Trastevere is a neighborhood of Rome that has developed a reputation for being a tourist trap over the past few decades. If you were looking for a memorable meal in Rome, most people wouldn’t point you towards Trastevere, but to more burgeoning zones farther from the center. While it is true that Trastevere sees her fair share of tourists and can hardly be considered “off the beaten path” anymore, there are definitely some gems for those willing to look. Besides being ancient and beautiful, Trastevere has a distinct personality that makes it feel different from anywhere else in Rome.
Due to its geographical location, Trastevere developed separately from the rest of Rome. It was a place where foreigners and fishermen settled, long before Trastevere became a magnet for artists, writers, and revolutionaries. Trastevere’s history has ancient origins, and its composition has always been changing.
Now, Trastevere can be an expensive place to live. The center of Trastevere (near Piazza Trilussa) is full of international students (I was one of them!), and come March the tourists start trickling in as well. Many people see this and say that Trastevere has lost its “authenticity,” but authenticity is a tenuous thing. Trastevere’s locals won’t let their city descend into amusement park status. The thirteenth district of Rome is charming and complex, with layers of history and culture wrapped up in picturesque packaging. Writing Trastevere off is lazy; spend a weekend there and find out why.
4 pm – Check in to your hotel in Trastevere
Preferably, you’ll be staying in Trastevere rather than in the historical center. This will give you more of a chance to absorb Trastevere at her best (early mornings and late evenings). A great place to stay is around the Piazza di San Cosimato, which is about a 12 minute walk from Piazza Trilussa, the hub of all student and tourist activity in Trastevere. Staying around here, or even a bit further south (or east) in Trastevere, will give you a more “local” experience. Get out, walk around, and start getting a feel for this beautiful district of Rome. You’ll soon realize that Trastevere is bisected by a main road (Viale di Trastevere). On the left side lie the majority of the restaurants, shops, and tourists, the right side is more residential – however, many of the best restaurants lie on this decidedly less touristic side.
7 pm – Aperitivo
Trastevere has no lack of picturesque bars with outdoor seating at which one can enjoy an aperitivo. My regular is Bar Capirotti dal 1921, which is situated in Piazza San Cosimato (#34). Order a spritz or a negroni (or a lighter negroni sbagliato) and with it will come an assortment of chips and nuts to snack on as you watch local kids play soccer in my favorite triangle-shaped piazza.
8:30 pm- Dinner at Da Enzo al 29, Da Teo, or Roma Sparita
If you’re only spending a single weekend in Trastevere, you’re going to have to make some difficult food choices, so I leave it up to you which of these three restaurants you choose for dinner on your first night.
Da Enzo al 29 is a perennial favorite, they do an excellent job of sourcing local, seasonal ingredients and preparing delicious, slightly creative dishes. Their set menu is fairly standard, but the specials are where this restaurant really shines.
Da Teo is a Trastevere institution, and they do Roman really well. If a Roman Trattoria experience is what you’re after, give Da Teo a try.
Roma Sparita is the place to go if everyone in your party wants to try truly decadent cacio e pepe; the only other thing on the menu I can vouch for is their grilled vegetable antipasto. The waiters are flirty, the pasta comes in a bowl made of fried cheese, and the whole thing is a little gimmicky, but darn it their cacio e pepe is good.
11 pm – Gelato at Fatamorgana
Are you still with me so far? If you are, and you’re staying near Piazza San Cosimato, you’re in luck. Fatamorgana gelato, a small Roman chain, has an outpost in the Piazza San Cosimato (you might start sensing a theme here). Fatamorgana does not use any powders, artificial coloring, or anything unwholesome to make their gelato. I’ve done my best to try every flavor, but it is simply not possible. I highly, highly reccomend the ricotta e agrumi (ricotta with citrus) flavor, which tastes like a cannolo; or basilico, noci, e miele (basil, walnuts, and honey) which is wonderfully refreshing after a heavy meal.
11:30 pm – Bedtime, or…
I would be remiss if I didn’t, at least briefly, tell you about some of the bars in Trastevere. If you’re tired, or don’t feel like drinking on the streets with the mix of students and tourists Trastevere is typically flooded with, going to bed isn’t a bad idea. But, if you’re a glutton for punishment, drinking in Trastevere can be a lot of fun.
Bar San Calisto is on every list of famous bars in Rome, so I don’t need to tell you too much about it, except that the drinks are absurdly cheap and the bar insanely crowded. Bar San Calisto has a truly strange crowd. Many students are too intimidated by the obviously local population that seems to always be sitting outside the door, so this bar is one of the few in Trastevere where you’re likely to hear more Italian than English. Decent negronis, beers and sgroppino (lemon gelato flooded with vodka) for cheap make this one of my favorite bars.
If you really want to get away from it all, head to Stavio, which is very far away from all of the students in Trastevere. Stavio has an excellent beer selection and a much more low-key crowd.
La Punta is a Mexican restaurant in Trastevere, and while the food is good, you’re really here for the drinks and the ambiance. The drink menu is creative and tequila heavy, and the bar is upbeat and colorful. Another spot you’re unlikely to run into students.
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa has an incredible selection of craft beer. The bar is tight so you’ll probably end up drinking outside, but that’s part of the fun. It is much closer to Piazza Trilussa, so expect a younger crowd.
Freni e Frizioni has a very creative cocktail list which sometimes hits and sometimes misses. Some cocktails, while beautiful and intriguing, can be a little disappointing. However, they have an excellent outdoor space, almost like their own piazza.
8 am – Rise and shine and get some espresso!
Caffè is truly the best part of the day. Bar Glorioso is my bar for my daily caffeine hit (or two, or three, or four…) The barista, Marco, is no-nonsense and not too chatty, which is exactly what you need before your first coffee. Belly up to the bar, order a caffè or a cappuccino, hand over some coins, and be on your way.
9 am – Market time
Have you dreamed about a perfect, outdoor market where local farmers, butchers, and cheese mongers sell their wares in a beautiful, historic piazza under the Roman sun? You were probably dreaming about the Mercato San Cosimato. I cannot vouch for every vendor in the market, but I can, without hesitation, send you to Marco and Alfredo, who have the best produce around. To find them, from the bottom of the market (facing the permanent wooden stalls) look left, they’re at the left corner right below the fishmonger (who is also very good).
Il Panettiere di San Cosimato is another gem in my favorite piazza of all time. It’s a family operation, with all of the bread and pizza regularly coming in, freshly baked, from a brother’s bakery in nearby Testaccio. The pizza rossa is my breakfast every day, order un pezzo and gesture the size with your hands. Make it a small piece, because we’re not done eating yet.
Antica Caciara Trasteverina is not a part of the market, it is a permanent cheese and salumi shop nearby. If I had to choose my favorite shop in Trastevere, this would be it. Roberto, the owner, has worked there for over 50 years, and the shop has been there for over 100 years. Along with his wife, Anna, Roberto curates a selection of incredible local meats and cheeses. They have a vacuum seal machine in store, so you can take any of the products home with you. The Antica Caciara is such an incredible place where everyone is known and made to feel welcome. The fact that they have the best ricotta in the world doesn’t hurt either.
Right next door to the Antica Caciara, as luck would have it, is the supplì place, also known as La Casa del Supplì. The supplì is a Roman rice ball, and it’s classic for a reason. Jostle your way to the front, hand over a euro and some change, and eat it, steaming hot, on the street. These are some of the best supplì in Rome.
12 pm – Villa Farnesina
Beyond the Porta Settimiana, Trastevere hides the Villa Farnesina, a gorgeous Renaissance Villa with a fresco by Raphael. Head over there and poke around the gorgeous garden and villa while you work up an appetite for the rest of the day.
2 pm – Lunch time, or take a tour with us!
After all of that walking around, you probably want a quick bite to eat. Don’t let the fact that you had pizza for breakfast dissuade you from having pizza again for lunch. At La Renella, you can grab a slice from one of dozens of delicious options, my favorite is the pizza bianca with red onion and nothing else. Or, if you really don’t want more pizza, you can grab a panino. Ask for the mortadella in pizza bianca. Take it to go and walk down the street to Piazza Trilussa, a historic and beautiful piazza. At night, it’s absolutely full of people, but during the day you can usually sit calmly by the fountain and look out on the Ponte Sisto while enjoying your lunch.
Or, if you want to experience Roman pizza rather than pizza by the slice, lobby for a table at neighborhood favorite Dar Poeta. Dar Poeta stopped being a “cool” place to be a while ago, but the pizza is still solid. Try the Lingua di Fuoco if you want something a little spicy.
You can also take a tour with us in lieu of a traditional lunch, we promise it’ll fill you up! We offer personalized, guided tours through Trastevere (as well as the neighboring Jewish Ghetto).
4 pm – Do some shopping
Trastevere has an abundance of kitschy, cute little shops. The Almost Corner Bookshop has an excellent selection of books in English, while the Libreria Minimum Fax has great books, especially children’s books, in Italian. There are some great clothing stores, including the Butcher and the Frankenstein Shop di Flavia Servili. In Piazza San Cosimato there’s a unique little kitchen supply store, aptly called Kitchen.
8 pm – Dinner at La Tavernaccia da Bruno
La Tavernaccia da Bruno is not strictly Roman, but it is one of the best restaurants in the city. Try everything on the menu, but especially don’t miss the hand cut prosciutto or the suckling pig entree.
10 am – Trastevere stroll
Grab an espresso then hit the streets. You’ve already seen plenty of Piazza San Cosimato, but Trastevere has many other piazzas to explore. The Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere is said to house the oldest fountain in Rome, which is accredited to Bramante, with later additions by Bernini. The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is also beautiful and remarkably old, but restorations to the outside of the church have been taking place for some time now, slightly obscuring the view.
If you’re craving some greenery, Sapienza University has gardens you are free to visit which are located outside the Porta Settimiana, near to the Villa Farnesina.
If you want to do some shopping, there’s the Porta Portese flea market, only open on Sundays. You’ll surely recognize this market if you’re a fan of Italian cinema; it’s worth a stroll around even if you don’t want to buy anything.
12 pm – Lunch
Many restaurants in Rome are closed on Sundays, but there are a few good ones that stay open. Ivo a Trastevere is open on Sunday and is known for pizza, but they also do pasta very well. For something light, you might want to try Le Levain, which is definitely not Italian but makes excellent croissants and pastries.
3 pm – Ciao, Trastevere
With a newfound appreciation for Trastevere and all of the beauty and delicious food it has to offer, head on to the next stop on your journey.
Although with its cobblestoned streets and peach colored buildings Trastevere seems like a fairy-tale frozen in time, the reality is it’s not. Real people still work in Trastevere and call it home. By frequenting small restaurants, vendors, and shops such as these, we as travelers can play a part in helping to maintain the character of wherever we visit.
When to go
Ideally, you’ll be visiting Trastevere between September and March. The weather in the winter may be cool, but you’ll be one of only a few tourists instead of one of thousands.
Trastevere has its own train station. From Termini, you can hop on a train there, or take the number 8 tram from Piazza Venezia.
Where to eat
Fatamorgana (Via Roma Libera 11)
La Casa del Supplì (Via di San Francesco a Ripa 137)
Where to shop
Les Vignerons great selection of local, natural wine
Il Panettiere di San Cosimato (Piazza San Cosimato 45)
Where to stay
Julia Terranova is a Brooklyn born, Italian-American student with a love of Rome and all things Italy. She spends her time cooking for friends and reading as many cookbooks as she can find.