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.
In the Trastevere church of San Francisco di Rippa, St. Francis resided for some time when he came to Rome to gain recognition for his order.
Just to the left of the alter is a late work by Bernini, where he shows once again his mastery. The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni - and it is reminiscent of Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.
Photo 1 - We are in the heart of Trastevere. The church was originally built in 499 and restructured in the XIIth century. It has retained the typical facade of the old Roman churches along with the bell tower.
Photo 2 - On the site of one of the most ancient fountains in Rome, Carlo Fontana built this fine fountain which had coats of arms of Innocentius XII later on modified into coats of arms of Rome.
Photo and reference text by permission Robert Piperno to be used for non-commercial purpose only
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.
Once very much a working class area of the city, shabby and more than a little seedy, a place tourists ventured into briefly,musicians to pay homage to St Cecilia who is buried in the church of her name at one end of the quarter, or maybe to see the mosaics in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, take a few "atmosphere shots" of washing flapping on lines stretched between peeling ochre-painted buildings or a Sunday morning foray into the flea market at Porte Portese - Trastevere these days has become a trendy spot, as popular with bohemian expats and young professional families as it is still the home of families who have lived here for generations.
You need to cross the Tiber to get here - what better way than to walk across the ancient bridges that connect the two banks of the river at Isola Tiberia? Ponte Fabricio on the Centro Storico side of the island is the oldest bridge in the city, Ponte Cestio isn't much younger - it was built in 46AD. Alternatively, there's the pedestrian Ponte Sisio near Campo de' Fiori, or you could catch Tram No 8 and get off at the first stop once you've crossed the river.
Trastevere's history has been one of a long slide down and a recent trend up in its desirability as a place to live. The area "across the Tiber" (the meaning of Trastevere) was taken up by noble families in early times - Julius Caesar lived here - and kept his mistress Cleopatra here too. Most of the city's Jews lived here before they were forced into the ghetto in 1555. The 19th century urban renewal of much of the city passed it by and, more than anywhere else, the area retains the look and feel of mediaeval Rome.
Very popular at night for the restaurants and bars that can be found everywhere, a walk through the quarter in the daytime reveals lovely quiet corners, greenery tumbling over russet and ochre walls, a daily life of children playing and neighbors chatting. We spent time here with an Australian friend who now calls Trastevere her home, complete with a plant-filled garden behind a high wall, local shops and local restaurants where familiar faces bring forth smiles and questions about the bambini and a delicious lunch was ordered after a long discussion with the waiter without recourse to the menu. No "sightseeing ", no shopping - though there are opportunities for both, just a few hours spent doing what Romans have always done so well - enjoying the moment.
It's a beautiful Sunday, by chance, you woke up early, why not drop by the Porta Portese Market? Located in the Trastevere neighbourhood, it's a huge flea market where you can find anything (provided you go there early enough). It's packed, noisy,and utterly Roman. You'll find everything from Football jerseys to beach towel, from antique (or antique-looking) religious painting to genuine old books, from faux Gucci bags to real vintage Gucci bags.
Don't forget to barter though. Having a "banchinna" at Porta Portese is a sign of prestige for vendors and if you want to have a good deal (and gain their respects, which will help lower the price), don't get too impressed by their bartering abilities.
Try to get there before 9 am, at 10, it's really, really busy and most of the good deals are gone. The market is open until 1:30.
'Mattia De Rossi' designed this baroque church.
The reason why I wanted to visit it and did some
effort to find this one is because it is
a Franciscan church. And the spiritual founder
of this order has been here.
He visited in 1219 - at that time there was
a hospitium. They kept his stone cushion
and his crusifix.
'Saint Francis of assisi 'has been here.
(in Dutch - Sint Franciscus van Assisi)
He was born in 1182 as a son of a rich
merchant. His father, Pietro Bernardone,
was a wealthy cloth merchant.
Well his son was sorth of the 'Paris Hilton'
of the 12th century. :-) Party here , didn't do
much study. Well an illness changed his live
intensively and he became very catholic.
He also respected nature and animals
My mom named me after him. She is not very
religious but she had him in mind when she
chose 'frank' as my first name.
(She used to say 'Franciscus' to me when I
did something wrong)
If you have ever been before on one of my
pages you know they are filled with animals
In the 16th and 17th century this church was
a bit special. A gang of visionary monks gathered
around here. The church became a sort of
airstrip for angels. None of these monks ever
made it to Saint.
Untill the second vatican concilie there were
glass coffins on the pillars with in cowl dressed
up monks. By a hole on top you could let a
rosary sink upon them. Strange habbit.
If you are going to go for a nice, romantic and calm walk I really can recommend this place for you.
It is the old part of Rome, full of old houses, great medieval churches, restaurants...
You just have to go there for a nice walk and see it yourself.
There are few nice churches there like the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere for example with wonderful mosaics and great decor inside.
The fountain on the Piazza di Santa Maria in TRastevere was designed by Carlo Fontana and it is popular place of meetings of young people there.
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.
Trastevere is one of the best part and most typical and caracteristic place to visit. It is particularly known for its nightlife, especially during the summer months, as well as its many excellent resturants and unique small shops. You can also find a lot of bars, pubs and open air shows for the huge quantity of people who always come to visit this area to find some fun! Trastevere also hosts an English movie theater and an English bookstore.
A lot of tourists choose this area for their accommodation in Rome, so they have the possibility to feel like a typical roman living in the heart of the city!
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 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.
This church (the people not the building) is said to be the oldest in Rome, dating from the 3rd C. The site of the church is where about 38 BCE a spring of mineral oil suddenly gushed ou to fht ground. This was considered by the Jews as a signal of the Messiah's coming and later by Christians as a miraculous announcement of the birth of Jesus. The church became the first dedicated to the cult of the Virgin. The building itself is magnificent, dating mostly from the 12th C although there are some columns which came from an ancient Roman temple which was on this site. The interior feels properly old and has a number of wonderful mosaics which feature very rich colors and figures that looke like early Renaissance works although this was about a century earlier. One mosaic is said to be the first depiction of Mary on the throne in heaven with Jesus.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Centro Storico, i highly recommend taking a walk over the hills of Trastevere along Passegiata del Gianicolo south of St.Peters. This is one of Rome's most verdant and relaxed areas, and you get some fantastic vistas over the city.
Going downhill, Via Garibaldi will lead you right into the heart of Rome's prettiest quarter Trastevere where you can relax in one of the many cafés or trattorias that are cheaper and slightly more authentic than the ones downtown.
The Santa Maria in Trastevere is probably the oldest christian church in Rome. It is said to be founded in the 3th century by pope Calixtus. The church as you see it now is mostly dating back to the 12th century. Including the beautiful mosaics in the apse which were made in 1291.
The façade, decorated with mosaics and frescos, and the portico, were built by Carlo Fontana during the 18th century for Pope Clemente XI.
No more space on this page for a travelogue, but we built one about this church at our Lazio page. There is a link to get back here in the travelogue. See and read more in our travelogue.