If you ask just about any native Roman where to find a "genuine" part of the city, it is highly likely that they will say you should go to Trastevere.
Just on the other side of the Tiber River — or the Tevere in Italian — from the core of ancient Rome, and literally named "across the Tevere," Trastevere long was a working class neighborhood for those who could not afford to live in Rome proper. These days, its narrow cobblestone streets and relatively modest stucco buildings that once housed laborers and fishermen are packed with trendy restaurants, bars, and shops.
Trastevere is too well known among visitors for travelgasm.com to consider it one of our forthcoming "7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Rome, But You Should," but it is not as loaded with tourists as the other side of the river. Among neighborhoods that tourists visit, it is our favorite in the city.
Furthermore, because Trastevere does not really have any particularly famous landmarks and much of the neighborhood is too small scale to accommodate bloated tour buses, it thankfully tends to attract mostly tourists that are a bit more independent. The line between tourist and expat also is quite blurry as the area is host to a handful of North American universities like the American University of Rome and the University of Waterloo Architecture School. The people having a lively English-language debate about the ideal street width at the table next to you in the trattoria very well might be more-or-less locals. Well, at least for a semester or two.
Trastevere has many small piazzas where people congregate, but the centerpiece of the neighborhood — particularly from a tourist's pespective — commonly is considered to be Piazza di Santa Maria with its beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria. You will want to take a gander at this square and church, but there are several others in the neighborhood. Some piazzas are little more than cluttered car parks, but our favorite one in the area is the Piazza di San Cosimato. Piazza di San Cosimato is a bit more out of the way, with vendors selling fruit and vegetables in the mornings and Italian families enjoying the space in the evenings. It still feels rather local.
Trastevere is a particularly good place to wander without a specific set of must-see attractions and spend your time eating, drinking, and perhaps shopping for trendy clothes and shoes from brands that are not yet famous. However — when wandering — pay attention to your surroundings, don't drink too much, and stay on streets with crowds of people, especially after dark. Trastevere does not have a reputation for danger, but it always is wise to be particularly cautious in any neighborhood known for its nightlife.
There are hundreds of places to eat and drink in Trastevere, many of which are well regarded by Italians. Your odds of choosing a restaurant or bar at random and enjoying the experience likely are higher than in other tourist-encrusted areas. Three places that we liked during our time in the neighborhood include Corsetti 1921 for creative Italian dishes, Osteria La Gensola for fish, and Fior Di Luna for small batch, organic gelato.
For bars, try In VINO Veritas for wine and live music, Bar San Calisto for a fun dive ambiance and what might be the cheapest beer in the city, and the truly unique Rivendita Libri Cioccolata e Vino for used books and lots of chocolate with or without alcohol.
If you are really into food and wine, you might also like to book a Four-Hour Food and Wine Tasting Tour that includes Trastevere. It is extremely popular and well reviewed.
For all its charm, some streets in Trastevere are people priority, relatively clean, and a lovely stroll whereas other streets are cluttered with parked cars, heavily vandalized, and much less pleasant. We have mapped out our preferred walk below. It sticks to the better walking streets when possible — most notably Via della Lungaretta and Via della Scala — connects several piazzas, and takes you back to the tram in a logical loop.
How to Get Here: Take Tram 8 to Belli or Bus H to Gioacchino Belli. If you are headed from the center of Rome (just across the river), walk one block forward (away from the river) to Via della Lungaretta and turn right to head to Piazza di Santa Maria. If you follow our suggested walk, Trastevere/Mastai is a convenient departure point, also on Tram 8.
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