Trastevere has always prided itself on being different from the rest of Rome, different from all the other neighbourhoods of Rome – the name literally translates as “across the Tiber”, as it used to be the only residential neighbourhood located on the west side of the river. These days, it’s very much part of the city center, but it still retains its distinctive atmosphere.
This is the postcard-perfect Rome you’ve been looking for, with winding cobbled streets, ivy-covered palazzi and vibrant street life. It’s impossible to do justice to Trastevere in a single afternoon or evening. Although the neighbourhood is perhaps best-known for its lively nightlife, there’s so much more to see and do, from Renaissance villas to unusual street markets. Here there are a few suggestions.
You could easily pass a couple of hours in Trastevere just strolling up and down the streets, window-shopping, people-watching, and taking in the sights and smells. Via della Lungaretta could be considered the “center” of Trastevere, along with the beautiful Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Lots of the street life in Trastevere takes place in the piazzas – laid-back Piazza di San Calisto, the spacious market square of Piazza di San Cosimato, and lively Piazza Trilussa.
The most impressive churches in Trastevere are the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere (one of the oldest churches in Rome), and the Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
Santa Cecilia sometimes gets overlooked due to its location, slightly off the beaten path, but it’s worth a visit for its unusual statue of St Cecilia and its spectacular crypt — ask the nuns. Visit the Baroque church of San Francesco a Ripa to see Bernini’s theatrical funerary monument dedicated to Ludovica Albertoni.
Villa Farnesina is one of the most beautiful buildings in Rome. This elegant Renaissance villa once belonged to the wealthy Sienese banker Agostino Chigi, who hired some of the greatest painters of the age – including none other than Raphael – to decorate the rooms of his house. The most famous works here are Raphael’s frescoes of Galatea and Cupid and Psyche, but pretty much every room contains a masterpiece.
If you’re on a budget, try Carlomenta (Via della Lungaretta 101), where you can easily dine out on €10-15. Carlomenta’s pizzas are very cheap by Roman standards, but if you want a really special pizza, try Da Ivo (Via San Francesco a Ripa 158). Da Enzo (Via dei Vascellari 29) is a traditional trattoria which specializes in the Roma classics; try the carbonara or codaallavaccinara (oxtail). Osteria der Belli (Piazza di Sant’Apollonia 11) is also reliably good, serving up a mixture of Sardinian specialties and seafood. For a great picturesque environment and great Roman food choose La Fraschetta.
Gourmet gelateria Fatamorgana (Via Roma Libera 11) is famed for its quirky range of flavors – think cherry and beer, or basil with walnuts and honey. But if you’re not feeling adventurous, they do the classics very well too. There’s a smaller choice of flavors at Fior di Luna (Via della Lungaretta 96), but the gelato is excellent and made with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
For the true Trastevere experience, you have to go to Bar San Calisto (Piazza San Calisto 3-5), which seems to be stuck in a time warp. There’s always an interesting mix of people sitting outside – students, tourists, and old men playing cards and drinking Peroni. For craft beer and a lively atmosphere, try Ma Che Siete a Venuti a Fa’ (Via di Benedetta 25)
Baylon (Via San Francesco a Ripa 151) is good for cocktails and aperitivo, while cosy Chakra (Piazza di Santa Rufina 13) has an intimate, cozy atmosphere.
Although it’s better known for its nightlife, Trastevere also has an eclectic range of shops, with plenty of independent boutiques. Via della Lungaretta is one of the main shopping streets, home to handbag and shoe designer Carlo Cecchini and the elegant Lungaretta 121. There are also a couple of vintage clothes shops, such as Twice Vintage (Via San Francesco a Ripa 7).
Roma Store Profumi (Via della Lungaretta 63) is worth a look for its ever-impressive window display, even if you don’t buy any perfume.
Finding second-hand books in English can be difficult in Rome, but there are two well-stocked shops in Trastevere – the Almost Corner Bookshop (Via del Moro 45) and the fantastic Open Door Bookshop (Via della Lungaretta 23). This part of Trastevere, on the other side of Vial Trastevere, closer to the Tiberine Island and further away from the Piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere, should not be overlooked, because it is equally beautiful than the one north of Viale Trastevere, but less touristy. Here also, on Sunday mornings, Trastevere is home to a sprawling flea market known as Porta Portese. Expect to find anything and everything – plants, power tools, bicycles, chandeliers, fur coats, perfume, gas masks…Although there’s a lot of junk, a trip to Porta Portese is an experience in itself.
And Don’t Miss:
Ospedale Nuovo Regina Margherita is a surprisingly beautiful hospital, located in an old monastery. Even if you don’t have an appointment, you can just walk in to check out the cloisters, which are filled with remnants of Roman statues. (En passant, whether you have an health insurance or not, if you don’t feel well for any reason, you can go here and get taken care of). From Trastevere you can easily reach (bus n. 75) the neighborhood of Monteverde and visit the Orto Botanico by Villa Pamphili. The Orto Botanicois an oasis of calm, with more than 3,000 species of plants, a bamboo garden, and a special “garden of aromas”. If you find yourself in Trastevere in peak tourist season, this is a good place to get away from the crowds.
There’s a steep climb to reach the top of the Gianicolo – the hill above Trastevere – but you’ll be rewarded with some of the most magnificent panoramic views of Rome. Be there at noon for the daily firing of the cannon.