Passeggiata 101: A Walk Through Rome’s Trastevere
The neighborhood of Rome’s Trastevere sits on the west bank of the Tiber River. A series of bridges connect it with Centro Storico, the historical center of mankind’s most powerful civilization. In these last 2,000 years, Trastevere (from the term “attraverso il Tevere” or “across the Tiber”) has constantly transformed itself. It started as the home of sailors and fishermen. The Roman aristocracy held naval battles in one of the piazzas. When many of Rome’s 300,000 slaves became free, they settled in the district. Later it became the city’s first Jewish settlement. In modern times, it was a hangout for 1960s and ‘70s writers, communists, artists and writers.
Today it has gentrified. Its narrow, windy, cobblestone alleys remain, today lined with cozy restaurants, rollicking bars, gelaterias, souvenir stands and boutique shops. It is immensely walkable, the perfect neighborhood for a walk at any time of day. The one below is less than a kilometer.
A Passeggiata Through Trastevere
Start your stroll, called a passaggiata in Italian, in Piazza Santa Maria across Ponte Sisto bridge from Centro Storico. It’s a huge piazza anchored by the 12th century Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome’s first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The piazza is the scene of many impromptu concerts from street musicians, and the center fountain is a gathering place for flirting youths at night.
Facing the church, go to the right down the serene alley called Vicolo della Fonte d’Olio. Ignore the graffiti on the wall. In Rome it’s unavoidable. Turn left onto Vicolo del Piede and curl left a short way until you reach the wall of the basilica. That’s Via della Paglia. Turn right and go past Grazia & Graziella, one of the more touristy restaurants in Trastevere.
Turn right onto Piazza di Sant’Egidio where on the left you’ll see the Museo di Roma. This is home to what’s arguably the city’s best photo exhibitions. At the end of the piazza is Gli Amici. The food is pretty good but the restaurant is more famous for giving jobs to disabled people and teaching them restaurant skills. Go to the right of Gli Amici onto Via della Pelliccia. At the Guerrini Enoteche, a good spot for local liquors, turn left onto Vicolo del Bologna. This is a beautiful alley lined with vine-ringed doorways. Bologna bends around a small piazza with parked cars and in another 50 feet you’ll find Dar Poeta, maybe the best pizzeria in Trastevere and named after a famous poet who once lived in the building.
A Beer and/or Wine Break Along The Way
Backtrack a bit to the little piazza and take Bologna left until it empties into Via Benedetta. Go left. For beer lovers, this is where you can take a break. Via Benedetta is home to two of the best birrerias in Rome. On the right is Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa, named for a football chant in the Roman dialect aimed at the losing team. Across the narrow road is Bir & Fud, a narrow bar lined with 30 taps of Italian craft beer and some of the best bar food in Trastevere. Like Ma Che, it’s owned by Manuele Colonna, considered the father of Rome’s craft beer explosion.
Continue up Benedetta to Piazza San Giovanni della Malva, lined with outdoor restaurants and shady spots for a beer or glass of wine. At the end of the small piazza, take a right onto Via di Ponte Sisto to Piazza Trilussa. Take another break at the piazza’s 17th century Acqua Paola fountain, restored in 2014. If you arrive during the day, you’ll have much of the staircase leading to the fountain to yourself. On warm summer nights, however, the locals pack the area.
At the other side of the piazza is Enoteca Ferrara, a very good wine bar. Walk to the right of Ferrara up Via del Moro. It’s a quiet commercial street. Window gaze at all the different globes in Polvere di Tempo at No. 59. Check out the illustrated sneakers in Acid Drop at No. 14. Go to No. 45 and thumb through some books at the small, independent Almost Corner Bookstore. This is one of the few English-language bookstores in Rome.
Turn right onto Via della Pelliccia where you’ll find an ATM. Then continue onto Piazza di Renzi. Locals have been hanging out at Augusto’s outdoor tables sipping wine since 1954. Backtrack to Moro and turn right to Via Lungaretta. It’s one of the biggest roads in Trastevere, filled with pedestrians and sidewalk hawkers.
Speaking of Aldo Moro…
Go right onto Lungaretta and return to solitude by turning right through Piazza San Rufina . This takes you onto Arco di San Calisto. Then go right to Via Fiernaroli, a lovely, quiet street where a local water polo player runs a low-key bar run called Take Your Time at Via Fiernaroli 4. Go right onto Fiernaroli and continue until it dead ends at Via Fratte di Trastevere. This is the street where Frank Giuseppucci worked in his father’s bakery before founding the Banda della Magliana, a notorious fascist gang in 1970s tied to the murder of politician Aldo Moro.
Go right about 50 feet and then right onto Via San Francesco a Ripa, another large street. Here you’ll find yourself in Piazza San Calisto and the famed Bar San Calisto. In the 1960s and ‘70s, artists, writers and communists met here to mull the pressing matters of the day. Nowadays, yuppies and some knowing tourists have taken it over. But it still has some of the cheapest beer in town at 1.50 euro for a bottle of Peroni.
It’s a good place to end your walk and decide what place you passed you’d like to return to.