Medieval Rome at its earthiest and in some areas, its most charming – that is Trastevere. Its name means 'over the Tiber', as it is separated from central Rome by this river that streams through the city. It used to be home to artisans during medieval times.
Part of Trastevere's charm is the warren of narrow lanes that lead to street-corner shrines and garden terraces. All around, there is plenty of local colors to be discovered and enjoyed. This includes cobblestone streets, vine-covered walls, homes adorned by flower boxes, and one-of-a-kind boutiques.
Trastevere is a great place for long, relaxing walks. The quiet lanes lead from over the Ponte Sisto (the graceful bridge) to Viale Trastevere and further south. Ponte Sisto is Renaissance in design and is made of bricks and stones. Meander through the alleys and make it like a treasure hunt – uncovering treasures such as old houses, little squares, and unpretentious restaurants. You will discover that your walk is actually a feast of the senses – the sight of the colorful houses, the smells of a home-cooked meal that waft from the houses, and the sounds of the locals going about their everyday business.
Start your foray in Trastevere at the Piazza di Santa Maria. The plaza features a central fountain, some bars, restaurants, and old houses. The plaza is always bustling with activity – jugglers, acrobats, comic skits are the norm. It is also where you can find Santa Maria's church, which is the oldest Christian temple in Rome. It dates back to the 3rd century. Legend has it that a fountain of oil appeared at the site where the church now stands. Inside, some mosaics are masterpieces by Pietro Cavallini. Cavallini is among the innovative artists at the turn of the 14th century.
Nearby Piazza Sant' Egidio is where you will find local artists hawking their wares – jewelry, crafts, candles, and other items that make for great souvenirs. Drop by Sant'Egidio's Museo del Folklore which features Roman life in modern times. There is also the Piazza Trilussa, the via del Moro, via della Scala and the Via Santa Dorotea. At the via del Moro, follow your nose to a popular bakery that sells scrumptious takeaway pizza. Further along, try the best Sacher torte you will taste this side of Rome. At Piazza Trilussa, go for a wine-tasting at Cantiniere, which offers Alsacian, Italian, and Californian wines and great food. Along Via della Lungara you can find the garden of Farnesina. It features a XVI century palace that is adorned by frescos, festoons, and terracotta cupids. You can also discover the Botanical Garden on the same street, which offers a great view, especially in spring. At Via Inundo, you will discover the cultural center founded by Nanni Moretti, the film director.
At Piazza San Cosimato, do a spot of shopping at its open-air market. Trastevere also has an English movie theater at Via Natale del Grande. Other attractions include Il Labirinto art gallery, Gelateria alla Scala (great ice cream!), and the Orto Botanico, a striking garden.
All in all, Trastevere is all about simple pleasures, simple joys. It is a great escape from the busy tourist traps that are to be found virtually everywhere.