Trastevere: turning on the charm in Rome
Trastevere means ‘beyond the Tiber’ and is named after the river that delimits one end of the district, next to Ponte Garibaldi. It’s one of Rome’s most charming neighbourhoods and you should absolutely visit no matter how short your stay is in the Italian capital. Its peaceful cobbled streets are lined with cosy restaurants, enchanting designer shops, small piazzas and tiny museums, all of which creates a merry atmosphere in this most beguiling and picturesque part of Rome.
The heart of Trastevere is Piazza Sidney Sonnino and from here you have access to the most attractive spots in this labyrinthine neighbourhood. A five-minute wander down Via della Lungaretta will take you to Piazza di Santa Maria and the impressive and beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. A little further on is the Porta Settimiana (a 3rd-century gate) and Villa Farnesina, which boasts frescoes by none other than Raphael. Trastevere also has a botanic garden or Orto Botanico.
What to see in Trastevere
Trastevere is the perfect place for aimless wandering and getting lost among pretty buildings and piazzas, especially in the area between Via Garibaldi and Viale di Trastevere. Read on for our list of must-see places in this wonderful part of Rome.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
A visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is non-negotiable. Written records from as far back as the year 337 suggest that Pope Julius I built the church in the same place where oil miraculously began to flow on the day that Christ was born. However, the current basilica dates back to the 12th century. The mosaics on its facade depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the Medieval marquetry paving is fascinating. The columns in the nave were built from materials sourced from the Caracalla thermal baths (link: Caracalla thermal baths).
If you walk from Santa Maria in Trastevere along Via della Scala and Via della Lungara, you’ll come to Villa Farnesina, a beautiful Renaissance palace built in 1511 by Agostino Chigi, a banker from Siena. The most impressive sight in the villa is the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche on the ground floor, decorated with frescoes by Raphael. The Sala delle Prospettive on the upper floor is literally covered with frescoes depicting views of Rome filled with optical illusions.
The Orto Botanico and Janiculum Hill
You can walk from Villa Farnesina to the Orto Botanico in just three minutes. This botanical garden was opened in 1883 and its twelve hectares occupy the ancient gardens of Palazzo Corsini stretching all the way to Janiculum Hill (or Gianicolo in Italian), one of the seven hills of Rome. Another five minutes in the direction of Via Garibaldi will take you to the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, a monumental 17th-century fountain built by order of Pope Paul V. Just 200 metres away is the 15th-century church of San Pietro in Montorio which allegedly stands where Saint Peter was crucified. Next door is the Tempietto, an architectural jewel by Bramante (one of the architects behind St Peter’s Basilica).
Villa Doria Pamphili
This villa has the largest public park in Rome, complete with lakes and large open spaces with pine trees and paths.
Basilica de Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
This basilica was purportedly built inside the house where Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, lived with her husband in the 4th century. It has a statue of the saint by Carlo Maderno – the sculptor who is said to have witnessed the opening of her tomb. Above the altar is a Gothic ceremonial canopy which shows Pope Paschal I presenting Saint Cecilia and her husband Valerian before Christ.
Restaurants in Trastevere
In Trastevere you’ll have your pick of restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias. Trattoria da Augusto is a veteran on the Rome food scene. Enjoy some typical Roman fare (link: Where to eat in Rome) while soaking up the atmosphere in the pretty piazza (they put tables outside in summer), all at prices that won’t blow your budget. Those of you with a sweet tooth will be delighted to know that this part of Rome is also teeming with ice-cream parlours.
Shopping in Trastevere
Trastevere has plenty of shops and delightful little places in which to spend your money, among them crafts shops, antiques and various speciality stores. There’s a lively food market in Piazza San Cosimato every morning, and don’t miss Porta Portese market if you’re in town on a Sunday. It’s quite the experience.
Nightlife in Trastevere
Some of Rome’s best night life (Link: Rome by night) awaits in this part of town. One of the most popular spots is Caffé della Scala (Via della Scala, 4), next to the Basilica de Santa Maria. Café San Cosimato (Piazza San Cosimato, 61) is more chilled out and has tables outside, and Big Mama Live Music & Bar (Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa, 18) specialises in jazz and blues.
Whatever brings you to Rome, you won’t regret spending an entire morning or afternoon strolling through the charming streets of Trastevere.
Information of interest
How to get there
- By bus: Various buses travel between Piazza Navona and Trastevere, including lines 70, 201, 913 and 44.
- On foot: From Piazza Navona, it’s about a 1.5 km walk to Trastevere. Cross the river at Ponte Garibaldi and in another 20 minutes you’ll arrive in this picturesque neighbourhood.