One highlight of our stay in Rome was learning about areas where locals like to go for a birra or an Amatriciana. Jonathan, our all around go-to person during our Rome stay, suggested various “off-the-beaten-path but not-for-the-faint-of-heart” gems. Trastevere did not have a Pantheon nor an old mansion of some wealthy bishop waiting to be pope. But he promised us we would enjoy exploring it. We mapped out how to get there. We took the side streets off Piazza Navona and then walked through vias and vicolos. We crossed Campo di Fiori and took the via towards the Tiber River. We crossed the Ponte Sisto (named after Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere who had the bridge rebuilt in the 15th century) to reach the Piazza Trilussa, our entrance to Trastevere.
On our first evening, we combed the narrow and winding streets (some were more like alleys really) that this rione (district) is known for. Almost every few storied buildings opened into a little piazza. Some had parked vehicles at the center, while others had side by side restaurants with outdoor tables topped with colorful linen. Everywhere the paths were made of uneven cobble stones. Boy, was I ever relieved I brought proper footwear for these treks. I can only imagine the challenge for women in stilettos!
We let the paths take us around and around until we reached the large piazza, called Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, named after the basilica in that location. It is one of the oldest churches in Rome, dating back to 222 A.D. according to legend.
There were people seated on the steps of a fountain in the piazza’s center. On one corner, an ensemble played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, while in the opposite end, a woman was reciting a poem to the rhythm of her companion’s drums. Every few minutes, the gathering crowd would applaud.
We passed many interesting establishments. Trastevere is definitely a working district, complete with laundromats, people walking their pets or going to market, or friends sharing some birra at the end of their day.
After much consideration, we retraced our steps and settled on a small trattoria called Il Duca, for dinner. The sun was just filling the horizon with fiery hues. The heat had subsided somewhat. There was a light breeze, a welcome respite. The place was known for their roasted artichokes and grilled seafood. We opted for some grilled squid complete with their tentacles, arugula salad (they call these “rocket salad” here), and a seafood pasta.
As the evening wore on, lights went on. There were more and more people walking the streets. Every so often a car would squeeze its way through the narrow paths, not minding that it was a mere three inches from people’s shoulders and hips, including ours. A noisy Vespa would whiz by occasionally, helmet-clad or none. There were women in skirts bicycling through. A few dowagers in their summer sheaths paraded through and thrice kissed old friends they encountered along the way. Like I said, it’s everyday life in Trastevere.
By Roman standards, we dined too early. The restaurants began to fill by 9:00 p.m. By then, we were ready for something sweet and light. We chanced upon a gelateria that specialized in the organic and the sustainable. They had a whole section of vegan offerings, meaning, no dairy and no eggs. Great! Just the light sweet fare we were looking for to cap off our meal. We opted for their sorbet, made with such fresh fruits, their clear flavors popped in our mouths. The raspberry still had seeds. The cantaloupe had some small chunks. My mouth was having a ball!
We walked back across the river and to our hotel. I checked my tracker and, just as I suspected, we exceeded our daily goal of 10,000 steps! We allowed ourselves to be engulfed by the comforts of our room. Sleep was only minutes away.