assignments…I am so looking forwarding to your time in Rome….mind you I have loved Hong Kong, Delhi Istanbul, and Paris….stay well and safe :)

  10. Tatyana says:

    What a delicious post, Louise! Enjoyed every taste and flavour of it.Thank you for another set of beautiful shots!

  11. Silvia says:

    Wonderful! Your blog is really fascinating. Thank you, Louise!

  12. Peter McConnochie says:

    Wonderful – so glad you rejigged the itinerary!
    Superb suburb – unlike any Rome most people visit…loved the inkings – I had noticed a common theme on the people :)

    Have a superb time in Rome – edgy yet beautiful!

  13. Wayne says:

    … not a plain face to be seen!
    All lovely images once again. The gelato series is fabulous Louise…
    “aperitivo time :: 1”- those smiles are beautiful! The girl, front left reminds me of two lovely ladies here in Sydney.
    “Mattao” – an icon. I wonder what is happening there? Such a beautiful face.
    Congratulations once again Louise!
    BTW, 52 has done the rounds of my family – everyone has a favourite suburb… Speaking of which, back to Collaroy come Friday.

  14. Germana Frino Crocamo says:

    I love Italy and am loving your work Louise. Love the Mario shots, strong personalities and also because my father-in-law is named Mario and so is my son.

  15. Katie says:

    Superb, Louise. You’ve taken some amazing photos. If only Simone was single. Phwoar.. I can also perfectly picture Coco demonstrating her dance routine. I hope it was ‘whip my hair’!

  16. Louise says:

    Brent – Grazie! I was hoping you’d know the proper name of those umbrella pines!
    Millie – Many thanks.
    Chantal – I was kind of surprised too. Don’t know why. But I think Pigneto has more than its fair share of body art.
    Sarah – Thank you. I’m seeing gelato in every colour I see now!
    Kristin – My favourite image too.
    Leonie – Enjoy the tour – but hold on to your bags! Pickpockets are in full swing here.
    Kalinda – Tell me about it. Take a handsome man and have him speak Italian to you = melt.
    Aime – From my brief fling with playing tourist last week, the city centre is pretty amazing to walk around. But it is heaving with tourists. I think I’d visit Rome in the depths of winter if I wanted to explore it properly.
    Donna – Hope the work is going well, helped along by your weekly break!
    Tatyana – The gelato from that place was out of this world. And they had gluten-free cones! Happiness.
    Silvia – Grazie!
    Peter – Yeah, Pigneto is so different to the picture most people have of Rome. But easy to right off at one glance. I almost did – but then I settled in and started to see the appeal.
    Wayne – Mattao is an interesting character for sure. Tattoos on your body are one thing but to commit to them on your face is an entirely different thing.
    Germana – Grazie! I loved the Marios. I was wondering if people still called their kids Mario – and you’ve answered my question.
    Katie – Simone is married to an equally beautiful woman, Ana. They’re really lovely people – that happen to be bella! And Coco with the dance routine! So funny.

  17. Suey says:

    Those Italians are all so so stylish as are the photographs. Fabulous.

  18. Yesol Kim says:

    I love to visit Italy as soon as possible!
    Always feeling to fly away as I read your posts!

  19. acmejc says:

    Great photos! Love to get back to Roma! Hmmmm gelato!

  20. Fer Buenos Aires says:

    As usual: AMAZING! :-)

  21. Mary-Ann Hill says:

    Gosh, all those tattoos! And typical Italian, delivered with a “dare to stare” attitude and “I’m out there and loving life” style. Gelati seemed to be melting straight from the screen onto my keyboard, I’m hungry! Loving this blog, Ciao! MA

  22. Lisa Claridge says:

    Hi Louise!
    I came in a little late to the blog, and have finally caught up!! The photos of all the wonderful places you have visited are tremendous. Like a really good book, I look forward to every chapter of your trip. Every colour, every character, and every scene in every photo allow us a special glimpse into places and lives that few of us will ever see. Thanks so much for this privelge. Keep safe, and God Bless!!

  23. Nick says:

    Bravo, Louise. Molto simpatico. And if Simone isn’t convinced Pigneto is a suburb for raising kids, I’m sure he’d be happy in Sydney if you brought him back … and he can check out any of 52 Suburbs there before he even sets foot in the city!

  24. Jenni says:

    Bella boys – you can say that again!

  25. Tania says:

    Sydney is having a ‘weather event’… cyclonic wind, rain and 8m swells. I think you’re in the best part of the world Louise. Beautiful post. I’m so glad that Coco’s in her element and I loved how you thought to shoot Roberta ‘senza reggiseno’. The Bold and the Beautiful.

  26. Cate says:

    OMG – yum! Yum! yum! The look is so different. There is something sharp (hot?) about the italian look! Its not like any other city or people. YUM! even the old dudes have a look. Something in the Italian eye?? mmmmmoltosexy! Cx

  27. John Ellis says:

    One almost senses your relief on being here! Perhaps one of the most alluring suburbs so far.

  28. Suzanne says:

    It’s all there colour and movement, but I can’t put my finger on what’s missing. Travel weary perhaps? It is an epic journey. I would love to see an interior of an old hotel, and try a gelatto between a brioche for total decadence. Stay safe Bella.

  29. Elisa says:

    Reading the post, I realized that I should love more my city. We would not have jobs, we would not have a very open minded, we would not have clean streets … but above all we have not only ruins and monuments. Your photos helped me to see Rome through other eyes, maybe the right eyes to appreciate this city. Thanks Louise for this amazing post, for your marvellous photos and, of course, for the day together! Ciao!!

  30. Toni Mostyn says:

    I have been so excited about your Rome visit. I just love the photos of the window shutters, it brings back so many wonderful memories for me. BTW when I was there last, the man I was cycling around the country with, we were always arguing too, we now are happily sharing life. Ciao Bella

  31. Louise says:

    Suey – Yes, style seems to be almost genetic here.
    Yesol – Well, I’m happy to provide a virtual escape anyway.
    Acmejc – Gelato is dangerous – once you start it’s hard to stop. I may need new clothes when we leave.
    Fer Buenos Aires – Grazie!
    MA – Yeah, they have attitude but good attitude!
    Lisa – So glad you’re enjoying the journey. Stay tuned for the next chapter.
    Nick – Well, I’d be quite happy to bring Simone back but I think Ana, his wife, may not!
    Jenni – Aren’t they?!
    Tania – I saw Roberta striding down the street a few hours before and couldn’t help noticing her. I didn’t stop her then but when I saw her again I was like, please, you have a great look, lemme photograph you! I’m not sure that many women could pull it off without it looking cheap. She just makes it look so sensual and right.
    Cate – Yeah, they’ve got the look alright. And coming into summer, less clothes, more body on show. Very easy on the eye.
    John – Well, I did love Paris in the end – but Roma, in the most beautiful weather that they’re having now, everything and everyone seems to be blooming.
    Suzanne – If you do put your finger on it, let me know. Always open to constructive criticism.
    Elisa – That’s a beautiful response! There’s a lot more to Rome than its ruins and monuments I think – but it’s not as obvious.
    Toni – Glad I could send you down memory lane.

  32. matt H says:

    well the men certainly are handsome BUT i’m sorry but Roberta reigns supreme (with or without a bra!).
    lovely photos… loved the shots of Coco esp.

    • Louise says:

      Matt, grazie. And yes, the men, the women, both bella!

  33. Wendy says:

    Thanks Louise, again I saved this up till I could take the time to appreciate the beauty of the images and the adventure of your words. I love Italy and the way Italians live – this made me feel happy. Simone, OMG!! Coco looks so French and adorable in that last photo. Enjoy! I’m loving your trip.

    • Louise says:

      Wendy, grazie – and so glad you’re having fun on your virtual trip. Simone seems to have impressed quite a few women!

  34. Jackie Nolan says:

    When was the last time you did something for the first time? The first time I had a pizza was in Rome.
    Louise, again you tantalise with your choice of
    subjects and photography. Cioccolato,fragola &
    melone gelato…pure heaven! So too coffee at
    Gina’s and coffee is a religion & aperitivo time.
    Thanks for the tour of Pigneto with its modern
    day madonna and fascinating lifestyle so close
    to the city,Roma. ‘ La vita e bella’.

  35. Felicity says:

    An absolutely fabulous post as always Louise. You are an incredibly talented story teller, both with images and words. Can you tell me what lens you were using for bella boys – Simone and Yago? I simply adore this shot and the DOP.
    Thanks, F

    • Louise says:

      Felicity, thanks so much! I used my Canon 50mm 1.2 with the ‘bella boys’. Love it for portraits like this.

  36. Felicity says:

    sorry, that should be DOF, depth of field.

  37. Lidya says:

    I really love your blog and your pics Louise! I’m Lidya, the girl with Frida’s tattoo! Hugs from Pigneto! :D

    • Louise says:

      Hey Lydia! How’s the balloon tattoo going?! I remember it was freshly done, under wraps. Very happy you checked in!

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