So you’re off to the Eternal City. Well, you won’t be short of things to see and do, so the only big question is where to stay? The good news is you have plenty of choice. There’s Prati, home of the Vatican (with views of St. Peter’s Basilica and the feeling that, perhaps you’re a little closer to the ear of the Big Guy). Or Monti (a wonderfully ‘central’ location, conveniently situated between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia). And Testaccio, not a ‘pretty’ district but definitely authentic.
And then there’s Trastevere. Now, having spent the best part of two months here, I can say without hesitation that my heart belongs to this neighbourhood.
Trastevere (meaning ‘Beyond the Tiber’) is located on the west wide of the river, south of the Vatican. Historically a working-class neighbourhood, full of tiny houses coloured yellow, orange and pink, it still has a somewhat Bohemian air.
The tiny, narrow streets are reminiscent of medieval times; its alleyways a veritable labyrinth. Packed full of tiny stores (selling artsy clothes and bijoux jewellry), it’s the perfect place to get lost in Rome. Traditional thin-crust pizza, artisan gelato, splendid churches, hipster bars and coffee shops aplenty, it would take a true ‘Hard-Hearted Hannah’ not to be charmed.
Unfortunately, the word is out and the main drag of the area is, quite often, jammed with tourists. The good news, however, is that it’s quite easy to walk five minutes and find yourself in a parallel universe - an area where very few locals speak English and life passes at a very Mediterranean pace (i.e. no-one is in much of a hurry).
Piazza San Cosimato, where I stayed, and its surrounding sidestreets, will give you the perfect opportunity to practice your faltering Italian. Sip a coffee at Cipriani and watch octogenarian men outside, chatting away in the sunshine. Then grab a slice at Boccaccio or Suppli (where you can order pizza by weight) before indulging at Fata Morgana (a gelateria famous for its most unusual flavours). Walk along the river, admiring the view, then after watching the sun go down hunt out the nightlife, of which you are spoilt for choice.
And the piazzas of Trastevere, like most of Rome’s piazzas, are heavenly. My local, San Cosimato, has hosts a Farmer’s Market, each Monday to Saturday, where the freshest produce imaginable is on sale - think satiny purple aubergines, plump, red tomatoes, earthy brown potatoes, creamy white cheeses and a staggering array of fresh fish.
There’s also Trilussa (slap bang on the river, and full of students) and Santa Maria (home to the astonishingly beautiful church of its namesake). These piazzas are the beating heart of the neighbourhood - a place to grab an espresso, meet a friend, greet a neighbour, stroll aimlessly or simply sit and watch the world pass you by
To say I am charmed with everything I experience here is a great understatement.
Trastevere - you’ve stolen my heart.
To be continued...