Trastevere, Rome in a Day: Hidden Gems & Top Attractions

Hi! Welcome to our Rome neighborhood series. I’m Sean from The Roman Guy. Today, we’re in beautiful Trastevere. Trastevere means across the river or across the Tiber River. Today, we’re going to show you some amazing bars, restaurants, and local favorites in this particular neighborhood. If you’ve been to Rome, you know that the lack of skyscrapers and tall architecture gives it a small-town feel even though there are over three million inhabitants. If Rome is a small town, then Trastevere is a tiny village nestled into its winding streets. Here’s a map of the center of Rome, there’s the Vatican City on the top left, our main train station Termini Station, on the right in the center you’ll find the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Trastevere is located on the west bank of the Tiber River just south of the Vatican. It’s about a 20 minute walk from there. From the Colosseum it would take you 15 minutes by foot, and from termini station you’d want to take the H bus which takes also 15 minutes. Trastevere has been inhabited by the Romans since at least the 5th century BC, that’s 2,500 years ago. Fishermen flocked this area as they could make a great living so close to the Tiber River. It was a culturally diverse area, home to mostly Jewish and Syrian settlers. Not recognized by the upper class for its beauty until close to the last century BC when General Julius Caesar build his garden villa there, Horti Caesaris. Today, one of the principal roads running through Trastevere is Via della Lungaretta. It’s a charming street full of life and characteristic of the area. It leads to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, which we consider the heart of the area. This is where you’ll find one of Rome’s oldest and most important churches, La Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Much of the appeal is the lazy piazza outside the church. It’s lined with restaurants and cafes featuring abundant outdoor seating. There is a beautiful fountain as a centerpiece and plenty of street performers in the evenings to keep you entertained. The exterior features a 12th century Romanesque “campanile” or bell tower. You can also admire the frescoes of Madonna and Child from the same period. You’ll walk through the wrought iron gates to end to the church. Inside you’ll find artwork spanning multiple centuries. Like any ancient structure in working condition, this basilica was treated as a sort of work in progress updated every couple of hundred years. The structure sits on its original 4th century foundation, but most of what you see is preserved in its pre-12th century plan. Twenty two columns hold up the central nave and are thought to be taken from the Baths of Caracalla, that’s a 3rd century AD Roman bathhouse located near the Colosseum. Tilt your head back and you’ll see the coffered ceilings done by the great Domenichino. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s entirely gold or bronze, it’s actually richly decorated wood. The mosaics and the apps are over 700 years old and in stunning condition. This is a functioning church so it’s not uncommon to walk in as a mass is going on. You may even find me there as this is my local parish. Just footsteps away is Piazza San Cosimato. This is one of Rome’s last surviving outdoor markets. With much less foot traffic than Campo de’ Fiori, you’ll find fresh seasonal produce, meat and fish, as well as some extremely friendly locals. I guess you could call that the catch of the day, right? Flashback 2,000 years in this friendly Piazza would transform into what our historians believed was in ancient Roman naumachia. This is a walled-in area that was flooded and used for naval battles. The smarter politicians would often pay for these events to gain the praise of the citizens and, more importantly, their votes. Today, Trastevere offers a much more relaxing effect with its lazy piazzas, bars, and restaurants. Bar in English only means a place to get a cocktail or drink, but in Italian, it’s a place you go to for an espresso and traditional breakfast consisting of mouth-watering pastries. These bars have no shortage of locals willing to chat your ear off. You’ll also find plenty of farmers markets and organic shops. Organic is not a term used loosely here as many Italian farmers never adopted pesticides. Many would consider food here as sacred as a church. People do not take it lightly, such as the owners of Kilometro 0, which means zero kilometers. This name implies the food you eat all comes from one farm and is produced using organic products from that same farm. They bring the food to their shop in Trastevere, where you can taste it along with organic wines. If coming to Trastevere by foot, consider taking the Ponte Sisto, a beautiful pedestrian bridge connecting areas like Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona with Trastevere. The first stop over the bridge is Piazza Trilussa named after the Roman poet Trilussa, which is the pen name for Carlo Alberto Salustri. Trilussa is an anagram for his last name, Salustri. Trilussa was a local Trasteverino in love with Trastevere. He wrote poetry in Roman dialect, so it may be difficult to understand even for Italians. I like to compare him to Hemingway as he had an affinity for the bottle, writing much of his work drunk while meandering Trastevere only to wake up on a street corner the next morning probably forgetting what he wrote in the first place. Just around the corner is Villa Farnesina, a beautiful palace adorned with frescos by Raphael himself. It was owned by a wealthy banker named Agostino Chigi. Legend has it that he would invite influential Cardinals and the Pope of the era to extravagant dinner parties at his palace. And to demonstrate his wealth to his guests, he’d order his servants to just throw the gold dinner plates out the window into the streets instead of cleaning them. If you haven’t had your daytime cultural fill in Trastevere, be sure to visit in the evening. Even the bars are beautifully decorated with artwork. This one is called “Freni e frizione”, which means the brakes and the clutches. Apparently before turning into a local mixology spot, it was a mechanic shop. It’s famous for its abundant aperitivo and outdoor seating. This means that when you buy a drink, you get a free buffet of vegetables, pastas and other delicacies. Aperitivo is very common and part of the reason Italians eat so late. A large snack at 7pm after work with a drink will tide you over before your 9pm dinner. If you’re looking to get your wine fix in Trastevere, there is no better spot than then Vin Allegro. This little corner enoteca has a long wine list with something for all palates. They even serve meats cheeses and small plates to pair. Another one of my favorite places to get a drink in Rome is Pimm’s Good. They pride themselves on their beautiful mixed and presented cocktails. People think wine when they think of Italy, but Italians take pride in all the work they do, so it’s no surprise they make great drinks too. They also offer casual dining. You can sit inside and eat, but I recommend the outdoor seating. You can’t beat a view like this, if you can get a table. A great concept restaurant in Trastevere is Fish Market. Many people don’t realize that Rome is just 20 minutes from the sea and seafood is a primary part of the cuisine. At Fish Market, the hosts will seat you at a table and give you a paper menu and a pencil. Don’t bother waiting for a waiter. You have to go to the window to pick out what you want. They’ll weigh the seafood and mark it down on your menu, then you pay at the counter and they bring the food over little by little as it’s finished cooking. It’s a style dining more typical to the Italian region of Puglia and the Italians love it. My last recommendation for dinner is by far my favorite place to eat in Rome. For me, nothing even compares. It’s called Le Mani in Pasta, which means the hands in the pasta. I’ve been going here for over a decade and it gets better with each visit. They are famous for their fish, but serve all the typical Italian pastas and meats as well. Be sure to call ahead and make reservations a few weeks out and ask for non-smoking so you get a table upstairs. It is a place for adventurous eaters. Be ready to try new things. Don’t expect the cuisine here to be served the same as in your home country. Trust the waiters and you could have the best meal of your life. Thanks for tuning in! If you’d like to visit the places I’ve mentioned in this video, click the link in the description below to visit our blog. It has all the info about each place: addresses, hours of operation, everything. And wait! Don’t forget to click the subscribe button in the top left corner to see our other videos. You can also visit our website in the top right corner. The Roman Guy is a leading tour company offering the most memorable tours and experiences in Rome and all of Italy. Thanks again for tuning in, and we hope to hear from you soon!

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