Best things to do in Trastevere, Rome
One of the most popular Roman neighborhoods, there are several things to do in Trastevere that many tourists don’t even know about. Admittedly, the neighborhood is so quaint and picturesque, that many limit their visit to a stroll around its cobbled alleys and gentrified buildings.
In origin a land occupied by the Etruscans when they were fighting against the Romans for predominance, then workers’ district, then quarter controlled by the Vatican Kingdom, here you can even admire medieval palaces.
Before emperor Augustus, Trastevere was actually outside of the city of Rome. Only at the end of the republican age, buildings and houses started raising in the neighborhood aimed at workmen, artisans and tradespeople working in businesses and activities linked to the presence of the river.
In imperial age, Trastevere, which literally means “beyond the Tiber”, became the working-class residence area where all types of professions lived. From potters to leather manufacturers to millers, every profession had its own street connected to the other bank of the river via bridges like Ponte Sublicio.
Taking a walk around Trastevere’s alleys it’s possible to spot pieces belonging to imperial times. You will see pillars enclosed to modern palaces which are not just Roman “style”, but they were actually built during old imperial times. Embedded in Renaissance or more modern buildings, originally they were part of the porches (portici), covered passageways flanking the streets, very popular in ancient Rome.
For centuries, Trastevere kept its original features of a working-class, poor neighborhood where houses were an unorganized cluster of buildings and a tangle of narrow alleys with the main churches such as Santa Maria in Trastevere standing tall among the other buildings. Unlike the rest of the papal city where noble mansions stood out of the crowd.
Early 16th century, pope Julius II ruled the opening of two main roads, which correspond to modern Via della Lungaretta, Via della Scala and Via della Lungara, to connect the Vatican to Capitoline Hill and Palatine Hill.
The church of Santa Maria in Trastevere became the pulsing heart of the neighborhood, which remained a working-class neighborhood where no noble mansions nor cardinal residences were built.
Today, strolling around this charming gentrified neighborhood is what to do in Trastevere if you have limited time such as only one day in Rome. While this is a must, I always recommend visiting at least some of the most important landmarks. And if you are traveling with your family, it’s also a friendly neighborhood to be in Rome with a baby and a baby stroller.
Our simple Trastevere guide is aimed at making things easier for you to explore this fascinating neighborhood.
Trastevere guide – Table of content
- What to do in Trastevere
► Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica
► Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Basilica
► Santa Maria della Scala ancient pharmacy
► Have a great gelato
► Stroll around its alleys
► Visit Villa Farnesina to see Raphael’s frescoes
► Enjoy traditional foods
► Visit Trastevere local market
► Take a Trastevere food tour
► Take a stroll in the Orto Botanico
► Enjoy Trastevere nightlife
► Museo di Roma in Trastevere
- Where to stay
- How to get there
Top things to do in Trastevere in Rome
Duck into Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica
One of the main attractions and religious places, this is what to see in Trastevere even if you have only one or two days in Rome and are here for only a couple of hours.
The Basilica is thought to be the first official Christian worship place in Rome and certainly the first one devoted to the Holy Mary. The church was been built by St. Julius I in 340 on a sacred site and almost completely rebuilt by Pope Innocent II in the 12th century taking much of the marble from the Baths of Caracalla.
Outstanding its 12th-century bell tower and the beautiful mosaics on the facade and inside. The church is open every day from morning to evening.
Go underground at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Basilica
Santa Cecilia Basilica (Piazza di Santa Cecilia 22) is one of my favorite churches in Trastevere and Rome as a whole. Why? Because it has layers! What does this mean? That you can take a fascinating journey through underground Rome.
After visiting the medieval church set on the modern-day street level, do not skip its floors underneath. First, you will find a gorgeous, Byzantine-style crypt. One floor below this, you will be whirled to a domus, ancient Roman house, with plenty of relics and remains.
The church is open every day from 10 am to 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm. On Sunday, it’s open from 7.30 am to 6.30 pm.
Santa Maria della Scala ancient pharmacy
Santa Maria della Scala (Piazza della Scala 23) is a fascinating hidden gem in one of Rome’s most touristy neighborhoods. It’s an ancient pharmacy that has been operative from the 16th century up to the 20th. Today it’s possible to visit the rooms where the friars used to make their potions, medicines, and remedies for all ailments, but booking is mandatory.
It’s absolutely fascinating as you will be able to see the original Murano glass bowls and ampoules on their shelves, the ancient machinery and where they kept the herbs they used.
To book, you can either call them (+39 329 9740531) or send them an email ([email protected]). This is one of the official tour guides for the place, do contact them when you are planning your trip to Rome and specify that you need the tour to be English to avoid surprises.
Have a great gelato
In such a compact neighborhood, you will find no less than three shops serving some of the best gelato in Rome. Forget the fluffy, bright-colored mountains of ice cream you might encounter and head to the places serving the real deal.
They either have very limited or no seating facilities at all, so you will need to grab your gelato and enjoy it on the go or sit nearby. But they are worth it.
These are Otaleg (Via di San Cosimato 14) near Piazza di San Calisto, Fiordiluna (Via della Lungaretta 96) close to Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica, and Fatamorgana (Via Roma Libera 11), near Piazza San Cosimato, the place of a local daily market.
Stroll around its alleys
This is pretty much the first thing you will do in Trastevere. Its picturesque alleys, the typical gentrified buildings, the pillars of the porches from imperial times and the traditional local shops have their own appeal.
Most streets are pretty narrow for buses to pass so you will have to walk. Thankfully, it’s a pretty compact neighborhood with plenty of spaces to sit and relax, so it won’t feel any heavy but only a pleasant stroll.
Visit Villa Farnesina to see Raphael’s frescoes
This beautiful Renaissance mansion was built in the 16th century by banker and art fan Agostino Chigi from Siena, in Tuscany. Today, it bears the name of the powerful Farnese family that obtained it deceitfully in 1579.
Acquired by the Italian State in 1927, it was given in 1944 to the Accademia dei Lincei. Apart from the stunning architecture, a stop in Villa Farnesina is worth it because of the amazing frescoes by important artists, first among all Raphael Sanzio. This is also near where the same Raphael met and fell in love with Margherita Luti, known as “la Fornarina” due to her father being a baker, “fornaio” in Italian.
It’s open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm and the ticket is 10 euro.
Enjoy traditional foods
Even though a traditional neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to find touristy menus. There are many restaurants in Trastevere where you can enjoy a hearty traditional Roman meal. Try places like Da Enzo al 29 and Spirito Di Vino and order dishes like coda alla vaccinara, bucatini all’amatriciana or spaghetti alla carbonara if you are a meat-eater, or tonnarelli cacio e pepe for vegetarians. If you prefer a lighter meal, the Aromaticus bistrot is a great option.
For a quick lunch on the go, you can stop at Trapizzino for a pizza/tramezzino stuffed with Roman traditional recipes. Or at L’Antica Norcineria (Via Natale del Grande 15) of the Iacozzilli family where you can order the typical pizza bianca with mortadella cured meat, focaccia with the traditional porchetta.
Visit Trastevere local market
This farmers’ market takes place every morning except Sunday in Piazza San Cosimato and sells everything from fresh fruits and veggies, meat, Italian types of cheese, local produce and more.
If you are renting an apartment and want to cook at least one of the daily meals, this is the perfect place for your grocery shopping.
Take a Trastevere food tour
There are several food tours in Trastevere. We recently took the Twilight Trastevere Food Tour organized by Eating Europe and loved discovering new places and tucking into local delicacies.
With so much tradition well-kept here, eating your way around Trastevere is one of the best things you can do to get to know places probably only familiar to locals and enjoy more of what the area has to offer.
As one of the favorite neighborhoods, there are many food tours in Trastevere. If you like street food, Eating Europe organizes also Trastevere Streets Eats food tour.
READ MORE: Top Rome food tours
Take a stroll in the Orto Botanico
Not only narrow alleys and churches, Trastevere is also home to the Orto Botanico historical and relaxing green space. Easy to reach with a short walk from Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, this is the Botanical Garden operated and maintained by La Sapienza university.
Stretching from Via della Lungara and the Janiculum Hill, Orto Botanico is a fantastic place to visit in Trastevere with children. It took quite a long cry to drag my one-year-old out when time for lunch came. If we knew it was possible, we would have arranged for a picnic, like we saw many families were doing.
Rome’s historical Botanical Garden is one of the places where culture and nature blend harmoniously. Places on the archaeological area that were once Settimio Severo’s thermal baths, today you can see a large collection of plants and flowers, enter closed greenhouses, stroll around the lake, sculptures and historical buildings.
Open every day, the entrance fee is 4 euro. For children up to 6 years old, it’s free of charge.
Enjoy Trastevere nightlife
The nightlife is one of the reasons why Trastevere is so popular among young people, both tourists and residents.
Clubs, pubs for a beer or any other after-dinner drink, and restaurants, plus the same streets and piazzas with live concerts and street artists keep busy everyone and have some to please every preference. Famous among young people is the street-bar Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama 4) near Piazza Trilussa for a drink or an aperitif outside.
Pay a visit to Museo di Roma in Trastevere
Museo di Roma in Trastevere (Piazza Sant’Egidio 1/b) is a fascinating journey into Rome’s modern history. Paintings, watercolors and engravings will lead you to the discovery of a bygone city, its lost traditions and everything connected with the 19th-century folklore today hardly remembered.
You will see corners of the Jewish quarter and Trastevere that don’t exist anymore and traditions like the Rome Carnival that in the 1800s reached its highest splendor.
This museum in Trastevere organizes all the time also temporary exhibitions, often photography ones and others about other aspects of Rome and the artists that have depicted the city in their own style. I have seen the exhibition devoted to the famous American street photographer Vivian Maier.
Where to stay in Trastevere
There are several hotels in Trastevere for every budget. If you are on a budget, check out the guesthouse (affittacamere) Relais Le Clarisse, while if you prefer a higher-end hotel, VOI Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel is a lovely option.
How to get there
Arriving in Trastevere is pretty easy. If you are in the Jewish quarter, you just cross Ponte Fabricio bridge and the Tiber island.
If you are coming from the city center, either you walk to Campo de’ Fiori and you cross Ponte Sisto bridge, or you take the tram 8.
For those coming from any other part of the city, you can either take the tram 8 to Viale Trastevere or the train to Trastevere train station and then the tram 8 towards the city center and get off in Viale Trastevere at Mastai station.
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