Though I knew it existed, I imagined the Trastevere as a kind of remote Roman suburb. I knew it was across the Tiber River, and it looked like it wasn’t that close to the major sites and activities you’d normally choose, like the Coliseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, etc. Besides, who has time to search for a place that isn’t on many “must see” lists when we’re carefully counting and planning for every precious day and hour in the Eternal City?
Then last October I went to Trastevere with my friend Fran and her daughter Mallory to attend a cooking class with Chef Andrea Consoli. Not only did I learn how to make a mean pear soufflé, but I was delighted to observe two things about this new neighborhood I’d entered:
First, though we took a cab over, we walked back to our hotel near the Spanish Steps when we were finished. And guess what? The Trastevere really is within walking distance of everything else in Rome. Che sopresa! Yes, it was a hike. Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. As a blogger and someone who likes to think she’s funny, I may exaggerate now and then . . . but no outright lying. Honest.
So, if you were to map out all the places you wanted to walk to in Rome, you could easily include the Trastevere neighborhood while heading, say, from the Coliseum toward the Campo de’ Fiori, or Piazza Navona. In fact, Rome really isn’t that big. And now that I know that, I even think I’ll look for a small hotel or pensione to stay in on my next trip. There should be a bargain or two in Trastevere and with really easy access to the rest of the city, I can’t wait to make it home base.
And why make that effort? Well, that brings me to my second point: it’s adorable! As Fran, Mal and I wandered around looking for the cooking school, it was as if the taxi had dropped us on the verge of a small Italian village far from a major city. The narrow cobbled streets weave in and out of piazzas and are dotted with bakeries, shoe stores and green grocers selling their wares to locals and visitors alike. It almost feels like a little vacation within your vacation. Enjoy the village ambiance, then stroll across the bridge to be a part of bustling Roma – just on the other side of the river.
From what I’ve read, back around 500 BC the Etruscans lived in the area, but eventually the Romans conquered them and took over the neighborhood. Fishermen making their livings on the Tiber River tended to live on the west bank, and Trastevere has always been considered a working man’s neighborhood. In addition, Trastevere was the home of immigrants from the East and the center of the Jewish community in Rome, which also made it the likely birthplace of Christianity in the area.
Today in Trastevere you can explore two of Rome’s oldest churches: the Santa Maria, dating from around 222 A.D., and the ornate Santa Cecelia. The American University is located here – no doubt contributing to the district’s reputation for a vibrant night life. When looking for things to do in Trastevere, quieter choices might include wandering through the Orto Botanical Gardens or perhaps a visit to Villa Farnesina with its exquisite frescoes by Raphael.
Italians say the “Real Romans” live in Trastevere. The people you meet may well have lived there for generations beyond memory. I also think it would be fun to eat a meal in a restaurant where the people from the neighborhood eat, and where every menu isn’t written in two or three languages for the tourists.
There are so many more places I want to visit in and around Rome. I’m not done with this blog theme by any means, folks! So, ciao for now – and andiamo! Let’s go!