Trastevere is the kind of neighborhood that every travel photographer dreams of–think of buildings splashed in warm colors and adorned with laundry drying in the Roman sun, ivy snaking from window to window, and bicycles propped against textured ochre walls. However, picturesque backdrops and photo ops didn’t lure me into this not-so-secret Roman neighborhood. As with many things on this trip to Rome, my plans were based around food.
Where To Eat in Trastevere
Having drooled through Anthony Bourdain’s episode in Rome weeks prior to my visit, I knew that I’d be making a stop at Trastevere’s Roma Sparita to try their Cacio e Pepe; a simple Roman pasta dish, tossed with a generous dusting of Pecorino cheese, butter and cracked black pepper. It was creamy, peppery and surprisingly complex for being such a minimalist dish. As if it weren’t good enough alone, at Roma Sparita, they serve it in a Parmesan bowl. I’m still dreaming about this meal and will compare every future pasta dish to this. I already know they won’t live up to this–it was just that ridiculously good!
If you find yourself at Cacio e Pepe, do yourself a favor and also order the fresh mozzarella. Thank me later.
What To Do in Trastevere
The only site I saw in Trastevere, aside from exploring lots of side-streets and hidden plazas, was the Church of Santa Maria. It’s a difficult feat to go to Rome and not step inside the more than 900 churches(!) in the city. While I did see the inside of a handful of churches during this trip, including the Vatican, this church was my favorite. Built in 221, the Church of Santa Maria is said to be one of Rome’s oldest and is filled with ornate 12th and 13th Century mosaics inside. After traveling through Europe, seeing church after church can seem repetitive, and they all start to look the same– but this church was exceptionally beautiful.
The Spirit of Trastevere
Stumbling upon Trastevere felt like finding a small town in the midst of the chaotic sprawl that is Rome. As soon as you cross the Tiber River, you feel like you’re in a pocket of Rome that hasn’t changed much over the
years centuries. Its original character is still found in its open plazas, cobblestone streets and medieval buildings. Unfortunately, (depending on how you look at it) tourism has started to seep in–there are restaurants with menus in English/French/German/etc., and I definitely wasn’t the only tourist around–even though it was February. But, it was a nice escape from the big crowds in the center of Rome and well worth carving out some hours in your itinerary to explore.
So explore I did. This is what I saw:
Which photo of Trastevere is your favorite?