We first visited Rome 12 years ago, aged 19, on our first ever backpacking trip – a whirlwind one month interrailing tour of Europe. One of our strongest memories of Rome is heading over the river to the neighbourhood of Trastevere where we joined locals in a bustling trattoria, tables crammed together, service surly, but the food was some of the best on our trip. We loved the neighbourhood, so when we finally returned to Rome last week we knew we wanted to stay in Trastevere.
Our first impression was disappointment: Trastevere had changed. It’s inevitable of course, but we weren’t quite prepared for the number of tourist menus, souvenir shops and Americans clutching tubs of pringles under their arms. It’s no longer a neighbourhood just for locals – the secret is well and truly out.
But as we explored we rediscovered our love for Trastevere. The tourists are mostly confined to one or two streets and the further you get from the river the quieter it is. As with many cities in Italy wandering down side streets is rewarded.
With or without the crowds Trastevere is gorgeous. The winding narrow cobblestone streets are the perfect place to get lost. The atmospheric crumbling buildings are dripping with ivy, balconies enlivened with geraniums, washing dangling below.
And it’s quiet, relaxed, with far less traffic than in other parts of chaotic Rome. It feels more like a small town than a capital city. Yet, it’s still a convenient location with the Vatican, centro storico and the Colosseum all within a 30 minute walk away.
There aren’t any major attractions in Trastevere but that’s a good thing as the tour buses stay away. While we thought there were a lot of tourists here at first, a trip to the Colosseum one afternoon changed our mind. Wow, that’s what a lot of tourists looks like!
This neighbourhood is more about strolling the streets, people-watching in a piazza, meeting friends for dinner or a drink. There are plenty of restaurants, and by avoiding the places with tourist menus we never had a bad meal. In summer the tables spill out onto the streets and the atmosphere is festive.
By the end of our week in Rome we’d fallen in love with Trastevere again and still think it’s the perfect place to stay in Rome – it’s beautiful, central and relaxed. Just don’t expect to be the only tourists around – for that we’d recommend Testaccio which we visited on an Eating Italy food tour. It’s not as pretty as Trastevere but it’s very local and the food is fantastic – no tourist menus in sight.
Our Apartment in Trastevere
We stay in apartments whenever we can so for Rome decided to use Roomorama again. We first used this apartment booking site for our apartment in Bangkok and were impressed by the range and value of the accommodation on offer.
We stayed in two apartments in Trastevere – both in the same building on a quiet street near the river. Both studio apartments had a similar layout with loft platforms built under the beams to create extra space for a bedroom, and they are stylishly designed.
Our first apartment Country Trastevere was smaller but made ingenious use of all available spaces so managed to fit in a washing machine, dishwasher and oven (which the second apartment didn’t have), couch, rocking armchair and large table. We loved the romantic modern country style – the stone tiled floor and the wooden beams that we slept under. The downsides were the minimal natural light and the fact that the A/C didn’t cool down the upstairs sleeping area and we were visiting during a heatwave.
Our second apartment MiniLoft Tiberino was larger, had more natural light, and a completely different style. It was much more modern with funky artwork, splashes of red, wooden floors, a large flatscreen TV and DVD player, and the wooden beams were painted white.
The kitchen wasn’t as well equipped but it still had all the basics, and we were thankful that the upstairs sleeping platform had a fan so it was much cooler.
As usual we loved staying in an apartment rather than a hotel. We were able to make breakfast and lunch at home (we chose to eat out for dinner) and appreciated the couch to relax on after a day walking around Rome. The WiFi and table made it easy for us to get work done too.
The loft bedroom might not suit everyone as you have to be careful not to bang your head on the beams, but we found it cosy and bohemian. The only other problems we had were that the WiFi began to cut out periodically during our last few days, and that the owner wasn’t there to meet us when we arrived so we had to phone him. It’s best to give him a ring when you are on your way.
The apartments cost €95-100 a night in high season, plus a 12% Roomorama booking fee. They can sleep up to four people (three in Country) but we’d only recommend more than two if you don’t mind the lack of privacy and space.
Where to Eat in Trastevere
These are some of our favourite restaurants in the area.
- Pizzeria di Marmi (Viale di Trastevere 53-59) – We saw a long queue for this large bustling pizza place so knew it must have good pizza. We were right! We went back there twice for the delicious thin crust pizzas (€6.50 for a margherita). Expect to wait a while and be crammed together – not the place for a romantic meal!
- Fior di Luna (Via della Lungaretta 96) – Quality, homemade organic gelato. From €1.70 for a small cup.
- Sette Oche in Altalena (Via die Salumi 36) – All the pasta was delicious – linguine cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper), linguine al limone (lemon and goats cheese), and ravioli alla Norma (aubergine and tomato). There’s outside seating on a quiet street.
- Zi’Mberto (Piazza della Malva) – The service was a bit gruff and chaotic but the pasta was good and there’s outside seating on the piazza.
- Rivendita (Vicolo del Cinque) – A unique place that’s part used book store, part bar, part chocolate shop. It’s known for its shots (€3) that come in small chocolate glasses, topped with cream – you eat them in one yummy, messy mouthful.
Thanks to Roomorama who gave us a discount on our Trastevere apartment.
So what do you think of Trastevere? Leave a comment and let us know!