Trastevere is one of our favorite areas in Rome. In the this neighborhood you will see buildings that are made of terracotta, and winding cobblestoned paths that lead in and out of picturesque piazzas.

This place is truly a hidden gem. The restaurants are authentic Italian and the service is superb. Santa Maria y San Francesco (Ripa's church) is a must see. In the San Francesco you can find Bernini’s Beata Ludovica Albertoni (Blessed Ludovica Albertoni) another one you will want to check out.

It's amazing to think that this area of was originally built to be a city port where storehouses held goods at the time of Augustus and continued to do so until the end of the 19th Century.

At that time this area became a down market residential quarter; these days it has developed into a very attractive quarter. The heart of the district is Piazza di Santa Maria. With its lovely church, a 17th-century palazzo and a fountain in the middle; it just may be Rome's oldest! It was designed by architects such as Bernini, Fontana and Della Porta.

There are still some well-conserved medieval houses. On Sunday mornings, you can visit the 7th Corte dei Vigili in Via dei Salumi. If you enter the guards' rooms, you will see grafitti on the walls written by Roman soldiers who served the emperors from Septimus Severus to Caracalla. You will also see notations of their guard duty.

For a spectacular view of Rome, head up to Mount Janiculum Gianicolo. You'll pass the church of San Pietro in Montorio; built on the site where Saint Peter is believed to have been crucified. Also famous for its cloister and artwork including Bramante's "Tempietto." A bit further up the hill is Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a grandiose fountain dating to 1612.

Across from the fountain and next to the Spanish Embassy is a photo op not to be missed. Numerous domes dot the urban vista and on a clear day, you can observe the snow capped Colli Albani, the hills behind Rome. Other easy-to-spot points of interest are Palazzo Venezia and Castel Sant'Angelo.

Bargain hunters will be happy to know about the Porta Portese flea market. Located off Viale Trastevere, beginning at the corner of Via Portuense and Via Ippolito Nievo. This is a great place stock up on new and used items including jewelry, trendy clothing, shoes, souvenirs and much more. Go early to avoid the crowds (hours are Sundays, 6:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.).

With its multitude of must-see historical sites, Rome can be overwhelming. For a genuine look at how today's Romans live, visit Trastevere. It very well may be the highlight of your trip.

Getting to Trastevere

In a short distance from the Coliseum and the Vatican, Trastevere is an ideal place to make a home base. If arriving at Fumicino airport, save a bundle by taking the train from inside the airport to Stazione Trastevere (Euro 5 verses Euro 45) and from there catch a cab to your hotel. For those arriving at Termini, the main train station, a Euro 14 cab fare is about right. As charming as this area is, the winding streets can be a bit confusing. A detailed map may be included in your travel book, but if not, is well worth spending another few euros to save time and limit frustration. Start your visit at the outdoor mercato at Piazza San Cosimato, located one block from Via San Francesco a Ripa.

Tented booths display a bountiful array of tantalizing fruits and vegetables. It's an opportunity to observe locals buying the freshest ingredients for the day's meals and then carrying it all home in their trailing, 2-wheeled shopping carts. Vendors open their stalls around 8:00 a.m. and close at 2:00 p.m.

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