Trastevere is one of Rome's most colorful areas and is often referred to as a "real Roman neighborhood." Its name means "across the river" and refers to its location on the west bank of the Tiber or Tevere in Italian. Trastevere was once an "insiders" neighborhood favored by working-class Romans and travelers who wanted to avoid the crowds and soak up some real local atmosphere. Well, the word is out and Trastevere is no longer an undiscovered pocket of Rome. And although rents may have gone up, within its maze of narrow streets and centuries-old piazzas, you can still get a taste of authentic Rome, and make your own discoveries–in hidden churches, Bijoux shops, small museums and lively bars and restaurants.
Here's a list of some of the best things to do in Trastevere.
Wander and Photograph Its Narrow Streets
There's perhaps no better Roman neighborhood in which to get lost than Trastevere. Mostly laid out in the medieval era, its cobblestone streets are a picturesque warren of ochre-colored buildings, old doorways with antique doorknockers, arched passageways, flower-filled balconies and Rome's ubiquitous graffiti. It's hard to take a bad photo here.
Discover Two of Its Jewelbox Churches
One of the oldest churches in Rome and one of its most beautiful, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere contains brilliant gold mosaics from the 1100s, and a nave held up by ancient columns pillaged from the Baths of Caracalla. Dedicated to a 3rd-century martyr, the nearby Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is known for its elaborate crypt and a magnificent Baroque-era sculpture of the saint.
Relax on a Piazza
Like many neighborhoods in central Rome, Trastevere's wide piazzas are its living rooms–open spaces where locals gather to talk and where tourists can linger to soak up the ambiance. Piazza Trilussa, right on the river, often hosts concerts and performances. Piazza di San Calisto is popular with families pushing strollers or teaching their kids to ride bikes. On a warm summer night, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, with the facade of its namesake church all aglow, is one of the most magical–and popular–spots in Rome.
Eat Real Roman Pizza
Paper thin, crispy and fresh from a wood oven, there's nothing like pizza in Rome. Order a takeaway slice during the day from La Boccaccia or sit down for an evening meal at neighborhood favorites Dar Poeta, Ivo a Trastevere or Pizzeria ai Marmi. Remember that in Italy, pizzas are made for one — with the exception of children, all parties are expected to order their own pizza. Yes, you really can eat the whole thing!
Sample Craft Beer
Italy may be a country known for its wine, but the craft beer craze is in full swing here, especially in Rome and other big cities. Trastevere has a slew of great bars, mostly falling on the artsy/divey side. Favorite places to sample craft beer and mix with locals include Freni e Frizioni, Bir & Fud, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà and Big Star, which often hosts live music.
Go on a Food or Walking Tour
Trastevere is a neighborhood best explored on foot. In fact, walking is really the only way to see it. Several tour companies in Rome offer walking and/or foodie tours, where you learn about Roman culinary traditions as you walk from eatery to eatery, sampling along the way. Recommended companies for Trastevere tours include The Roman Guy and Eating Italy. Noted food blogger Katie Parla frequently hosts neighborhood tours or, for something more high-end, check out the offerings from Context Travel.
Visit a Museum
Climb the Janiculum Hill
The base of the Janiculum Hill, or Gianicolo in Italian, abuts Trastevere's western edge. It was a site of rituals in the early days of Rome, then home to most of the city's flour mills. It also figured heavily in the 19th-century campaign for Italian unification. Today, the not-too-strenuous climb up the Janiculum offers some of the best views over the city, plus a chance to peek inside the gates of fancy villas, academies, and embassies.