Trastevere is one of Rome’s oldest quarters and also the capital’s main night-time area, with its myriads of narrow, meandering streets and alleys and its cheerful and cozy collection of restaurants and pubs, often still run by the same families that ran them 50 years ago.
The name Trastevere (pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, thus Tras-TAY-ve-re) is a combination of the words TRA (between) and Tevere (the Italian name of the river Tiber). Since the main part of the rione (which is the official word used for the most central and important districts of Rome) lies in a bend of that river, it is called Trastevere.
Nowadays one of Rome’s liveliest quarters, only a century ago Trastevere was only populated by prostitutes, sailors and pick-pockets. The first inhabitants of Trastevere were mostly freed slaves and Jews. The latter were businessmen and made their money thanks to the vastness of the Roman Empire.
Main Trastevere tourist attractions
The main church of the rione is the Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is the first Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Church of San Pietro in Montorio, which was built in the spot where Saint Peter was crucified, contains the Tempietto di Bramante. It is located halfway up the Janiculum hill, which leads to Piazza Garibaldi and to a beautiful view over the city. The botanical garden (Orto Botanico) is very interesting used to be part of the Palazzo Corsini, which is now the seat of the Galleria Corsini.
Streets and squares
Trastevere has many picturesque little streets like the Vicolo dell’Atleta (with the ruins of a medieval Synagogue), the Via della Lungara and the Via della Lungaretta. The main street running through the area is the Viale Trastevere itself, which is not particularly interesting.
The most important square is the beautiful Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Other picturesque squares are the Piazza di Sant’Egidio and the Piazza in Piscinula.
On Sunday mornings Trastevere forms the background to Italy’s biggest flea market. Here you can buy anything from safety pins to (more or less) antique pieces of furniture. There are many pick-pockets and the prices of the wares on offer go up when your hair is blond. Don’t be afraid to haggle.
Recently it has become easier to reach Trastevere from the center of Rome. Tram line number 8, which used to end at Largo Argentina, now travels all the way to Piazza Venezia, the central square of the Eternal City.
There are no metro stops in, or even near, Trastevere.
Do not visit Trastevere by car, since finding a parking spot anywhere remotely near the area is usually impossible.