On our final morning in Rome, we checked out of our hotel and had a couple hours to spare. Not wanting to waste these precious last moments in this wonderful city, we stored the luggage at the hotel and headed off for a bit more exploration before departing. This morning, we opted to head to the Trastevere side of town, visiting Santa Maria in Trastevere church and walking along the Tiber. On our way back to the hotel, we decided to walk through a park that we noticed on our map. The map didn’t show that we would have to walk UP the hill before getting to the park, but once we were there, it was well worth it for the beauty and the views of Rome.
At the time we had no idea what this place was called. I now know the hill is called Janiculum, named after Janus who founded a city and has a temple in the Forum. Janiculum is not one of the seven hills Rome was built on – odd since it is a pretty good sized hill and in Rome! Nevertheless, it dates back to the Etruscan period and was part of the Aurelian Walls.
We walked up the pathways from the Trastevere area and proceeded along the road Via Garibaldi passing a convent and some other buildings. Eventually we came to a large flat area that was busy with traffic going around an equestrian statue of Garibaldi. There were many people sitting along the low wall which overlooked Rome. Children were playing on the large piazza – it was a Saturday morning and it seemed to me that these were not tourists but rather the locals enjoying the morning outdoors. Looking below the wall, I saw the canon from which a small group of soldiers fires a blank shot at noon each day.
We continued our walk from this summit area downwards towards Vatican City, passing another equestrian statue – this one of Garibaldi’s wife Anita. One final look at the wonderful view and I snapped the last of my Rome photos before deciding it was time to head back to the hotel if we wanted to get to the airport in time for our flight. On our way down the steep streets we passed a local hospital before coming back into the more heavily tourist area at St. Peter’s Square.
The Janiculum Hill was not on our original plan for our holiday in Rome, but I’m glad we found it. It seemed to be a bit of an oasis that was less crowded and more peaceful than other parts of the city.
Visit Googlemaps for the exact location of Janiculum Hill.
I recommend taking an afternoon and evening to cross the Tiber and wander the Tastavere. It is a wonderful area of Rome. ( some do not consider it to be part of Rome)
There are romantic streets and piazzas. The restaurants are warm, creative and inviting.Here you will find the very best gelato in all of Rome maybe the world at the Fiore Di Luna.
I highly recommend this area.
Ponte Rotto is the bridge that connects Trastevere and Forum Boarium on river Tiber. It’s an arch bridge made of stone at 142 BC and had originally 7 spans although in our days you can only see the only one that had left (pics 1-2) and that’s why it’s called ponte rotto (broken bridge in Italian).
It’s the oldest roman stone bridge of the city (the ancient Pons Aemilius) replacing a wooden one on the same spot. Of course, we couldn’t really spend much time on this site, we couldn’t even walk over this bridge so we just took a picture of our shadows on the bridge (pic 3) :)
On our way out of Trastevere we passed from the church San Grisogono(pic 1). It has a nice bell tower that dates back from 12th century although under the church was an older one (probably from 8th century). Pietro Cavalini decorated the interior but what was impressive were the columns (probably from ancient temples) and the mosaic at the floor.
We crossed the street and we saw Torre degli Anguilara(pic 2), an old tower from medieval era, the only one that can be seen today among the numerous towers that were built. It was part of a house-fortress that belonged to a prominent family of 14th century. The building was bought by the City of Rome in 1887 and it housed a workshop for painted glasses and later turned into hall for lectures on works of Dante Alighieri.
We spend a day in Trastevere, a picturesque old district of Rome at the other side of Tiber with a maze of alleys full of old churches, small stores and a lot of restaurants.
We crossed ponte Sisto, an old bridge(pic 1) that was built in 1474 by Sisto IV to connect Trastevere with Rome. At piazza Trilusa we got lost in the small alleys but we saw many interesting buildings.
First we saw (at 23 via Santa Dorothea) the Romanesque church Santa Dorothea(pic 2) that was rebuilt in the 18th century and has a nice baroque facade, and it is dedicated to the virgin martyr St Dorothy(4th century).
A few steps away is located Santa Maria della Scala (pic 3)that was at the end of 16th century and although boring outside it houses some nice paintings like the Beheading of St John(by G.VHonthorst) and Death of the Virgin(by C.Saraceni). In 19th century the church was used as a hospital for Garibalid’s soldiers that got wounded from the fights against the French.
Unfortunately, most of the churches in Trastevere were closed, the same happened with Sant’Egidio church(pic 4). It was built in 1632 and it is dedicated to St.Giles, a hermit who died in 720. It’s also dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel and that’s why given to the Discalced Carmelites that had an adjacent convent for the poor. Now, it is a small museum of folk art but it was closed during our visit too :(
Of course, the most famous church in Trastevere is Santa Maria in Trastevere (pic 5) located at a big square where many young people gather during the evening (they usually sit around the fountain in the middle of the square). The church is open daily 7.30-20.00 and has some beautiful mosaic from 12th century. That was probably the date that the church was built although it was this spot where probably the first Christian masses took place in Rome as the church was founded by Kalistos I during the 3rd century. We couldn’t take pictures of the interior because a mass was in progress but we really loved the atmosphere inside.
Giuseppe Francesco Antonio Maria Gioachino Raimondo Belli (1791 – 1863) was a poet who wrote in the Romanesco dialect. mainly sonnets, of which he produced well over 2000! As a result of using the Roman dialetto, it can be argued that his work is not as accessible as it would otherwise be. Some of the humourous sonnets were translated into English by none other than Anthony Burgess.
The statue dates from 1913 so will have a centenary soon (at time of writing) viz 2013.
I always associate it with marking arrival back in Trastevere
Tras-tevere, or at the other side of Tevere (Tiberius river), has become a popular spot for a lively night-life. On a warm weekend night the place is absolutely PACKED. Full of bars, cafés, little restaurants, interesting architecture, small houses and some narrow streets... It can be a thrilling experience.
There are also some amazing shops (two stand out, the all leather bags one, you won't miss it, and the crazy shoes one, you definitely won't miss it, where the shoes made are more pieces of avant-garde art than ... feet-protection.
You could visit Trastevere during the day, but... I think that late afternoon walk that would turn into a dinner and/or drinks in some of the establishments there is a much better experience.
If you're visiting the sights around Piazza Bocca della Verita, then Trastevere is really close (ok, close is a relative term, obviously, but it is within walking distance) since you can simply cross Ponte Palatino and you reach one part of Trastevere.
This is a hill in Rome which is reached from Trastevere. Panoramic view of Rome and outlying areas from the top, at Piazzale Garibaldi for one.
From the heart of Trastevere (say, near Ponte Sisto), find via Garibaldi and start climbing along this winding road. The road soon takes the name Passeggiata del Gianicolo (Janiculum Promenade.)
This is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon away from traffic, there are interesting monuments along the way and activities for families at the top (manège, pony rides, puppet theater.)
The battle for the Roman Republic was fought on the Gianicolo, opposing Garibaldi and his patriots to French forces fighting for the Pope. Monuments to the fallen line the passeggiata. A cannon fires from the Gianicolo at noon every day -- I'm missed it unfortunately since I was reading poems at Dar Poeta at the time.
The Gianicolo is featured in Respighi's Pines of Rome (mentioned in another tip.)
The most striking monument I saw there was the Acqua Paola, a huge baroque fountain at the beginning of the promenade. Pope Paul V (a Borghese) restored the ancient Roman Aqueduct "Aqua Traiana" and it's been called "Paola" in his memory ever since.
This beautiful white fountain was fed by sources of Lake Sabatinus, now known as Lake Bracciano, and that last name is inscribed in the monument.
Another nice view along the way is beside the The Institutum Romanum Finlandiae (Finnish Institute in Rome.) The building is impressive both for its architecture and its great location.
NOTE: also excellent panorama from the terrace of the Manfredi Lighthouse, above the church called Chiesa Nuova or Sta Maria in Vallicella. The lighthouse was a gift of Italians from Argentina in 1911.
The road slowly winds its way down to Lungotevere in Sassia near the Vatican.
From Bibli, I walked to a small square where I spent some time people watching, taking a few pics, etc. Cafés, gelateria, and a nice church at the heart of it. Families and friends were meeting, everyone in a good "domenica" mood.
I was at the square by Santa Maria della Scala. The inside of that church is known for its rich baroque design but I wanted to stay outside in the sun so I focussed on the façade as seen from the Gelateria across the square. (Excellent gelato!) (I must admit I was looking for Sta Maria in Trastevere and mistook the Scala place for it awhile...)
From there to nearby Dar Poeta for a fantastic pizza and some fun reading of poems in Romanesco. The poems are framed on the walls and give the place a real feeling of Rome around 1900 (or so.) Dar Poeta is in a minuscule place along an alley and looked so quiet at first that I wondered if they were open. There were a couple of tables with people obviously regulars, and just the right rhythm of comings and goings. I'll put details under Restaurants. Just mentioning it here as part of that day's itinerary.
I walked from there to the Janiculum Hill and then for hours, taking my time.
This summer I spent a beautiful Sunday in Trastevere and on the Gianicolo. Highly recommended for vibrant ambiance in a relaxed setting (at least for one coming from around Stazione Termini!)
Now that I'm back and looking at photos, I realise that I strolled aimlessly in Trastevere and got lost a few times -- I can't remember the name of the small square I liked so much! Think it's Santa Maria della Scala. One street off that square is via del Bologna.
(I lost the marked map of my wanderings later, in Caffé Greco, when the waiter cleared my table while I went to the washroom... he threw out the map pages I'd pulled from my guidebook!)
I started at Porta Portese (corner via Portuense and via Ippolito Nero) where there was a flea market. General direction was towards via Garibaldi to reach the Gianicolo and see the panorama of Rome from that hill. Before that, I was looking for two restaurants recommended in my guidebook, to choose one for a light lunch. The first place is Bibli, on via dei Fienaroli. Took some searching. I enjoyed the village atmosphere and took many detours.
Bibli is like a small cultural centre, welcoming, a great meeting place. There's an excellent brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and buffet every night. Lovely inside courtyard. Coffee shop, tearoom, bookshop, restaurant, bistro -- you get the picture. Quite arty. It was too early to eat so I had a fresh juice, looked at the books awhile and walked on.
“It was rumored of him once that he was about to join the Roman Catholic communion, and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him.”
— from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” 1890 by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
A GREAT ATTRACTION During the early Middle Ages it was common for major churches to have a source of water, often a fountain standing in a garden or a courtyard. Here the faithful could refresh themselves and carry out ritual ablutions before entering the church. The water of the fountain came out of a cantharus, originally a cup with spiral handles; the whole fountain came to be referred to by this name. These abandoned marble cantharus were taken from the ruins of baths or villas.
One of the few existing cantharus (see photos #2 & #3) stands in the courtyard of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Hundreds of years later, water still flows into a low square basin from an ancient marble cantharus. The effect is quite peaceful.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is a ninth century church that was almost entirely rebuilt in 1725. The bell tower dates to the 12th century (see photo #5). The gorgeous Gothic baldachino stands before the ninth century mosaics. A wedding was in progress when we visited (see photo #4).
Beneath the high altar rests the recumbent 1600 marble sculpture of Santa Cecilia above by Stefano Maderno. The bare throat shows the vain attempts of the executioner to sever her head. The work shows position of the body of Our Saint as it was discovered in 1599. The body was found uncorrupted.
Many tourists bypass the real Rome for the touristy things, like the Coloseo, the Vatican, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain. Many of them don't realize that Rome has a soul, where the Romans eat, drink, and socilaize. This soul is called Trastevere. Now often in my visits to Trastevere, I will see a few tourists. However, not nearly as much as I would see by the Trevi fountain or the Vatican. Trastevere, literally meaning "across the Tiber", is the hippest and coolest section of the city. In this dictrict, you will find the city's best restaurants and shops. You will find here, the cathedral of Santa Maria in Trastevere. This is the located in the district's main square, (Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere), and is the districts main church. The chuch is beautiful, and some parts of the chuch date back to the 4th century. After seeing the district's main attraction, have lunch at a local restaurant. Most of the restaurants in Trastevere serve good food for good prices, just ask a local for their recommendation. Make sure you eat the specialties of Rome, spaghetti carbonara, (with eggs and pancetta), and spaghetti amatrichana. After lunch, just wander around the district. Maybe go shopping, or whatever you would like. Rome is a city that can sometimes be hectic, or overwhelming. But when you visit Trastevere, a section of the city that will captivate you, you will relax and really live the world-famous, Italian dolce vita.
Rome's traditional working-class district `across the Tiber' has always stood apart from the rest of the city. It is now the gentrified turf of bourgeois Romans and expatriates. At night, restaurants, pizzerias, pubs and trendy wine bars spring to life with Romans and tourists who flock here to drink, eat, and chill out.
We did not give Trastevere nearly the attention that it deserves. We spent only 1 magical evening here toward the end of our trip. Next time I would even consider looking for lodging in Trastevere.
During our evening in Trastevere we walked the beautiful, narrow streets, purchased a painting from an artist's shop, popped into a few streetside shops, ogled at pastries sitting in a closed bakery's window (from the outside those looked like the best pastries I had seen while in Rome), enjoyed the Trastevere ambience, and ate the best and most enjoyable dinner either of us had (a restaurant named Cave Canem - see my restaurant tips) during our stay in Rome.
Trastevere is a magical place and one to be enjoyed with more than a single evening.
“There was much to please a somewhat peculiar taste in our visit to the Farnesina. … The door-keeper, amiably obese, was better still in her acceptance of the joke with which the hand-mirror for the easier study of the roof frescos was accepted. … In showing a Rubens in one of the rooms, with the master’s usual assortment of billowy beauties, when she could say — and she ought to have known — that they had eaten too much macaroni. It was not much of a joke; but one hears so few jokes in Rome.”
— from “Italian Journeys” (1867) by William Dean Howells (1837-1920) American author and U.S. Consul in Venice during first Lincoln Administration
COUNTRY HOUSE Located on the edges of the working-class district of Trastavere, Villa Farnesina was built in 1506 for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and treasurer to Pope Julius II. This villa, intended to be a summer pavilion, has a rear wing that opens to a garden that faces the River Tiber. In Antiquity, this was the site of the country villa of Julius Caesar; in 44 B.C. Cleopatra stayed there with their illegitimate child, Caesarion.
Agostino Chigi enjoyed showing off his great wealth. During dinner parties, as each course ended, the golden dishes were tossed in the river, which was much closer to the villa’s gardens at the time. But the cagey Chigi did not get rich by throwing away money, or gold dishes; nets were placed in the water that caught the plates, allowing the staff to recover the dishes once the guests had gone home!
In 1577 the Farnese family bought the villa. Because it was smaller than their Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber, ‘ina,’ the suffix meaning small in Italian, was added to Farnese creating its current name.
Today, owned by the Italian State, the villa houses the Accademia dei Lincei, a well-respected 17th-century academy of sciences, and the Department for Drawings and Prints.
Commissioned by Chigi, all fresco decoration in the ground floor Loggia is by Raphael or his followers and date from the villa’s construction. These frescos are sublime. The colors are bright and well preserved; the figures look very real, very human. The two main themes of Raphael’s frescoes in the Loggia depict the world of Cupid and Psyche (see photo #5), and “The Triumph of Galatea” (see photo #3). This second fresco, one of Raphael’s few completely secular paintings, shows Galatea, a nymph almost completely naked, on a shell-shaped chariot amid frolicking attendants and rolling waves. It brings to mind Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”
Photos are not permitted; but I was able to take three detail picture of the frescos before a guard scolded me, and told me to stop. Originally, the loggia had been opened to the elements; thankfully, for the preservation of these marvelous art works, it is now enclosed.
On the first floor there are trompe-l’œil frescoes executed by the building’s architect, Baldassare Peruzzi. There are frescoes on the walls surrounding the windows and on the opposite wall of Rome as it looked in the 16th century; if you had been gazing out the window at the time these frescos were painted you would see what is now on the walls. It is an excellent record of the city.