Trastevere, the neighborhood "across the Tiber" on Rome's left bank, is a pleasant diversion from the tourist-heavy historic center. Mostly residential and characterized by narrow, cobbled streets, medieval-era dwellings, and its large student population (the American Academy in Rome and John Cabot University are both located here), Trastevere has an ample selection of restaurants, bars, and cafés filled with lively locals.
The neighborhood has traditionally attracted artists, so it's possible to find unique gifts in its boutiques and studios. The neighborhood also has a number of hotels and inns, making it an ideal area to stay for the traveler who wants to experience a more local setting when visiting Rome.
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.
Trastevere Sights and Things to Do:
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 and among the best places to shop in Rome, especially if you don't mind haggling. Mercato di San Cosimato is a small, outdoor food market held on weekday mornings with several cafes and food shops nearby.
Trastevere is connected to the right bank of 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 Martha Bakerjian. Trastevere is one of our favorite neighborhoods to stay in Rome. While it's still lively and has plenty to see and do, it's out of the way of the big tourist crowds and there are many local places to eat.