The picturesque quarter is named because it lies on the other side of the Tiber river from the historic center (Tras = beyond, tevere = Tiber).
The area is no longer isolated from the center of Rome, but Trastevere still manages to feel like a small village in the middle of the Eternal City. If, that is, small villages come with cool mescal bars, hidden Renaissance villas, the best pizza of your life, and stores selling handcrafted goods you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Full of winding cobblestone streets, this area is the ideal spot to wander and get lost – but in order to help you find the best stops along the way, here is how to spend a day in Trastevere, Rome’s coolest neighbourhood.
Part of the serious appeal of Trastevere is that its traditional side manages to co-exist with the neighbourhood’s growing list of trendy cocktail spots, street art and edgy boutiques. The hot spots don’t open until after dark, so morning is the perfect time to experience the true Roman feel of the area by acting like a local.
Start with a coffee at Bar San Calisto (Piazza di San Calisto 3) – a retro coffee bar with décor that has hardly been updated since the 1960s. Take your espresso directly at the counter, or carry your cappuccino outside to the weathered tables that are filled with neighbourhood characters smoking and debating last night’s soccer match. If you’re feeling extra cheeky (or need some hair of the dog to get going after a late night) you can order your coffee as a “caffè correto” – served with a slug of grappa.
After the caffeine kicks in, take a quick wander over towards Piazza San Cosimato. Here you will find a typical Italian fresh market that sets up in the square until about 1 pm Monday through Saturday. The colorful stalls sell seasonal fruit and vegetables at prices cheaper than the supermarket, making this outdoor market the preferred place for locals to shop.
Since you are in the area, walk through the doors on the southeast end of the piazza to find the San Cosimato church. Between the church and the neighboring hospital are beautiful cloisters hidden away from the street. The halls are filled with scraps of ancient Roman ruins and completely free to visit – but most people have no idea they are even there.
If you are jonesing for an early carb-fix, pop into Le Levain (Via Luigi Santini 22). The authentic French bakery has eclairs and croissants for a decadent morning meal. And you are more than entitled to a few extra calories because to really see Trastevere, you have to climb the Janiculum Hill.
Now that you are halfway there, continue up the stairs on Via Goffredo Mameli to wind your way up the Gianicolo. Once at the top, you will find a thundering fountain that was featured in the opening scene of the Oscar-awarding winning film “La Grande Bellezza” (The Great Beauty). From the terrace in front of the fountain, you can see the rooftops of Rome stretch out before you.
After climbing Trastevere’s hill, you have earned yourself an indulgent lunch. Luckily, the neighbourhood has great options for dining out. Osteria der Belli (Piazza di Sant’Apollonia, 11) has fresh pasta and seafood dishes from the owner’s home region of Sardinia. Across Viale di Trastevere, family-run Da Enzo al 29 (Via dei Vascellari, 29) serves classic Roman food like carbonara and fried artichokes.
If street food is more in order, join the quick queue at I Supplì (Via di San Francesco a Ripa 137). The tiny shop serves pizza by the slice and has daily specials that include ready-made pasta. There is no seating to speak of, but there are a few high tables crowded with locals devouring the shop’s famous spicy marinara pizza and supplì – fried balls of risotto stuffed with mozzarella that you have to taste to believe.
Post-pizza, it is time to explore the picturesque streets that make Trastevere one of Rome’s most beloved districts. For an Instagram-worthy walk, continue past the main Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere Square, through Piazza di Sant’Egidio and onto to Via della Scala. Keep going down the cobblestone lane, stopping to take photos of the laundry flapping under the Italian sun, until you arrive at Via della Lungara. Here you’ll find Villa Farnesina – a villa that dates back to the 1500s. The noble residence is a hidden gem filled with frescoes by Raphael and other classic Italian artists, minus the crazy lines that form at other Roman museums.
Now that you’ve checked off a cultural stop, wind your way back to the center of the neighbourhood and down Via del Moro. The ivy-draped street is bursting with quirky shops like Polvere di Tempo (which specializes in artisan hourglasses and old maps), or Harvey Shoes (which sells custom hand painted Chuck Taylors).
Once the market stalls have packed up their wares and the small workshops are closing for the day, Trastevere sheds its village feel and becomes one of Rome’s most popular nighttime destinations.
As the sun sets, the squares slowly fill with street performers and students leaving class at nearby universities to seek out one of Italy’s most time-honoured traditions: aperitivo. Meant to “open the appetite,” an aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink that often comes with a free happy hour buffet. The most popular in Trastevere can be found at Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama, 4/6) – a cocktail bar in an old mechanic’s workshop that has an extensive vegetarian buffet.
If you are still hungry, snag an outdoor table at Ai Marmi (Viale di Trastevere 53). The lively pizzeria serves crispy-thin Roman-style pizza topped with everything from spicy salami to sausage and zucchini flowers. The rowdy vibe helps set the tone for an energized evening of bar hopping.
One of Trastevere’s coolest and most unexpected bars is La Punta Expendio de Agave (Via Santa Cecilia 8). The Mexican-style cantina specializes in dangerously good tequila and mescal-based cocktails and doesn’t skimp on the awesome south of the border design.
If craft beer is more your style, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà (Via Benedetta 25) has one of the best selections of microbrews in the city. The small pub with a long name can be found just behind Piazza Trilussa and attracts beer aficionados with its rotating selection of hard-to-find Italian craft beers.
After enjoying a few pints, catch a show at Live Alcazar (Via Cardinale Merry del Val, 14). Formerly an old-fashioned cinema, the movie theater has been converted into a music venue that regularly hosts jazz bands, DJs, and the occasional mid-week film screening. Throwbacks to the Alcazar’s cinema past include free popcorn from the cocktail bar, and the theater’s original red velvet chairs.
End the night at Cioccolata e Vino on Vicolo de’ Cinque. The tiny bar offers only one kind of drink – sweet liquor in an edible chocolate shot glass topped with whipped cream. Cheers!
Even though Trastevere is on the other side of the river from most of Rome’s major monuments, it is still only a short walk to the historic center. You can also hop on Tram 8 for €1.50 to travel quickly towards Piazza Venezia, which is at the heart of the city.
During summer, take the stairs at the side of the Ponte Sisto bridge down towards the river to experience the seasonal bars, restaurants and shops that open next to the water in July and August. Or, re-visit Piazza San Cosimato where free films are projected on an outdoor screen after dark.
Feel free to stop and watch the street performers in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere because some can be quite good! Just know that the crowds also attract pickpockets, so keep an eye on your stuff.