Why go to Trastevere? It's Rome's cozy medieval center and a tourist favorite.
Trastevere is the 13th rione of Rome, and one of Rome's most cherished neighborhoods for tourists to stay in.
Trastevere was once the Ripa Etrusca, the Tiber's Etruscan Bank, reflecting the people who had settled the left bank of the river and who where driven off early in Rome's history, opening the area to the increasing numbers of Tiber fishermen who moved there. Jews and Syrians also began occupying the area.
Trastevere is still the rione with Rome's largest concentration of foreigners. Including international students and expats, it is home to "108 foreigners for every 100 Italians".
Why do many who come to Rome like Trastevere? The location is just across the river from the major archaeological monuments of Ancient Rome. The narrow, cobbled streets are loaded with charm and outside the major squares the area can be quite quiet at night. Trastevere seems like a small village (with a large percentage of people who eat out), yet you're smack in the historic center of Rome.
The popularity of Trastevere is magnified by the number of places to eat and drink.
The map is zoomed in to take in the part of Trastevere that tourists generally inhabit.
Trastevere, a large district second in size to Monte, Rione I, takes up the left bank of the Tiber south of the Borgo (see a map of Rome's Neightborhoods). There are 7 bridges that access Trastevere from central Rome. Trastevere's northern section consists of the Gianicolo, or as we call it, Janiculum, a hill that features some of the best views of Rome.
But most tourists consider Trastevere to be its southern half, southwest of the Isola Tibertina. This is where the little medieval streets lend charm to the rione. This is where are map is centered.
The spirital hub of Trastevere is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and its piazza surrounded with bars and restaurants.
The Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti on Via della Luce, 21 is not only a bakery that will sell you some of the best "cookies" in Rome, but the variety of crackers will have you craving a picnic in your hotel room with the addition of some cheese and salami. It's marked on the map above. Don't let the industrial looks turn you off, it's what's inside that counts. If you come in November, you must try the Fave dei Morti, (beans of the dead), according to Katy Parla. To see what's available seasonally, see their Facebook page.
Or you can head on over to La Renella Panetteria, where you can get traditional biscotti and ciambelloni, as well as pizza by the slice and bread cooked on a wood oven with something very special added (see the review of la Renella).
There's an open-air market for your cooking needs, surrounded by cafes, called Mercato di San Cosimato, marked on the map.
Osteria Le Mani in Pasta was a favorite of ours, not only for the excellent Roman cuisine but for the liveliness of the (mostly Roman) patrons and our waiter, who helped make lunch a veritable carnival of the senses. Read our Review of Osteria Le Mani in Pasta.
More fun was had at Tastevere KmZero. Italian cuisine includes so many preserved and fermented items, that you can serve some absolutely delicious food without subjecting it to the heat of a stove; Tastevere KmZero doesn't have one. Read more on this fun hole-in-the-wall place that serves the food of artisan producers: Tastevere KmZero.
North of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is a reader-recommended restaurant called Il Duca in Trastevere. It has a traditional summer closing time, so check before you go if you go in June or July.
In piazza del Drago we enjoyed Dar Sor Olimpio al Drago. It gets lots of patrons from the overflow of touristy Ristorante Il Ponentino in the piazza, but the food--Roman with a smattering of Sarininian cuisine--is excellent and the waiters didn't look down on tourists and made us feel very welcome (and didn't rush us at all). Come early or reserve if you want one of the little tables out front.
Fish? We highly recommend La Gensola. Fresh fish, cooked excellently. the dish pictured below was a triumph, with very lightly sauteed squid with capers, tomato, fennel, and great olive oil. Unhelpful website, unfortunately. Located in Piazza della Gensola, 15. Tel: 0658332758. For reservations: email.
In southern Trastevere by the Trastevere train station is the Ristorante Pepe Rosa, a recent find. Here you'll find an innovative menu in a modern restaurant, but they also serve all the classic favorites of the Roman kitchen, so if you can't decide, here you go. A sample of the modern dishes: Raviolo Ricotta & Limone al Gambero Rosso (4 large ravioli stiffed with sheep ricotta and lemon zest with a butter, sage, fish bisque and red shrimp.
Restaurants aren't your only option. You can also eat with a home chef in Trastevere, and get your questions answered about this corner of Rome.
Where might you go for a drink after a fine meal in Trastevere? Well, if you like chocolate, books, quirky concoctions and eclectic furnishings, you must try Rivendita Libri Cioccolata e Vino (our review of Rivendita). Have an inexpensive chocolate cup filled with liquor and topped with an appropriate selection of spices and whipped cream. You only live once they tell me...
For an aperitivo, head over to the ex car repair joint called Freni e Frizioni. Freni is a word you recall from the train; jerk on the red emergency handle you find near the door and the train will, if proper maintenance has been done, screech to a halt. It's the brakes. Frizioni is the clutch, which you'll see lots of folks in the little piazza in front doing while clutching inventive cocktails, many with fruit. It's hip, it's hot, and you can belly up to the buffet at aperitivo time.
Since I'm not hip (but sometimes get hot) I relied on The Roman Guy to put me on the Trastevere aperitivo trail. It's part of their inventively and boozy Rome Cocktail Tour. Recommended if you indulge and want to discover the bars Romans actually go to. Wandering Italy users get 5% off by using the link above. You can also get the discount when you take a Local Rome Food Tour in Trastevere Neighborhood to sample the neighborhood delights. We've taken both tours and recommend them.
You can also go on a Roman Apertif Tour of Trastevere with locals. Host Gennaro has just opened Bed and Bike Trastevere in the heart of Rome and will take you around to the hot spots in his corner of the city.
A trip to Italy wouldn't be complete without a heaping helping of the Italian "ice cream" called gelato. Our favorite is Fior di Luna on Via della Lungaretta, 96. Fantastic seasonal flavors made with organic components, no cones, just cups. They are also purveyors of fine chocolate: my recent chocolate, lime and pink peppercorn gelato was simply fabulous.
Runner-up honors go to Fatamorgana in Piazza San Cosimato/Via Roma Libera 11
Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome; the basic plan dates to the 340's but most of what you see is Romanesque, from 1140 or so, having been damaged during the sack of Rome in 410. Go in if it's open. the mosaics will amaze you. They date from 1140.
The octagonal fountain in the piazza in front of the Basilica is a Roman original restored in the 17th century. Today it marks the gathering point for foot-weary tourists and youthful dervishes making bubbles enthusiastically.
Santa Cecilia is a fifth century church in Trastevere. It was rebuilt in 822 by Pope Paschal, then again in the 18th century. The bell tower is from the 12th century (1140), the facade from Ferninando Fuga in 1725.
The crypt contains the relics of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, along with those of her husband St. Valerian. There are also excavations of a Roman house underneath the church that possibly belonged to Cecilia, and a visit is recommended. A picture of the crypt is below.
San Crisogono was one of the first parish churches in Rome, built under Pope Silvester in the 4th century. You can take the underground passage to see the earlier church and remains of Roman houses below it. These remains are rumored to have dated from the reign of Constantine I.
There are some pretty ornate sarcophagi under San Crisogono.
One of our favorite museums in Rome is Il Museo di Roma in Trastevere. As the site points out:
The permanent collection of the Museo di Roma in Trastevere exhibits the salient aspects of popular life in Rome from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, filtered through the tastes and convictions of the artists and folklorists who represented it. The major themes present in the collection are the costumes, the popular dances, the secular and religious festivals and the crafts.
There are a great many "photo exhibitions in the museum of Rome in Trastevere":https://www.wanderingitaly.com/blog/article/765/museum-of-rome-in-trastevere as well, which in housed in a historic building in piazza Sant'Egidio. The entire history is quite interesting.
Nearby to the west, on Vicolo del Cedro 26, is the Pianostrada Laboratorio di Cucina, where you can taste modern and traditional Roman Cuisine. (facebook)
We stayed in a very well-located, quiet apartment in Trastevere, called Montefiore Apartment because it's on a short street near the Piazza al Drago called "Montefiore." The apartment had a small kitchen, nice little eating/work area for two people, a couch, television, air conditioning, a very quiet bedroom and modern, efficient bathroom. We enjoyed the apartment and the wi-fi worked flawlessly for the week we were there. The price was less than a hotel in the area, and we enjoyed bringing home food from the many take-out places that seemed to be everywhere.
There are several very fine restaurants within a short walk. Our favorite local spots, Dar Sor Olimpio al Drago, was a half-block away. A little further on, Forno, on the Via della Lunfaretta adjacent to the piazza del Drago, had a variety of baked goods, salami, wine and pizza for take out.
Another apartment with the name Montefiore is available from Booking.com. Same neighborhood, same street, different layout.
If you prefer to choose your Trastevere hotel by location and price, see the map below.
If you are staying in a hotel, you will get a reasonably decent map of the city center from them. If you want to visit the outlying areas of Rome, then a detailed paper map is in order. Here are some popular maps you can purchase online:
You will, of course, want to explore the historic center of Rome, which is easily done by simply crossing the river via one of the seven bridges.
Across the historic Ponte Sisto you'll be heading towards the Campo de' Fiori. The Ponte Cestio takes you through the heart of the island called Isola Tibertina.
Cross the Ponte Palatino and you're immediately in Ancient Rome near the Tempio di Portuno and the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin which harbors the Bocca della Verita, the "mouth of truth" where you are expected to you stick your hand inside an old Roman sewer cover and hope you can pull it out in one piece to prove to your family and friends that you tell the truth most days. You are also near the Cloaca Maxima, one of the world's first sewer systems.
Walk along the river north (or climb the hill) and you'll eventually be able to cross the Ponte Sant'Angelo, one of Rome's grander bridges, to visit the Castel Sant'Angelo (perhaps stopping for the sweeping views of Rome and the Vatican from its cafe), and then walking alongside the infamous corridor called the Passetto di Borgo to the Vatican.
When you've had your fill of very old things, you might head further north for the interesting Flaminio neighborhood.
If any of these walk seem too long, you can look to Rome's public transportation system to help you out. You can also go to any taxi stand and get a reasonably priced Rome Taxi. You can even tour Trastevere by Segway.
Just outside of Rome is Tivoli. You can easily get to the ancient port of Rome, Ostia Antica from the Porto San Paolo station. If you find yourself in Rome during a summer heat wave, you might want to head out to the Alban hills wine country: Castelli Romani.
Enjoy the video from one of our favorite tour companies in Rome.