Planning to visit Trastevere in Rome but unsure what to see? The area is far more than simply a bohemian district of the city. Trastevere is full of incredible and famous attractions and we listed them here to make it easy for you. Keep us in mind when you’re scheduling your guided tours ( ;
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11 Things to See and do in Trastevere, Rome
When you are done exploring Trastevere click on one of the below icons to see another area like nearby Jewish Ghetto or Campo!
1. Ponte Sisto
Ponte Sisto is one of Rome’s most popular pedestrian bridges which can be witnessed at night or in the day. This is due to its beauty but also the fact that it connects Campo de’ Fiori with Trastevere. Bath areas are buzzing with traffic almost around the clock and the Ponte Sisto connects them together.
The bridge was commissioned by one of Rome’s most famous Popes and builders; Pope Sixtus IV. This Pope gave his name to both the bridge and the Sistine Chapel. It was completed in1484 and built by architect Baccio Pontelli. While Baccio’s name is not spoken as much as Borromini or Bernini, he played a big part in Pope Sixtus’ urban renewal projects around Rome. He is responsible for the facade of a few of Rome’s most famous churches including S.M. del Popolo, S. Pietro in Vincolo.
The bridge, like most bridges, is supported by arches; 4 in its case. The interesting and rather cool part of this bridge is the central oculus that allows water to flow through if the river level rises. The oculus reduces the surface area on the bridge and allows water to pass through freely if water levels rise.
You’ll see an amazing view of St. Peter’s Basilica day and night from the Ponte Sisto. Try to snap a picture but the Basilica looks larger in real life than on camera!
2. Piazza Trilusa
The piazza was named after poet and drunk, Carlo Alberto Salustri. Salustri is more commonly known in Rome by his pen name Trilusa which is an anagram of his last name. Mostly forgotten today by the Roman youth, Trilussa’s poem and sonnets were once loved by locals as they were all written in the local dialect of Rome – Romano.
His poetry went deeper than just being written in dialect. Trilusa (Salustri) was born into poverty and his father died at age three which didn’t help is already desperate situation. He wrote anti-establishment and governmental poetry that instead put housekeepers and store clerks into the spotlight.
He spent most of his waking hours on his own in a bar or tavern drinking and writing – a sort of Italian Ernest Hemmingway. The statue of him in Piazza Trilusa shows him half-standing over a wall with a drunk look on his face. It could be argued that the popularity of Trastevere started with Trilusa. A popular figure of the time would draw locals across the river to the bohemian nature to live an artistic life.
3. Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Welcome to Trastevere’s most beloved and ornate churches. S. M. in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome dating back to 340 or so AD. What you see today wouldn’t reflect that of the 4th century. Only some of the columns, walls, and floorplan.
Santa Maria in Trastevere even has origins of worship prior to 340. Pope Saint Callixtus formed a sort of home-church here around 220 AD. It is proof that the Romans didn’t always persecute and martyr Christians as well. Emperor Alexander Severus, a pagan, allowed Christians to worship there openly.
There were a few restorations in the first millennia after Christ but the building didn’t start to take its modern form until the 12th century AD. The church is famous for many reasons and has three features that set it apart from most churches in Rome. First, its collonades lining the central nave which were likely taken from the Baths of Caracalla. These columns give this church an incredibly unique feel.
The columns feel almost completely out of place when combined with the utter opulence of this church’s golden coffered ceiling (second feature). It gives the space a super-rich Robin Hood-like feel.
The third area feature is in the 12th-century mosaics on the apse behind the main altar. At first look, you’ll likely think it is a fresco or painted leave but no – it is a massive mosaic adorned with gold. These features create what could arguably be Rome’s most unique church and almost definitely the treasure of Trastevere. Don’t miss this one.
4. Piazza San Cosimato Playground (Kids)
Piazza San Cosimato is a great piazza lined with bars and restaurants. There is a central market during the day which is dying but you can still find a few good stands that sell unique meats, fish, and cheeses. In the center, there is a small playground that you can let your kids plan on. It’s a simple local park and will give your kids the opportunity to mingle with locals.
5. La Chiesa di San Pietro in Montorio
From the front, the Church of Saint Peter in Montorio (Tomb) is one of the least attractive churches. I have a far nicer church (facade) down the street from my house outside Philadelphia. On the contrary, the inside is a treasure trove of artwork that you can see completely free. It is literally unbelievable what you will find behind the church’s front door.
The biggest attraction is the Tempietto which is a structure built in the interior cloister of the church. The structure sits on the site where St. Peter himself was crucified. Catholic or not, there are many historical facts behind Peter being in Rome and being martyred.
Regardless, it is a really impressive courtyard to stand in designed by none other than Donato Bramante himself! Not the Bramante from Florence’s duomo but the guy who designed one of the only other more impressive structures in Italy – St Peter’s Basilica. Yes, the basilica was built by Michelangelo but the design came from Bramante.
Vasari, Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, & Guido Reni
Not impressed? Ok – have you ever heard of Giorgio Vasari? Vasari has two frescoes in this church; both are ceilings located in the 4th and 5th chapels. Pretty impressive.
Michelangelo does not have any physical work in the church but he did supply some drawings and figures which are very recognizable for Sebastiano del Piombo’s Flagellation and Transfiguration which can be found in the first chapel (right).
Gianlorenzo Bernini designed the entire 2nd chapel on left known as the Riamondi Chapel. If his name doesn’t impress I would have to give up.
There are about a dozen other famous works that anyone who studied art would jump at and there used to be more. The church was the former home of the Transfiguration by Raphael and Guido Reni‘s Crucifixion of St. Peter. Both were moved to the Vatican and placed in the Pinacoteca. The Transfiguration is the highlight of that gallery inside the Vatican.
6. Belvedere del Gianicolo
The word Belvedere (Bell – vey – dare – ā) literally translates to a beautiful view and that is exactly what you’ll get. There are many amazing natural viewpoints in Rome but Gianicolo hill beats them all.
Located on the west side of Rome’s center, Gianicolo Hill is a favorite for all Romans. Take a loved one up there for a viewpoint date or go with friends and make good conversation. There is normally a stand that sells crappy sandwiches and overpriced beer you can buy from and enjoy the view over a drink and bite to eat.
If you are visiting Rome, you can take a taxi up here at night and walk back down into the center if you like. It is a really cool and local thing to do when visiting the city.
Address: Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi
7. Get a Drink or Aperitivo
Trastevere is very well known for its nightlife. You can have a drink at cheap bars with local college students or a glass of wine at one of many wine bars. Aperitivo is pretty cool as you can load up on a significant amount of food while drinking for no additional cost. I have replaced many meals with aperitivo at Freni e Frizione. They have copious amounts of food while many others simply offer some olives and crackers. Here are a few of our favorites:
Freni e Frizione – Via del Politeama 4
VinAllegro – Piazza Giuditta Tavani Arquati 114
Pimms Good – Via di Santa Dorotea 8/9
All of the above have outdoor seating! VinAllegro is best for wine-loving romantics and the other two are bustling cocktail bars.
8. Villa Sciarra
I wouldn’t put this on the absolute top of my life but if you are looking to get out of the way of tourists and do something local – sitting down on a bench at Villa Sciarra is pretty relaxing. Also, a cool break for kids while visiting Trastevere which is known for its small vehicles and mottos buzzing around.
Address: Vilal della Mura Gianicolensi
9. The Basilica of Santa Cecilia
Located on the quiet side of Trastevere, the Basilica of Santa Cecilia is a small and unassuming church from the outside that is filled with wonders on the inside.
The first thing you’ll notice is the quiet and beautiful courtyard with a central fountain lined by rose bushes and other foliage. You’ll see the humble facade by Ferdinando Fuga which was last updated in the 18th century.
Once inside, you’ll enter the central nave which is quite large but surprisingly under decorated compared to other churches you may have been to in Rome. What will draw you in is the alter or ciborium which was designed and built by Arnolfo di Cambio – an artist you probably have never heard of but you may do some research after soaking in the delicateness of this alter.
Santa Cecilia by Stefano Moderno
The centerpiece of the church and the main attraction is Stefano Maderno‘s Saint Cecilia statue. Saint Cecilia was a Christian martyred for her beliefs in the 3rd century. Likely by the same Emperor, Alexander Severus, who allowed Christians to worship at S. M. in Trastevere.
As I have written in many other blogs, many of the Christian martyrs were of the noble class or high ranking position in Ancient Rome. Many were martyred simply because they would not pledge allegiance to Rome which normally took the form of public sacrifice (not human) to the Roman gods. Something that is not allowed in Christianity – the whole golden calf thing.
While Moderno’s statue is the most famous of all works of art in the church, the real treat would be getting access to the crypt. It may be open while you are there or you may stop and ask whoever is watching over the church if you can go down. Either way, once down there you will feel as if you have joined a high-stakes illegal card game in the secret mansion basement owned by the Illuminati. Not in the texas chainsaw massacre type way – more like Angels and Demons.
Address: Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 22
10. Tiber Island
Legend has it that Tiber Island was formed over the corpse of Rome’s last (or antiquity) and most tyrannical King; Tarquinius Superbus. After he was overthrown from his tyrannical thrown he was taken to the Tiber and thrown into the river chained up and weighed down by weights. Slowly, sediment built up around his body, and Tiber Island was formed!
This is a complete legend and a great one at that! The legend derives from the fact that this island is not formed from a rock but sand that slowly formed in the river and now is home to multiple structures including the famous Tiber Island Hospital and a Gelateria.
In antiquity, it was home to the temple of Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing. There were many other temples built on the island which no longer can be seen including Tiberinus, the Tiber River God.
The Island is connected by two bridges; Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestius which are the two oldest functioning bridges in Rome. Both are functioning bridges today even know they have stood lived to see 4 millennia in their 2100 +/- years of existence.
11. Ponte Fabricio
Ponte Fabricio is one of Rome’s treasures. It is the oldest functioning bridge in Rome and possibly western Europe. There is a bridge in Sommerset England known as the Tarr Steps which would outdate it by about 1000 years but is an extremely primitive bridge. Ponte Fabricio is a beautifully designed bridge built in 62 BC.
The bridge was constructed by Lucius Fabricius who was a Roman Commissioner of Roads. This bridge has more famed over its sister bridge, Ponte Cestius, as it is the last functioning Roman bridge. Ponte Cestius was rebuilt multiple times and in 1886 was almost completely rebuilt when the Tiber river embankment was installed to better control floods (finally).
This bridge links you to the Tiber Island and the Jewish Ghetto and makes for a not only pleasant but historical journey. Walking across Ponte Fabricio directly links you to just about every famous Roman persona from Julius Caesar to Bernini and the great Popes.