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Offbeat Neighborhoods, Rome

Ostia, Italy, Europe: Via Capo d'Africa, a street in the little-explore Celio neighborhood, behind the Colosseum
Italy's insider take:

However many artistic or gastronomic treasures they contain, some of Rome's rioni (districts) simply fail to become household names. Take San Lorenzo, for example, southeast of Termini station and right beside the campus of Rome's main university. With its hip restaurants, cutting-edge galleries, and Soho-like lofts, this shabby-chic district, built in the 1880s for railway workers, buzzes with students and Romans in the know. For many decades, the Esquiline district, south and west of the station, was grim; endless blocks of stolid apartment blocks were built in the 1870s over what had been some of classical and Renaissance Rome's greatest estates. But an influx of African and Asian immigrants in the 1980s has made this into Rome's most vibrant ethnic area; its Piazza Vittorio produce market has kosher meat and Indian spices as well as the usual Italian goodies (Via Lamarmora, Monday through Saturday mornings). The Esquiline backs onto Monti, an altogether more picturesque rione of narrow streets and some great little shops. The small grid of streets making up the Celio district is visited by swarms of tourists gasping for bottled water after their hike around the Colosseum. Few stay long enough to learn where they've ended up, to enjoy the little cafés, to visit the fascinating churches of San Clemente (Via San Giovanni in Laterano) and Santi Quattro Coronati (20 Via dei Santi Quattro), or to rest in the shady Villa Celimontana park.

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