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Fountain of Santa Maria in Trastevere

text Veronica Sgaravatti
photo Valentina Stefanelli

October 17, 2018

Trastevere: everything you can not miss

Among churches, palaces and beautiful penthouses, we take you with us to the discovery of a Rome not to be missed

The beauty of Trastevere lies in its narrow streets, sounds, smells and the many restaurants where you can taste typical Roman dishes, but also in the street artists who perform for tourists and locals. Our itinerary begins from Piazza Trilussa, overlooking Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio. This square is dedicated to the famous poet who wrote in Roman dialect and lived and died in Trastevere. Its staircase offers space to sit in the shade and cool off with water from the fountain, commissioned by Pope Paul V. From here go towards Via della Lungara, a road built in the 16th century to link Trastevere to the town. 

From here you go through Porta Settimiana, built in 1498 by Pope Alexander VI above a small passage of the Aurelian walls. On this street you immediately come across Palazzo Corsini, today home to the Lincean Academy and the National Gallery of Ancient Art. The works in the Gallery come mostly from the Corsini family’s collection and date from the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the most important paintings here, housed in Room 7, is that of St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio. 

Behind Palazzo Corsini are the Botanical Gardens, formerly the private garden of the Palazzo, which today, in its 12 hectares, houses more than 8000 species of plants. Continuing along Via della Lungara we can stop in front of Villa Farnesina, one of the first Renaissance villas, built between 1508 and 1511 for the rich papal banker Agostino Chigi and acquired in 1577 by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The most famous frescoes are those of Raphael in the loggia of Cupid and Psyche and in the Galatea Hall, as well as the trompe-l’œil by Peruzzi of a colonnade with a view of the city in the Perspectives’ Hall.

Trastevere, whose name derives from the Latin trans Tiberim, which means beyond the Tiber, retains its original center along the opposite shore from the old town. While it was once inhabited by the lower social classes of Rome, today it is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods both for its nightlife and clubs and for its artistic treasures. 

Returning towards Piazza Trilussa, through the alleys you reach Via della Paglia and another wonderful view: Piazza di Sant’Egidio, with its historic bar Ombre Rosse, landmark of the area, open from breakfast until late at night with a selection of food and music for everyone’s tastes. In front of this bar is the Museo di Roma in Trastevere, whose building - which is part of the convent of the Discalced Carmelites - has a permanent collection of folkloric aspects of the city. The small museum catapults us into everyday life in 19th-century Trastevere, with a room dedicated to the Roman poet Trilussa with her household objects. 

A little further on, there is one of the symbols of Trastevere and one of the most beautiful churches of Rome: the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest places of worship in the capital dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The current Romanesque structure, bell tower included, was built in 1148 by Pope Innocent II, on the foundations of an earlier church. Later, in 1702, the porch of Carlo Fontana was added with statues of four Popes on the balustrade. When looking at the façade you are immediately struck by the beautiful 13th-century mosaic of the Virgin suckling the infant Jesus, flanked by ten women holding lamps. The Interior has three naves divided by 21 granite Roman columns, with Ionic and Corinthian capitals, from the baths of Caracalla and, along with the Cosmati floor and wooden ceiling designed by Domenichino in 1617, you will be enchanted by the mosaics of the apse, all created between the 12th and 13th centuries. In the center square of the same name, there is one of the oldest fountains of Rome, restored numerous times and fueled by the Acqua Paola, which it is said quenched the thirst of the people of Trastevere before the advent of the town water supply. 

Going along Via di San Francesco a Ripa from the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, you can stop to eat a quick Suppli along the way and after crossing the busy Viale Trastevere, you will arrive in Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi, in front of the Church of San Francesco a Ripa, where it is said that Saint Francis stayed when he came to Rome in 1209, to obtain the approval of his monastic rule by Pope Innocent III. The church, dedicated to Saint Francis, today has a Baroque style dating back to1680 and inside has one of the finest works by Bernini: the Ecstasy of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. The Ecstasy of the Blessed is one of the most beautiful works of Bernini, executed in 1674, and sister Ludovica, a nun of the Poor Clares, is represented while reclining on an embroidered bed in marble, in the act of Christian rapture, with her eyes closed and mouth open. 

The east side of Viale Trastevere can be said to be the area of the district that is a little more secluded but equally rich with hidden treasures. Going along Via Anicia, towards Lungotevere we can stop in front of the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, where the remains of the patron saint of music lie. The ninth-century basilica, was built over an earlier fifth-century church which was in turn built on the house where it is believed that the saint was martyred in 230. In addition to the sculpture by Maderno, depicting the saint, which is located under the altar, the work that arouses admiration is the 13th-century fresco by Pietro Cavallini depicting the Last Judgment in the choir of the monks. 

There are still many more churches and you can spend another two fun, carefree house losing yourself among the alleyways where breathtaking attic houses, coexist with clothes hung out to dry in the sun and Trastevere locals mix with new residents and tourists from all over of the world. 




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