Trastevere – Bars, Restaurants and History
Trastevere is one of the most popular areas of Rome. By day you’ll find it’s a hive of activity, full of busy restaurants, cafes and bars (many with Wi-Fi access) art galleries and craft and book shops. By night Trastevere becomes one of the central locations of Rome nightlife when nightclubs and pubs open the doors the line the cobble stone streets.
Trastevere probably has the highest concentration of expats in the city – partly because there are two American universities in the area and partly because it’s picture postcard beautiful.
Sightseeing in Trastevere
There’s a lot to see and do in this part of Rome. One of the most famous – and certainly one of the oldest churches in Rome – Santa Maria in Trastevere is a popular draw. The basic structure of the church dates back to the mid 4th century but there’s been a church on the site since 220 AD. Most of what you’ll see today dates from from 12th century.
Inside you can see beautiful mosaics of the Virgin Mary, the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and many other biblical characters that were added to the interior during restoration work in the 12th and 13th century. Most experts agree these are among the finest mosaics in Rome.
The church is also the burial place of a number of Popes and has an interesting collection of ancient relics including a piece of the Holy Sponge which is said to have been dipped in vinegar and offered as a drink to Jesus Christ while he hung on the cross on Good Friday.
On a lighter note, the 17th century fountain right outside the church always makes a great photo opportunity, though you’ll have to squeeze past a few tourists and locals to find a spot near the water. At night this piazza really comes alive with street performers, diners in the various restaurants that line the square and people just passing by soaking up the atmosphere.
Most of the shops stay open until late making this part of town a great place to spend an evening.
Other places to explore
Trastevere is a great base from which to explore some of the more unusual attractions of Rome.
Tiber Island / Isola Tiberina
In the middle of the River Tiber, which separates Trastevere from central Rome, you’ll find this tiny island that is home to a major hospital, a small secret synagogue used during the Second World War when the main synagogue of Rome was closed as well as a pretty good gelateria. It’s also a nice way to get back across the River Tiber if you’re walking or cycling back into central Rome.
Botanical Gardens / Orto Botanico
If you need a little respite from the noise and chaos, spend a quiet hour or two in the Botanical Gardens. First created in 1883 the gardens are now home to over 3,500 species of plants. There’s also a Scent and Touch garden for visually impaired visitors. You’ll find the gardens at Largo Cristina di Svezia on the side of the Janiculum Hill / Il Gianicolo. Open times are all day Tues-Sat, closed for all of August.
Janiculum Hill / Il Gianicolo
From Trastevere walk up Via Garibaldi for one of the best views of the Vatican and St.Peter’s one on side and the rest of Rome on the other. The second highest hill in Rome, after Monte Mario to the north, the Janiculum is also home to a number of commemorative statues as well as probably the smallest lighthouse in Italy, not to mention the one furthest from the sea.
Take a Tour
Looking for ideas of things to do in Trastevere? Try a taking a walking or night tour with a fun and knowledgeable expert guide from Rome tour company Viator.