Just down the River Tiber from one of Rome’s most famous tourist destinations, The Vatican, lies one of Rome’s most eclectic neighborhoods. Trastevere is a city-within-a-city made up of a unique and unlikely blend of generations of working class folk, bohemian and free-spirited artists and a decidedly young and exuberant crowd. While these groups may seem as alike as chocolate and gasoline, it works. And the diversity and similarity come together to create one of the most colorful communities in Italy.
In a maze of cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, you’ll discover an authenticity that’s somewhat astounding in such a high-tourist city as Rome. The residents of Trastevere are fiercely opposed to ongoing attempts to gentrify and commercialize their beloved neighborhood. This alone gives the Medieval neighborhood on the west bank of the river an identity all its own.
Local Craft Beer
The locals are a welcoming lot and you’ll never lack for a feeling of genuine hospitality while visiting Trastevere. You’ll find the neighborhood has no shortage of trattorias, with a selection of traditional and innovative fare. There are craft beer pubs, including the first ever of its kind in Rome, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, and friendly neighborhood bars where you can grab your favorite beverage and perhaps catch an Italian football match on TV.
With a fair population of bohemian artists, the art scene in Trastevere is quite remarkable. There are quaint little shops along the cobblestone alleyways selling all kinds of unique items, as well as celebrated artwork displayed in museum settings. Be sure to visit Villa Farnesina, Palazzo Corsini, and for a taste of life in the Eternal City in the 18th and 19th centuries the Museum of Rome in Trastevere.
Should you be fortunate enough to begin your day in Trastevere be sure to visit the Mercato San Cosimato located in the Piazza of the same name. This open air market is operational every morning, from about 7:30 am until mid-afternoon, Monday through Saturday.
While every town in Italy seems to have open air markets (and all of Europe, for that matter) this particular one shouldn’t be missed if possible. The market dates back to 900. and many of the vendors are descendants of the founding merchants. Wandering the market is a treat indeed, even if only to “people watch”!
Oldest Christian Church
This being Rome you will absolutely find magnificent churches. One of the oldest churches in Rome is the Basilica di Santa Maria, located in Trastevere. The church itself dates back to at least the third century. This church is recognized as being one of the very first official Christian places of worship. The 12th century Pietro Cavallini mosaics, and later frescoes and marble are awe-inspiring as is the 16th century octagonal gold ceiling by the Baroque artist Domenichino.
The Church of St. Cecilia
Built to honor the beloved martyred patroness of music, La Chiesa di Santa Cecilia dates back to the 5th century. The church is built on the site where Cecilia lived and which now houses her remains. Stefano Maderno’s marble masterwork of St. Cecilia is kept in a glass case in the sanctuary. This church is also home to more of Pietro Cavallini’s stunning works of art in the way of frescoes, one of which takes up the church's west wall.
Food, Glorious Food
Ultimately, when in Rome-or Trastevere-eat like a Roman! Because Trastevere is such a walkable city, you can lose yourself as you wander from eatery to eatery sampling all you wish. Although pizza may seem like a cliché rest assured Roman pizza is like nothing you’ve had before. Even in Naples. This paper thin crispy deliciousness is best eaten fresh from a wood oven. And don’t be alarmed if you eat the entire pizza. Roman pizzas are meant to serve one!
Views and Cannon Fire
Should you need a place to stretch your legs or gather your thoughts, the Orto Botanico offers just the spot. Bamboo groves, Japanese style gardens, greenhouses and plots of medicinal plants will pique your interest. For a great way to walk off that pizza head to Gianicolo hill. The pathway to the top is an easy climb and you’ll be treated to a Baroque fountain, Garibaldi monument and views that will take your breath away. Time your climb just right and you may witness the noon cannon fire from atop the hill.
Nightlife in Trastevere
Wander over to one of Rome’s favorite bridges, the Ponte Sisto, as the sun begins to set and you’ll be able to enjoy the street performers who gather to entertain the passers-by. Watch the night-and nightlife-unfold as visitors and residents of this unique neighborhood begin their evening fun.
Trastevere is a neighborhood in Rome, but it’s also worlds away from the typical tourist sites. There’s no doubt you’ll be dazzled by all there is to see and do in Rome, but when you step away to Trastevere you can’t help but become part of the neighborhood.