Trastevere, Rome—Authenticity in the City
One way to get a fix on Rome is to establish your home base in Trastevere, situated on the left bank of the Tiber River, it’s one of the oldest and most authentic neighborhoods or districts (called a “rione”)in Rome—across from the Jewish Ghetto and Theatro Marcello.
I took a small flat for a month near Piazza San Cosimato, off the Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere—with its impressive church of same name and beautiful central fountain—scene of nightlife. This authentic Roman ‘hood provides an excellent location from which to launch your explorations of all major sites and some less well known. Contact Rich Greenbury at www.cribrentalsrome.info.
From Viale Trastevere, you can take tram, bus or hoof it easily to any sites around the city. Walking along the River Tiber, crossing at Ponte Sisto or other pedestrian bridges will give you sweeping panoramas in both directions. Cross-over where the little Tiber Island interrupts the river’s flow toward the coast—note how the water rushes around the prow of this boat-shaped piece of land—originally a land fill for the earliest Romans, now, the site of a hospital.
Back in Trastevere, don’t miss the somewhat eerie spectacle inside the Church of Santa Cecilia. According to history, Cecilia, patron saint of music, was buried alive after several attempts to snuff out her life failed. (When I visited, someone was practicing the organ—playing brooding chords making the setting even more mysterious.) The ghostly white statue of the saint is encased in glass and well lit. She is lying on her side and you can see the gash in her neck etched in stone forever. This is supposedly what the sculptor witnessed when her body was exhumed.
The church and surrounding square and by-ways make for great wandering. Small cafes, trendy shops, and a serious necktie maker (if you still have to wear one, it should be handmade, don’t you think?) La Cravatta (Via Santa Cecilia, 12) and gorgeous huge silk scarves for women.
A walk down this side street leads you to Piazza Ponziani—for a bit of refreshment and a seat in a tiny square off the grid, so to speak. We had a great Campari with sweet vermouth, prosecco and slice of orange. I can still taste it. Finding this quaint piazza may take you a few tried but it’ worth it. On the way, make a tour into the shop of Livia Risi, Stilista, (Via Vascellari, 37) designer, and oogle her utterly divine stylish hand made clothing. She is irrepressibly bubbly and adorable.
After a full day of site seeing, returning to the the “vias”, and “vicolos”of Trastevere feels like coming home—particularly around peaceful Piazza San Cosimato where a daily fresh food market is welcome respite from super markets here and at home. I am told the fish at the market come from Sperlonga (about an hour by car south of Roma and a great beach town) and there is cheese, meats, charcuterie, vegetables and fruits. If you eat what is in season, you can’t go wrong. This time of year, fresh squash flowers and artichokes are plentiful.
If you like to wander, this is the place to get lost. You can also walk up the steps on the sidestreet off Piazza S. Cosmato and arrive on top of the Juniculum Hill and find an oasis of greenery at or stroll Viale Adolfo Ludovecq—a park with many gurgling fountains all and dozens of graceful statues loafing in the trees and hedges. From there continue to the grand fountain at the top of the Janiculum Hill and find the steps that wind down the hill.
Back on terra firma, right off the main square, stop in at friendly NICKNOWEGO Café, WiFi ready for a steamy cappucino.
For dinner, the neighborhood near San Cosmiato has too many restaurants to call out just one or two. A hungry traveler will not be disappointed with local fare. If you are wise, you can eat a dinner for about $25 Euros—a plate of spaghetti about 8-12 Euros and pizza about the same.
I have wandered in alone and been treated well, and given all the time I want to contemplate what I saw during the day—the many civilizations piled on top of each other. Rome is a vibrant, gritty, insanely alive city.