A guide to Rome's best venues for all genres of live contemporary music, from rock to jazz.
With the exceptions of Monti, Testaccio and S. Lorenzo, which are reached easily by public transport, the key to finding the best music venues and hangouts in Rome is to leave the city centre.
The largest summer festival in Rome is without doubt Postepay Sound Rock in Roma. The term “festival” is used quite loosely in Italy and means an entirely different thing than it does to those used to British or American style festivals. Rock in Roma is a series of concerts featuring the biggest of the big hitters of past and present, extending from June to September (rather than an all-day or weekend festival as one may expect) and spread over (usually) three different-sized stages throughout a racecourse site on Via Appia Nuova 1245 in the south-east of the city, near Ciampino.
The biggest cultural and musical centre in Rome is the stunning Auditorium Parco Della Musica, designed by architect Renzo Piano. Although the majority of its music events are of the classical variety, in June and July its outdoor Cavea amphitheatre hosts Luglio Suona Bene, featuring many internationally-acclaimed rock and dance acts, and everything in between. Visiting the auditorium's website throughout the year is also highly recommended as interspersed with the world-famous jazz and classical musicians are other international heavyweights, performing in the beautiful Sala S. Cecilia.
Further afield in EUR are two great venues, Atlantico on Viale dell'Oceano Atlantico 271d, and PalaLottomatica in Piazzale dello Sport. The Atlantico is ridiculously hard to reach, but is a first-rate space in every other way.
Now to the nitty-gritty of where to go on a nightly basis to see live, local music, or dance the night away. Contrary to popular belief, Rome has a robust bona fide rock scene, with many strong emerging acts of good quality. Although it is almost impossible to find a radio station featuring young or smaller artists here in the big smoke, there are live clubs aplenty showcasing new talent every night of the week.
North-east of the centre, on Via Pietralata 159, is Lanificio which, in addition to great live music evenings, holds a parade of different market days in its gorgeous outdoor space and rooftop, with dance and other “arty” performances in its main space.
The well-known occupied space Angelo Mai Altrove on Via delle Terme di Caracalla is a hidden gem near Circo Massimo. Open all year round, it is used more in summer as its somewhat barn-style venue is relatively open air. Angelo is more than a little rugged, with a no-frills outlook on the bar, stage and seating area, but it is a massive space that always turns into a party with dj sets following every live music show, and dance moves can be practiced to perfection as there is no limit to available floor space, no matter how crowded it gets.
If you want to see new acts, head to cosier locales in S. Lorenzo such as Le Mura on Via di Porta Labicana 24, Lian (docked on the river Tiber under Ponte Cavour) and Closer on Via Vacuna 98. Further up the road on Via Casilina Vecchia 96/c is Cohouse Pigneto, which showcases performance and musical artists best described as experimental, and crazy fun. On the other side of the tracks is Init, on Via della Stazione Tuscolana 133, well worth the visit and packed with great young rock acts and their rocker/hipster cool audience.
Ostiense is home to multiple dance and live music venues. If techno and dubstep is your thing, head to Rising Love on Via delle Conce 14, and if dancing to more commercial dance/disco/house music in super funky surroundings rocks your boat then look no further than Goa Club on Via Giuseppe Libetta 13, or Caffè Letterario on Via Ostiense 95, while nearby is a pumping little area known as Portonaccio. Comprising only a small cluster of streets, it is perfect if you are looking for a more “Italian” experience, as foreigners are few and far between, the clubs are large and glamorous, and the nights are long. Monk Club on Via Giuseppe Mirri 35, and Vinile on Via Giuseppe Libetta 19 are two favourites of this author, but most of the clubs here have both rock and disco music on offer, all right next to each other.
Also worth checking out are the newly-opened Live Alcazar on Via Cardinale Merry de Val in Trastevere, and the Quirinetta Caffè Concerto on Via Marco Minghetti 5, as well as the programme of Unplugged in Monti, most of whose acoustic concerts take place at Black Market in the Monti district.
If you refuse to leave the historic centre but are looking for something a little different than your “normal” bar, head to Rialto on Via di S. Ambrogio 4 for some live music in the Jewish Ghetto, Nur Bar on Via di Teatro Valle for a boogie near Piazza Navona, and for burlesque check out Micca Club on Via degli Avignonesi 73 near Piazza Vittorio. Micca features both local and international burlesque acts, and also djs catering for that era, so costumes, period hairdos and swing-style bopping are all part of the experience.
An article about music venues in Rome cannot be complete without mentioning jazz. Casa del Jazz, near Porta Ardeatina, is a fabulous auditorium confiscated from the mafia that showcases the greats of the genre. Alexanderplatz on Via Ostia 9, Boogie Club on Via Gaetano Astolfi 63, Be Bop Jazz on Via Giuseppe Giulietti 14, and Stazione Birra on Via Placanica 172 highlight musicians across spectrums, ranging from emerging to established acts.
The great thing about Rome is that most gigs (even the large concerts) are reasonably priced, and most clubs have something happening most nights and come with spacious hangout or outdoor areas, so exploring is made much easier.