While our company’s goal is to provide unique and personalized travel experiences for our clients that does not mean that we are travel snobs disdaining all things deemed “touristy”.
If you are visiting Athens and don’t spend an evening in the Plaka you are missing out on some good fun (and good food as well) the same applies to the wine village of Grinzing outside Vienna or Montmartre in Paris. When in Rome therefore, do as the Romans do and devote an evening to wining and dining in Trastevere one of the oldest areas of the city and one of its most atmospheric.
In Italian, the famous Tiber River is spelled Tevere so Trastevere is “across the Tiber”. Before it had that name it was actually an Etruscan town looked on with concern by its Roman neighbors and referred to as the “Etruscan Bank”. As they did with much of the known world at that time the Romans conquered it but really did not colonize it.
Prior to Julius Caesar’s decision to “cross the Rubicon” the area was home to fishermen and immigrants from the near east particularly Jews and Syrians; Augustus, Caesar’s nephew made it part of Rome. During the middle ages this area was a filled with winding streets combining the former villas of the Roman nobility with the less grand homes of the poor. In the 15th Century cobblestones were added to facilitate the movement of carriages and the area stayed fairly constant into the modern era.
Today, the area is still comprised of winding cobblestone streets lined by homes from the middle ages and while it has developed into a tourist area, there are still areas that are particularly residential with flower boxes and lines of laundry crossing the street at the second storey level.
There is also an academic component with an American focus since the John Cabot University is located here as is the American Academy in Rome. This mixed use is reminiscent of the Latin Quarter in Paris around the Sorbonne.
Because of its diversity, the area is a good place to visit in either daytime or nighttime and you will be safe at any time. A good place to commence your daytime visit would be the market at Piazza San Cosimato because here you will experience the pulse of the community as the locals, or Trasteverini as they are called, come to shop for their daily requirements.
You should also take time to visit two of the oldest churches in Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, both of which were built in the time of Imperial Rome. The piazza in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria is also the major gathering place in the area where friends agree to meet before going shopping or dining. Speaking of dining, there are certainly many places to choose from but if you would like a light lunch try a tramezzini which is a sandwich cut diagonally and offering a variety of fillings.
It is in the evening however where the area comes alive as both tourists and Romans descend on the area for a delightful dinner in an elegant establishment or for the Roman version of grazing going from various dining establishments to try various small plates and a glass of wine.
While it is certainly possible, it is highly unlikely that you will have a bad dining experience no matter which option you choose so go ahead, be a tourist and meet the locals at the same time.