Borgo Pio - a charming medieval neighbourhood
- Borgo Pio, or more fondly known as ‘the Borgo’, is the tiny, medieval neighborhood just adjacent to Vatican City. The area was redeveloped in the early Renaissance period for pope- and patrician-owned homes, creating today’s picturesque enclave. Primarily pedestrian, the Borgo has a continual flow of visitors thanks to its proximity to the Vatican.
A medieval playground
The intimate Borgo area is a small enclave immediately east of the Vatican. The Tiber River is its eastern border. Important landmarks in the area are the Passetto, the long, above-ground passageway connecting the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo (another excellent point of reference), and Palazzo della Giustizia, the Italian higher court building, at Piazza Cavour.
As stated above, the Vatican is the Borgo’s western border, noted by the large dome of St. Peter's Cathedral. To its north is Prati, a lovely, turn-of-the-century residential neighbourhood. To its south is Trastevere, a vivacious hangout with Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere as its centre. Borgo Pio is easily connected to the centre of Rome, as it just a bridge’s crossing away.
Know your neighbours
Borgo Pio may be more difficult for getting to know your neighbours, as the area is replete with tourists during daylight hours. However, there are several local shops and small businesses, especially on the eastern side of the area.
Borgo Pio has limited shopping options, and most would suggest heading to Prati’s Via Cola di Rienzo where you will find food markets, clothing and interior stores, cafés and home goods. However, keep your eyes open as you meander Borgo Pio’s tiny streets, as there are several quaint boutiques from bicycles to haberdashery. For souvenir shoppers, around and immediately south of Via della Concilizione are several of Rome’s best souvenir shops, both religious and secular.
Borgo Pio is in a very convenient location, easily linked to all areas by foot, bus or metro. From Borgo, you can easily walk to the Vatican, Piazza del Popolo and the historic centre. ATAC, Rome’s public transportation system, has extensive bus, tram and metro connections.
Buses 23, 81, 280, 271, 490, 492 connect to the Stadium, Ponte Milvio, Monte Mario, Centre, Testaccio, Janiculum, Piazza Venezia, Villa Borghese, and Tiburtina and Termini stations. Bus hubs can be found at Porta Pia/Via della Conciliazione. In addition, you are within walking distance of Piazza Risorgimento, in Prati, with a bus and tram hub. Tram 19 connects to Villa Borghese and Nomentana, with links to Auditorium and San Lorenzo.
- Although Borgo Pio has been stereotyped as touristy, or better yet, papal, the enclave is not without a quaint and cultured social life. The medieval Borgo is rich in history as you walk through the neighbourhood.
Castel Sant’Angelo, the massive fortress at the east end of the Borgo, is both 2nd-century mausoleum to Emperor Hadrian and an early Renaissance papal stronghold. Its accompanying bridge Ponte S. Angelo should definitely be walked. Just north is Italy’s superior court building, Palazzo della Giustizia, in Piazza Cavour, a wonderful example of early 20th-century art nouveau architecture and the formation of the country as a whole.
In the southern area of the Borgo is Santo Spirito Hospital, Rome’s oldest and dating from the 12th century. Why you should visit? Santo Spirito may be the most decorative hospital with early Renaissance frescoes, an Andrea Palladio altar, Baroque architecture and the peculiar Museum of Sanitary Art.
The tiny Borgo area is not known as a restaurant mecca but there are a few spots worth a visit. Borgo Pio, the main road in the neighbourhood, has several restaurants and sandwich shops. Though it’s impossible to avoid a tourist menu, restaurants like Il Pozzetto are great for simple fare. For an even easier meal, da Guido Paninoteca will customizse your sandwich to your liking. Da Cesare, close to Piazza Cavour has an excellent fish menu. Just across the street (and on the border of Prati) at Piazza Cavour are Enoteca Costantini, an excellent wine bar and L’Arcangelo, one of Rome’s best restaurants.
Your best option would be to head south to Trastevere or across the river to the Centro where you will find a busy nightlife and social scene. Borgo Pio is not known for an engaging nightlife.
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