Trastevere, the neighborhood across the Tiber River from Rome historic center, is a must-visit area of the Eternal City. It's one of Rome's oldest residential areas and is characterized by narrow, cobbled streets, medieval-era dwellings, and numerous restaurants, bars, and cafés filled with lively locals. Its large student population (the American Academy in Rome and John Cabot University are both located here) add to the Trastevere's young, bohemian vibe.
The neighborhood has traditionally attracted artists, so it's possible to find unique gifts in its boutiques and studios.
While Trastevere was once an "insiders' neighborhood" to where most tourists rarely ventured, the secret is definitely out, and the crowds have arrived. Still, crowds are less dense and concentrated than in other areas of Rome. Trastevere has a number of small hotels, B&Bs, and inns, making it an ideal area to stay, especially for travelers who want to experience a more local setting when visiting Rome.
Here are some of our favorite things to see and do in Trastevere:
Visit Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Main Square:
The center of public life in the neighborhood is the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, a large square outside of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the city's oldest churches and one of the Top Churches to Visit in Rome. It is adorned with gorgeous golden mosaics both inside and out and rests upon the foundation of a church dating from the 3rd century.
Also on the square is an ancient octagonal fountain that was restored by Carlo Fontana in the 17th century. Around the edges of the large piazza are a number of cafés and restaurants with outdoor tables, many a good choice for lunch, dinner, or a post-tour snack.
Enjoy the Passeggiata, or Evening Stroll
Trastevere is probably the best neighborhood in Rome to witness and participate in la passeggiata, or early evening stroll.
This age-old ritual simply involves residents (and tourists alike) taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, stopping in piazzas to gossip and chat, then walking some more before dinner. This parade of human life usually starts after 5 pm or later, depending on how hot it is, and lasts under 8 pm or so, when everyone goes to eat at home or in a local restaurant. It's a lovely tradition, and one that keeps Trastevere humming with life and local flavor.
Drink and Dine in a Neighborhood Bar or Eatery
Trastevere is one of the great foodie neighborhoods or Rome, due to its combination of authentic, decades-old trattorias, innovative modern restaurants, simple pizzerias and street food eateries and lively bars. There's something for virtually every budget here. For a perfect evening out, start with an aperitivo, or before-dinner drink, either standing at a bar or seated at an outside table. Then head to a restaurant of your choice (be sure to reserve in advance) for a leisurely meal. Follow this up with a craft beer at one of Trastevere's trendy, divey bars or if that's not your speed, just enjoy a gelato on your walk back to your hotel or rental.
Walk to the Gianicolo for an Unforgettable View of Rome
The Gianicolo, or Janiculum Hill, is famous for its sweeping views of the Rome skyline.
From Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, it's a 10-minute walk uphill to the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a 1612 landmark fountain under which the rooftops of Rome unfold. The fountain is floodlit at night and is beautifully dramatic. If you continue walking along the Passeggiata del Gianicolo, you'll arrive at the Terrazza del Gianicolo, or Janiculum Terrace, which offers even more epic views from a loftier, greener setting.
Other Trastevere Sights
Other attractions in Trastevere include the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, which contains some notable medieval as well as Baroque works of art and has a good underground crypt; the Museo di Roma in Trastevere, which houses interesting archives of Roman civic life from the 18th and 19th centuries; and, in Piazza Trilussa, the statue of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, a poet who penned his works in the Roman dialect and who is particularly loved in Trastevere.
On Sundays, near the end of Viale Trastevere, antique and secondhand vendors set up stalls in Porta Portese, one of Europe's largest flea markets. It's a good place to shop if you don't mind large crowds and doing some haggling. Mercato di San Cosimato, on the piazza of the same name, is a small, outdoor food market held on weekday and Saturday mornings.
Trastevere is connected to central Rome and the Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) via several bridges, some of which are from ancient times. The neighborhood is also connected to public transportation via buses, tram lines (numbers 3 and 8), and the rail station Stazione Trastevere, where travelers can catch a train to Fiumicino Airport, Termini (Rome's central train station), and other points in the Lazio region, such as Civitavecchia and Lago di Bracciano.
Editor's Note: This article has been edited and updated by Elizabeth Heath and Martha Bakerjian.