Picking your Quartieri – Neighborhoods in Rome: Africano
Lodging in Rome is not very difficult but choosing the right place to stay can be a challenge. While most who are visiting Rome prefer to stay in the Historical Centre, many frugal tourists seek a more wallet-friendly option. There are many Roman neighborhoods to choose from. This series of articles will focus on a different area in order to help you plan your surroundings.
The African Quarter: A name that immediately evokes tribal images of the Dark Continent rides at Six Flags Amusement Park with drums beating in the soundtrack of your imagination. In reality, there is no safari here. The only African elements in this Roman neighborhood are the names of the streets, which were named after the areas in Africa that had been conquered or occupied by Italy and a handful of Senegalese vendors who sell immitation Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton purses shipped in directly from Naples.
When I first moved to Rome, I stayed in this neighborhood for two weeks until I found an apartment near the Vatican Museum. Through the years, I have encountered people who have developed a warped view of the neighborhood. While in the Trieste neighborhood, a chic area which borders the African Quarter, I was approached by a woman waiting for a bus. “Excuse me, do you know anything about the African Quarter?”, she asked fearfully. “Yes, I do. What do you want to know?”, I replied. “Well, is it safe?”, she inquired. “Absolutely! It’s a shopper’s paradise!”, I said. The Italian news is bombarded with stories about boatloads of immigrants landing on its shores. Perhaps she imagined they all lived in the African quarter and one glance at my bronze-hued skin gave her the impression that I could be one of them and would therefore know all about it.
This northern Rome neighborhood can be easily reached by Rome’s public transportation, which is quite limited but at least has a train and a number of buses that connect this neighborhood to the Historical Center of Rome.
Every neighborhood has its pros and cons and the African Quarter in Rome is no different. The best aspect of this area is Viale Libia; a street jam-packed with shops, boutiques and vendors for every budget. You will easily find shoes, clothes, books in English, jewelry, perfume, toiletries, food, leather items, designer brands and so much more. There are also quite a few restaurants including those featuring foreign cuisine, excellent ice-cream parlors, bakeries and supermarkets as well as a shop to fit most of one’s needs. On the down side, the sidewalks are always crowded with various annoyances: teenagers that seem to be unaware of anyone other than themselves, senior citizens that walk as if they are standing still, mothers with baby-strollers featuring screamers, groups of avant-garde college students and a light peppering of Eastern-European alcoholic men who loiter around the dimly-lit piazzas. This latter group along with any gypsies wandering the area would be the people you would want to stay clear of.
As a whole, it is as safe as any other neighborhood in Rome. As a tourist, you will stand out and may even be a target. Regardless of where you find yourself, however, you must always remain aware of your surroundings and stick to well-lit, populated areas.
Rome’s Historical Center is only a 20 minute bus ride away. Termini Station is only a 10 minute train ride and there is a new Metro Station in the works, which will add value to this neighborhood as soon as it is completed. The African Quarter has everything you may need, which makes it one of the most convenient areas of Rome and should seriously be considered as an option when you are seeking lodging in Rome.