I made three mistakes when I ventured out to Pigneto. The first being that I decided to walk it. The others were that I wore sandals, and I set off just before noon. In hindsight, I should have made my way to this graffitied, arty district by Metro – at dusk.
After one day in Rome, I was already beginning to lose my head at the number of people, queues and traffic that clog up the old city. It was time to explore the neighbourhoods on the outskirts, and Pigneto was high up on my list.
I’m ashamed to say I had a magnificent strop on the walk there – my maps didn’t reach this part of town, and my saved directions couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Thanks Google. So, with no working internet, limited street signs (why, Rome?) and throbbing feet; I had a meltdown on the corner of a busy junction after around six miles of walking.
One taxi driver who I naively tried to hail (that doesn’t really work in Rome either) was stopped at a red light. I then saw his passenger and flopped against a building. The driver rolled down his window and asked if I needed a taxi number; so I told him we were trying to find Pigneto.
It turns out that magnificently, we had somehow made it. We were one bridge crossing away from Pigneto! I felt physically ill, my next turn would have taken us in the opposite direction of where we needed to be. Thank you, taxi driver – and for shouting and peeping at us to reaffirm your directions as you sped off round the corner.
So, Pigneto – it’s my kind of place. You’re met with street art on just about every corner, and a vibrant vegetable market fills the main street, Via del Pigneto. It was sleepy when I arrived, and I was curious about what was hidden behind the graffitied metal shutters. Some bars were already setting out their tables, and I knew the vibe would be amazing later on.
Feeling ‘hangry’ (hunger and anger) as my friend Josh likes to say, we stopped by one of the few places that was open midday. We stumbled into Trattoria Pigneto (formerly I Porchettoni de Pigneto) which hit the spot. It’s nothing fancy, and it has the feel of a rustic canteen with its large wooden picnic tables suited to a big meal with the family. It’s famous for its porchetta, but I chose a classic arrabiata pasta instead.
Back outside, we wandered along beneath the shade of the umbrella-shaped trees before stopping at Zoo Kitchen. They do hot dogs and all kinds of snacks. They made us a random fruit smoothie with watermelon, ginger and strawberries. The crate tables look great on a street filled with fruit and vegetable market stalls.
Stay until evening, and you’ll see the nightlife is buzzing in Pigneto. If you enjoy a bit of hipster indulgence, it’s worth checking out places like Co.So for unique cocktails. For music, Yeah! Pigneto is a good shout with plenty of live gigs.
Pigneto remains just a little bit off the tourist map, but it does exist in street art guides at tourist shops. It’s still a world away from the crowds of Ancient Rome, and a welcome break for savvy visitors. This might all change when the new Metro Line C is completed, hooking Pigneto up with the thrumming city centre…