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Beautiful Trastevere Rome


Cities and Towns in Rome

Trastevere, which translates as 'across the Tevere', was once a working-class neighborhood, proudly separated from the rest of the city by the Tevere (Tiber) River.   

Today it is popular with foreign visitors, home to many of the American colleges and popular at night for its numerous bars and restaurants.  Crossing the river, and entering into the warren of narrow, cobbled streets, you'll be surprised by the squares and churches which you come across quite unexpectedly.

Don't miss the central church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in the piazza of the same name.  One of Rome's oldest churches, and one of the first dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is a great example of the recycling that was common in the Middle Ages.  No longer a wealthy city, yet with an abundance of exquisite ancient architecture, the clever Romans reused the ancient materials to make new buildings; in this case columns from the Baths of Caracalla, which now form the nave.  But the real draw are the glittering 13th century mosaics by the Roman artist, Pietro Cavallini.  His mosaics show scenes from the Life of the Virgin, including the Coronation of the Virgin in the apse.

On the other side of the central Viale Trastevere, is the area's other major basilica, the Basilica of Santa Cecilia.  Saint Cecilia, is one of Rome's young virgin martyrs, the daughter of a wealthy Roman family who was condemned to death when she refused to give up her Christian beliefs.  The basilica is said to have been built over her house, and when you are here, do make sure you visit the underground remains on which the church stands.  The entrance is on the left as you enter the church and you have to pay a small fee before going downstairs.  As well as several ancient rooms, there is an elaborate cosmatesque crypt containing the relics of the saint.  If you are there mid-morning, see if the door on the left of the basilica is open and ask the nun inside if you can see the frescoes.  Again there's a small fee to pay, then she will show you upstairs to see Cavallini's masterpiece of The Last Judgment, hidden to all but the most knowledgeable of visitors!

Heading out of Trastevere towards the Vatican on the Via della Lungara, make sure you stop at the Villa Farnesina to see Raphael's wonderful frescoes.  If you can aim to visit at 10am on Saturday, the villa puts on a tour in English which requires no pre-booking.

On the other side of the street, hidden behind the Corsini Gallery, Rome's botanic gardens stretch up onto the sides of the Janiculum Hill and is a great place for plant-lovers or anyone looking to escape from the chaos of the city for a few hours.  Once the property of the Vatican, this peaceful oasis is today managed by the Sapienza University.  

Although not one of Rome's 7 hills, being on the wrong side of the river, the Janiculum is the one that still looks like a hill today!  Take a stroll up to there for a wonderful view (in summer, the bar at the top is a great place for a sunset drink), get a close up look of the fontanone (the 'big fountain' which can easily be seen from Trastevere below) and to see Bramante's Tempietto.  You can get a closer look at this by going into the Spanish cultural institute on the right, they won't mind!  The Tempietto stands where St. Peter was once thought to have been crucified, and is considered to be a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.

If you are up here at midday, you might get a bit of a shock to hear a cannon firing!  This was once a sign to churches throughout the city that they could start ringing their bells.  During the war, the cannon ceased to fire, yet was reinstated afterwards at the public's request!




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