Rome: How to spend the day in Trastevere

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Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Hanging out in the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Photo: Yukino Miyazawa

By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—

Rome wasn’t built in a day… and you certainly can’t uncover all of its treasures in a day, either. But something you can do is uncover the city’s beauties neighborhood by neighborhood, devoting a day to each one. Which better neighborhood to start off with than the charming quartiere of Trastevere!

Most locals consider Trastevere, which literally means “across the Tiber,” to be the most authentic and charming part of Rome. This despite the neighborhood’s gentrification, due to its increasing popularity with American and international students and tourists.

It’s no wonder that everyone wants a piece of this picturesque part of the city. You’ll find yourself charmed by its winding alleyways and cobblestone streets, many of which are pedestrian only. And you’ll be delighted by its traditional mom-and-pop trattorias and the abundant array of restaurants and cafés from which to choose.

Here’s my guide to spending the perfect day in Trastevere. Get started early!

9 a.m. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere

Start off your day at the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere by having a cappuccino and cornetto (croissant) at any one of the cafés that surround the square. If you start off early, before the commuter crowd gets off to school and work, you may just have the piazza to yourself.

It’s not hard to guess what makes this piazza so wonderful. By day, you’ll witness locals and tourists alike gazing up at the golden mosaics of the Santa Maria in Trastevere church glimmering in the sun. The Basilica, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is also one of the oldest churches in Rome.

By night, this piazza is a totally different scene. The piazza livens up with its street performers, vendors, diners and a whole lot of people watching!

10:00 a.m. Piazza San Calisto

Next, head on down to Piazza San Callisto where you can witness locals shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the mercato. It’d be a good idea to pick up some fruit for yourself here to take with you on your tour.

10:30 a.m. Shopping or church

If it’s a Sunday, you’ll definitely want to hit up Rome’s largest mercato delle pulci (“flea market”) at Porta Portese (Via di Porta Portese). There’s nothing like spending a few hours scouring this street market for deals. Bat those pretty eyelashes of yours and ask the vendor for a “piccolo sconto” (a small discount) and you’re bound to get him to slash his prices by a euro or two. The street market feels miles long, with stalls and stalls of second-hand clothes, accessories, antiques, paintings and furniture. Just be mindful of your wallet and purse, as the later it gets, the more popular it becomes with pick-pockets.

If it’s not Sunday, you’ll want to head over to the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Church (Piazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, 22) for some great frescoes. In particular, pay close attention to the Last Judgment fresco painted by Pietro Cavallini. Another striking thing to marvel is the sculpture of Saint Cecilia, after whom the church is named. The white marble statue shows the saint with her head half-severed and lies just below the main altar.

Noon. Lunch at Da Enzo

Da Enzo (Via dei Vascellari, 29) is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with only about 10 tables or so. But that’s what makes it so good. A definite must-try for appetizers are the carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style fried artichokes). For pasta, try one of their classics: arrabbiata (spicy tomato), amatriciana (tomato, onion and pancetta) or carbonara (egg and pancetta). Throw in a bottle of their house wine and some tiramisù, and you’ll come out paying roughly €25 per person. Not bad for such a great meal!

3 p.m. Museum of Rome in Trastevere

After lunch, whip back around to the other side of Viale Trastevere to visit the Museum of Rome in Trastevere (Piazza Sant’Egidio). The museum dates back to 1601 and is located in a historic building that was once a convent. In 1970, the building became a place for preserving and showcasing Roman folklore, poetry, dialect and traditions. Later it underwent a facelift and reopened in 2000 as the Musuem of Rome in Trastevere, which today hosts exhibitions (many dedicated to photography), shows and conferences.

6 p.m. Window shopping

Spend an hour strolling and gazing at the boutiques around the Santa Maria in Trastevere area.

7 p.m. Aperitivo

When 7 p.m. rolls around, Romans head for the bars that offer “aperitivo.” Aperitivo is sort of like an American “happy hour” without the 2-for-1 drink specials. Instead, with the purchase of a drink (usually around €7-10), there’s a buffet of finger food for you to feast your appetite on.

My pick for Aperitivo, Freni e Frizioni (“Shocks and Brakes”), located at Via del Politeama, 4, is a mechanic shop-turned trendy aperitivo hangout. Just around the corner is another good spot, Friends (Piazza Trilussa) where hipsters tend to hang out at night in the piazza.

9 p.m. Dinner

My pick for dinner is Dar Poeta, located at Vicolo del Bologna, 45. Some of the best wood-oven pizza can be found here. The amatriciana and fior di zucca pizzas are a must try!

Have extra time?

In case you have more time in the neighborhood, some other places to check out are: Villa Farnesina, Gianicolo Hill, the Church of San Pietro in Montorio and the Church of San Francesco a Ripa.

Your favorite spots in Trastevere?

What did we miss? Have a favorite place to visit in Trastevere? Tell us about it in the comments section.

About the author

Nicole Arriaga

About the author: After her first trip to the Bel Paese in 1999, Nicole Arriaga knew she would one day return permanently in search of the good life. Before moving to Rome in 2003, Nicole worked as a TV producer and a writer in sunny Miami. She has written for Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The American and various other travel publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and as a programs coordinator for a study abroad organization in Rome.

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2 thoughts on “Rome: How to spend the day in Trastevere”

  1. I was there two years ago and was surprised to see the entire square was filled with street vendors. I think there was a street fair going that weekend, there were artists painting and selling there art, people playing different kinds of music at each end of the square. The eating places had an area where people could sample each places foods so they could decide if they wanted to have dinner there. Overall it was a great day, we spent some time in the church and in some of the shops in the square but spent most of the time looking at the street fair vendors.

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  2. For any art history student, or tourist for that matter, the Tempietto should not be missed. Created by Bramante, it’s the first official masterpiece of Italian High Renaissance architecture, and it’s located in Trastevere at San Pietro in Montorio. When I went, I thought it’d be crowded for sure, but it wasn’t. I was able to get VERY close to it, which was a real treat. It’s free! Don’t miss it!

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