Neighbourhood guides: Trastevere

It is said that Rome, regarded by its locals as the centre of the world, was founded in April by the brothers Romulus and Remus. To honour the foundation of the iconic Eternal City, Romans enjoy a host of special events throughout the month of April including concerts, parades and historical re-enactments.

As part of the celebrations, we take an insider’s look into some of our favourite, undiscovered rioni, or districts, to unearth the culture of the area and reflect the soul of modern Rome. We asked Rome-based photographer Giulio Pugliese to take us on a tour of Trastevere, a neighbourhood known for it’s beautiful, winding cobbled streets and breathtaking ancient houses.

What makes Trastevere such a special neighbourhood?

Trastevere was originally a working class district. It was populated mainly by workers and artisans, and for this reason, over the years it has continued to bring a completely different aspect to the rest of Rome. With the passing of time, the popular character of the houses and small streets has made Trastevere one of the most beautiful and characteristic neighbourhoods of Rome. Walking through its streets transports anyone into another era. However, over the course of time, Trastevere has become one of the most exclusive places in Rome. The district has always managed to maintain its unique and simple aspect, typical of a Rome made by the people.

Describe Trastevere in three words

Genuine, Timeless, Magical.

Describe your perfect day in Trastevere

I spend a lot of time in Trastevere, and one thing I love to do is just wander through its small, narrow streets during the early hours of the morning. This allows me to find the awakening of a really special side of Rome with my camera. After my photographic walk, I normally look for a good breakfast. Two of my favourite places are Giselda Bakery, which has a huge selection of freshly baked croissants and great espresso, the other is also one of the oldest biscuits bakeries in Rome where time seems to have stopped. Biscottificio Innocenti is a magical place where you can savour many delicious biscuits in a truly unexpected atmosphere. 

Trastevere is a place where you can really feel the influence of the Roman people. This is no truer than Museo di Roma in Trastevere. Inside the museum, it is possible to retrace, through different works, the history and traditions of early Romans – the ideal place to spend part of the morning. Another reason why I love Trastevere is that it continuously takes me on a journey of culinary discovery. There are scores of excellent restaurants, bistros and street food. I usually eat lunch on the go, so street food vendors and bistros such as Trapizzino and Meccanismo are perfect for me.

 In the early afternoon, the ideal place to relax is the Orto Botanico di Roma located on the slopes of the Gianicolo. The gardens are a real gem in the heart of this neighbourhood. This part of the city has very good sunsets. One of the best places to watch the sun go down over the rooftops of Rome is the Terrazza del Gianicolo. It is one of the highest points of Rome and the sunsets from here are incredibly beautiful. In the evening, Trastevere becomes the favourite destination for many Romans.

One of the most famous places to have an aperitif is called Freni e Frizioni, a real local haunt to get you in the mood for the evening. The choices for dinner are aplenty in this neighbourhood, but my advice is to try a real Trattoria Romana where you can continue to discover stories and legends of Trastevere over a classical Roman meal. I also often dine at Da Enzo al 29, one of the oldest trattorias in Trastevere but believe me, it's not the only one!

Does Trastevere have its own style?

Trastevere is a very special neighbourhood. You can still find clothes hang drying outside the windows, ancient workshops of painters, artists, and musicians. The style of Trastevere is unmistakable and you only have to spend a few hours on its streets to remember it forever.

What can you tell us about the food culture in Trastevere?

The culinary culture in Trastevere is very much felt as you walk around. The district is an integral part of the typical Roman cuisine and because of this, you can find excellent trattorias where you can taste all the specialities of our culture. My favourites are definitely Da Enzo al 29, Antica Trattoria da Carlone and L'Antica Pesa.

What draws you to Trastevere?

When I choose to go to Trastevere, what I love most is getting lost in the streets. If I had to think of a particular place I think of Terrazza del Gianicolo to admire all of Rome from above!

Do you have a favourite building in your neighbourhood?

What characterizes Trastevere is the sanpietrini (ancient medieval houses) that overlook the winding cobblestone streets. The architecture of this neighbourhood has remained unchanged over time and this makes the atmosphere truly magical. I also recommend visiting the many churches that you will find inside Trastevere.

What’s your favourite season to be in Trastevere?

My favourite seasons to visit Trastevere are definitely autumn and spring. Autumn because it is the moment when is most colourful! The red, yellow and orange leaves imitate the typical colour of the buildings of Trastevere. I also like spring, because the days get longer, the light changes and Trastevere becomes even more welcoming with its aromas and its flavours.

Do you have any favourite spots in Trastevere?

Of course, one of my favourite places is definitely the Bar San Calisto. In recent years, a great number of cocktail bars and trendy restaurants have popped up around Trastevere. However, Bar San Calisto instead seems to have stopped in the 70s, and you can find it open from early morning until late at night. For decades it has been a landmark throughout Trastevere. There is another place that I love a lot called Alembic. It’s an art gallery combined with a sophisticated cocktail bar. A beautiful place to drink excellent cocktails surrounded by a very special atmosphere.

Does Trastevere have a vibrant cultural scene?

Trastevere is definitely one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Rome. What makes it constantly appealing is the presence of many points of interest that concern food, fashion, art and crafts. There is a lot of movement both from historical activities and from young people investing in new, highly sought after activities. This is exactly what I like about Trastevere, there is always space for new ideas and projects that can give new life to the neighbourhood.