A Perfect Day In Trastevere
Trastevere: You’ve thrown coins into the Trevi Fountain and marveled at the Colosseum – what next? Take a trip across the Tiber river to Trastevere, a charming medieval neighborhood with a fiery temperament. A stroll around Trastevere, a formerly working-class district with a heady nightlife, will take you away from the crowds to the hidden corners of Rome.
Trastevere (Italian pronunciation: [traˈsteːvere]) is the 13th rione of Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber, south of Vatican City, and within Municipio I. Its name comes from the Latin trans-Tiberim, meaning literally “beyond the Tiber”. Its logo is a golden head of a lion on a red background, the meaning of which is uncertain. To the north, Trastevere borders the XIV rione, Borgo.
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
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.
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.
Santa Maria In Trastevere
In Rome’s Regal period (753–509 BC), the area across the Tiber belonged to the hostile Etruscans: the Romans named it Ripa Etrusca (Etruscan bank). Rome conquered it to gain control of and access to the river from both banks but was not interested in building on that side of the river. In fact, the only connection between Trastevere and the rest of the city was a small wooden bridge called the Pons Sublicius (Latin: “bridge built on wooden piles”).
By the time of the Republic c. 509 BC, the number of sailors and fishermen making a living from the river had increased, and many had taken up residence in Trastevere. Immigrants from the East also settled there, mainly Jews and Syrians. The area began to be considered part of the city under Augustus, who divided Rome into 14 regions (regions in Latin); modern Trastevere was the XIV and was called Trans Tiberium.
Since the end of the Roman Republic, the quarter was also the center of an important Jewish community, inhabited there until the end of the Middle Ages. Rome’s first synagogue is found in this district. The building was constructed in 980 and became a synagogue in 1073 through the efforts of lexicographer Nathan ben Yechiel. There was also a mikveh in the building. At the base of the central column, there is still visible Hebrew writing. Its use as a synagogue ended when the Jews were forced to move to the Roman ghetto on the other side of the Tiber river in the mid-16th century. It is now used commercially and can be found at 14, Vicolo dell’Atleta.
With the wealth of the Imperial Age, several important figures decided to build their villae in Trastevere, including Clodia, (Catullus’ “friend”) and Julius Caesar (his garden villa, the Horti Caesaris). The regio included two of the most ancient churches in Rome, the Titulus Callixti, later called the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, and the Titulus Cecilae, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
In order to have a stronghold on the Right Bank and to control the Gianicolo hill, Transtiberim was partially included by Emperor Aurelian (270–275) inside the wall erected to defend the city against the Germanic tribes.
In the Middle Ages, Trastevere had narrow, winding, irregular streets; moreover, because of the mignani (structures on the front of buildings), there was no space for carriages to pass. At the end of the 15th century, these mignani were removed. Nevertheless, Trastevere remained a maze of narrow streets. There was a strong contrast between the large, opulent houses of the upper classes and the small, dilapidated houses of the poor. The streets had no pavement until the time of Sixtus IV at the end of the 15th century. At first, bricks were used, but these were later replaced by sampietrini (cobblestones), which were more suitable for carriages. Thanks to its partial isolation (it was “beyond the Tiber”) and to the fact that its population had been multicultural since the ancient Roman period, the inhabitants of Trastevere, called Trasteverini, developed a culture of their own. In 1744 Benedict XIV modified the borders of the rioni, giving Trastevere its modern limits
Nowadays, Trastevere maintains its character thanks to its narrow cobbled streets lined by ancient houses. At night, natives and tourists alike flock to its many pubs and restaurants, but much of the original character of Trastevere remains. The area is also home to several foreign academic institutions including The American University of Rome and John Cabot University (both of which are private American universities), the American Academy in Rome, the Rome campus of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, the Canadian University of Waterloo School of Architecture (between the months of September and December), and the American Pratt Institute School of Architecture therefore serving as home to an international student body.
The neighborhood has attracted artists, foreign ex-pats, and many famous people. In the sixties and seventies, the American musicians/composers Frederic Rzewski and Richard Teitelbaum, of the group Musica Elettronica Viva, lived in Via Della Luce. Sergio Leone, the director of Spaghetti Westerns, grew up in Viale Glorioso (there is a marble plaque to his memory on the wall of the apartment building), and went to a Catholic private school in the neighborhood. Ennio Morricone, the film music composer, went to the same school, and for one year was in the same class as Sergio Leon
Is Trastevere Rome safe?
As for safety, it’s quite safe but as always, beware of pickpockets, especially in the crowded squares. It’s a popular location, but it’s still not quite as central as other Rome neighborhoods, so Trastevere is also a good option for some reasonably-priced accommodation.
Is Trastevere a good area to stay in Rome?
Trastevere is one of the best places to stay in Rome. If you want to wander cobblestone streets and snaps lots of photos of perfectly picturesque laundry and be able to walk to the historic center, then you should be looking to stay in Trastevere.