As you wander the streets of Trastevere cobble stone streets twist and turn through narrow alleyways like a tedious argument. People rush by; hopping from one bar to another, walking down the streets with Peroni bottles in their hands and laughing with friends. Tourists and residents alike, sit outside enjoying one of the many restaurants that occupy the narrow streets. The summer night is alive and vibrant. The Piazza’s are filled with people looking up at Santa Maria in Trastevere or sitting on the steps gazing out at Ponte Sisto enjoying a warm Roman night.
Trastevere, the neighborhood across the Tiber and once occupied by the hostile Etruscans, is now occupied by bars, restaurants, piazzas, and a few universities that hide in this maze of medieval architecture. At one time, not to long ago, this neighborhood had a giant “do not go” sign on it from the guidebooks. Gypsies and other ruffians occupied the streets picking the pockets of careless tourist. Now gentrified, the neighborhood is one of the most exciting and thriving spots in Rome. Trastevere is where the locals and the international student population come to hang out on the weekends.
Why would they not though; Trastevere is a beautiful neighborhood that has something special for everyone to enjoy. The food is fantastic, there is always somewhere to eat no matter where you look, whether the stomach is just feeling a couple slices of pizza or a full Italian meal at Tony’s. The kind of places that don’t have a real name and write your bill on the table and add it up there in front of you.
The nightlife is young and new with great small bars filled with locals and reasonably priced drinks. You can start your night off with a “felice ta” shot that wakes you up with some fire and then end the evening with a delicate and sinful chocolate shot. If you want a more relaxed night pick up a few bottles of peroni and sit on the steps of Piazza Trilussa in front of the Tiber river and knock back a few tallboys or sit around the fountains and use the cold water to keep your beers chilled or go fresh and get a couple of fresh fruit rum cocktails.
The morning after your night in Trastevere shake off the sleepiness and take a stroll down to San Calisto and have a coffee and maybe even a quick gelato or sit and watch the locals play Scopa. Then wander into Santa Maria in Trastevere around the corner or get lost in the side streets and find something new. Welcome to Trastevere, the neighborhood across the river.
Here are a few of our favorite spots in Trastevere but spend time exploring because the best part of this neighborhood is finding small local places around every corner. So here are a few things to get you on your way.
There may not be anything better in the world then sitting down and having a cappuccino (as long as it is before 2pm, then after that only espresso is acceptable) while watching the morning pass by. Bar San Calisto is, in my opinion, the best place to grab coffee in the morning and relax. This is a local place, Romans of any age come here to hang out throughout the day. Coffee in the morning, espresso and gelato in the afternoon and a couple large Peroni beer at night. It is a staple of the Trastevere neighborhood.
This guide is mostly for food and drink but Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere is one stop I feel like everybody has to to stop by and it is just next door to Bar San Calisto. Truly it is a 30 second walk from the bar and you cannot miss it since it is the main attraction in the piazza. The basilica dates back to the 340’sCE and is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Rome. It is a quick pit stop and not a bad one at that. You must go inside and check out the beautiful architecture and art that covers the walls of the Basilica.
Afterwards go outside and sit on the fountain and have a beer and do some people watching. After coffee and some walking around, it is time for some lunch and Insalata Rica is one of the hot places to go as a student for lunch. Insalata Ricca has great food and some of the best salads you can get in Rome if you are feeling like you have had too many carbs in your diet. Even if you don’t want salad you can have pasta and more. This is a great place to come for a nice light lunch with some wine. The best part about Insalata Ricca is that it is an affordable lunch.
I’m sure you have heard the saying that you “got something for a steal.” Well this saying fits perfectly with this next place. Carlo Menta is the best deal in town when it comes to food and especially pizza. I tell people all the time that if you are spending more than 5 euros on a restaurant pizza then you are spending too much. One can get a full sized pizza bigger than your face for under 5 euros here and it is fantastic. On a weekend though, this place gets packed so you might have to wait a bit. The place has tons of food besides pizza and all of it affordable and great. Also do not let the tourist menu scare you, it is the exception to the rule.
Now Trastevere is filled with restaurants especially on Vicolo del Cinque, one of the main streets in the heart of Trastevere. Tony’s or Hostaria del Moro is one of the staples of this street. The place is packed with locals and tourist, it is a popular place and it is extremely Roman. I’ll give you a hint, get the fried Calamari and the Lasagna al Forno they are the best I have ever had, the lasagna is also the largest we have ever had. Now all their food is pretty spectacular and their Vino da tavola is not half bad either.
After dinner, Trastevere is the neighborhood to be in; it is chock full of bars and young people hanging out, drinking on the steps or congregating by their motorinos. Bum Bum di Mel is a great bar in the heart of Trastevere that features fresh fruit cocktails. They have barely any space and you have to take a number to order but their berry caprioskas are worth it. They are perfect on a hot night during summer where you can hang out in Piazza trilussa or in front of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Grabbing a beer at either Bir e Fud or Ma Che Siete Venuti Fa (which are across the street from each other) is a perfect opportunity to meet with some local Romans and try great microbrews from Italy. Italy is not known for their beer scene but these pubs are perfect for the beer starved in Italy. You can either hang out in the pubs or venture out into the streets. If you find yourself in Rome in the summer definitely head down to the Tiber where bars line the river and you can get a small break from the heat.
The perfect end to a night in Trastevere is to head to the chocolate shot bar, officially known as Rivendita libri cioccolata e vini, on Vicolo del Cinque just up from Tony’s. They offer a variety of shots in chocolate cups with whip cream and sprinkles on top. Could there be anything better?
If you are planning on spending a few nights in Rome we have a few other restaurant recommendations that are a little “higher end” than Tony’s. Tony’s is a wonderful example of an Italian causal osteria but if you want to enjoy a true Italian ristorante than these would be our picks: Spirito in Vino and Le Mani in Pasta are located right next to each other on Via dei Genovesi which is south of Viale di Trastevere. They are both fantastic but entirely different. Spirito in Vino focuses on slow food and actually cooks up some ancient recipes as well, such as a slow roasted pork shoulder that Julius Caesar’s friend and chef used to prepare. Their wine cellar also dates to 80BC, which is 100 years older than the coliseum. They encourage people to go down and check out their cellar which an awesome experience; where else in the world are you going to be able to casually stroll into an ancient site like that?
Le Mani in Pasta is right next door and focuses on homemade Italian cuisine. When we were there Alex had a phenomenal steak in a red wine sauce and I had a filet of sea bass crusted with roasted potatoes. It may not sound like a traditional Italian meal (although Osteria del Pegno also does a fantastic sea bass crusted in roast potatoes) but it was so good and they also have all the classics, especially a lot of pasta dishes with TRUFFLES. Truffles can be found in a lot of cuisine all over Italy, although they are most popular in Tuscany and Umbria, but I always try to eat truffles when I can. Take advantage of it while you are here!
Another great restaurant in Trastevere is called Taverna Trilussa, located just off Piazza Trilussa, and it specializes in Bucatini Amatriciana. Bucatini Amatriciana is a traditional roman dish of bucatini pasta in a spicy tomato sauce with guanciale or pork cheek. They serve it at Taverna Trilussa straight out of the frying pan which they cook it in. If you eat one dish in Rome and aren’t feeling adventurous enough to try the Tripe alla Romana at Cul de Sac it has to be Bucatini Amatriciana. It is a classic and in a country where the cuisine is so regional you won’t find it outside of Rome, so eat it while you can.
There are so many fantastic restaurants and places to drink and mingle with locals in Trastevere. A visit to Rome would not be complete without at least one meal eaten here and at least a few hours wandering the streets and getting lost.