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Trastevere’s Hidden Gems: Rome’s Trendiest Neighborhood

Rome’s stunning mix of ancient ruins, ornate churches, and unalterable atmosphere are recognizable to even those who have never been there. But once you’ve experienced the gargantuan Colosseum, the evocative ruins of the forum, the allure of the Spanish Steps, and the exceptional beauty of the Vatican and St Peter’s impossible dome, there’s a whole other world to explore — but let’s start with a short walk from Centro Storico. Whether you’re seeking local flavor in buzzy trattorias, under-the-radar sights, cocktail bars, or green spaces, consider this your guide to Trastevere on your Italy vacation, Rome’s trendiest neighborhood.

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What to See and Do in Trastevere

Trastevere’s explorable, narrow cobblestone streets are full of quaint cul-de-sacs and colorful but crumbling houses enlivened by religious shrines. The remnants of what was once a working-class district home to fishermen and merchants, Trastevere is a world away from classical Rome, a city of emperors and martyrs. Stroll through Trastevere, and its distinctly bohemian atmosphere becomes instantly apparent. Old faded facades come draped with tangles of ivy, cobbled streets are, for the most part, car-free, and after-dark, Rome’s chicest denizens fill the bar stools of fashionable cocktail bars and stylish restaurants in a warren of atmospheric backstreets.

How To Get to Trastevere

Walking to Trastevere from many of Rome’s major sights is simple enough — even for Rome first-timers. It’s a 20-minute stroll south of Vatican City and a scenic, history-filled skip through classical Rome and across the Tiber river from the Colosseum. You can also reach Trastevere by tram — the number 8 from Piazza Venezia — or the H bus from the Termini railway station, although its arguably better to stay within the leafy ambiance of Trastevere, in a chic design-led hotel or a homely B&B with inspiring Tiber Views. 

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Ancient Frescoes in the Basilica di Santa Maria

Some of the oldest churches in Rome are in Trastevere, and the Basilica di Santa Maria is said to be Rome’s first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. While dating back to the 3rd century, the stunning facade and bell tower were added in the 12th, and the portico in the 18th century. But the real treasures are inside: a 300-year-old wooden ceiling, columns scavenged from ancient ruins, a 12th-century mosaic of Christ and Mary in the apse, and a beguiling collection of Cavallini mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary’s life. After exploring the Basilica di Santa Maria head back outside into the Piazza Santa Maria to view the church from the outside alongside the pretty fountain in the square, a beacon for locals and travelers alike when the weather gets hot.

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Sunset Views from Gianicolo Hill

The 8th and highest hill of Rome, Gianicolo Hill (or Janiculum) offers some of the best views of the Italian capital. The walk isn’t too arduous and is ornamented with monuments to Garibaldi — the main one atop the hill in Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi. From here, sweeping panoramic views of the capital’s ancient cityscape: including the Colosseum and St. Peter’s wondrous dome are all visible, ideal for fiery sunsets punctuated by the endlessly fascinating stone and marble topography of ancient Rome. 

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Rome’s Botanical Gardens

It’s difficult to believe that the oasis of peace and tranquility that is the botanical gardens lies just minutes away from so many of Rome’s busiest sights. The Orto Botanico di Roma is at the foot of Janiculum Hill, filled with hundreds of intriguing, colorful plant species, and scenic walking trails leading through the various gardens: the palm gardens, the rose gardens, a whimsical bamboo forest, and a Japanese garden, delightful in the spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom.

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See Works by Raphael at Villa Farnesina

Set on the River Tiber and built as a home for a Sienese banker in the 16th century, the stunning Villa Farnesina is now a showcase for the Italian Renaissance, a beautiful combination of architectural design — intentionally spacious and overtly volumetric — and art painted directly onto the walls and ceilings. Grand loggias have phenomenal decorations including murals by the masters: Raphael, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (il Sodoma), and Peruzzi, who contributed a staggering collection of frescoes in the Salone delle Prospettive, culminating in an illusionary colonnade that looks out onto a bewildering and believable panorama of Rome in the 16th-century.

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Discover the Ruins of a 4th-Century Church

While there are plenty of hidden gems in Trastevere, there are perhaps non better hidden than the ruins beneath the Basilica of San Crisogono, a spot almost always empty, and unknown even to locals. The church itself dates to the 17th century but hides an archaeological excavation of a 4th-century church discovered in the early twentieth century. A small fee grants entry into the excavations, found at the foot of a set of stairs that lead from the sacristy, but it’s worth it for anyone with even a passing interest in Rome’s history. Once inside, an apse, a baptistry, and a secretarium are all visible, as well as the absorbing remains of medieval frescoes.

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An Artisanal Souvenir

A charming collection of artisan shops and musty workshops hung with tools and scraps of leather call Trastevere home, each nestled amongst cracking facades and table-topped cobbles. Walk the streets and alleyways to find chic boutique fashion stores, secondhand shops, leather-working workshops, stained-glass shops, and mosaic workshops, ideal for an artisanal gift or a souvenir keepsake from Roma Caput Mundi. 

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Bars and Restaurants In Trastevere

Drinking and dining opportunities abound in free-spirited Trastevere, with a lively nightlife that bubbles up like prosecco in bustling trattorias, fine dining rooms, characterful bars, and busy nightclubs… until they’re filled to the brim, and the groups overflow and gather on the sidewalk to finish their drinks.

 

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