A local restaurant in Trastevere at night. The area is very popular among young crowds, as it offers an array of trattorias, craft beer pubs, and artisan shops.
When our flight touched down on the runway I expected to look out of my window and see the Italy that I always imagined. I knew we were still 30 minutes away from our apartment, but I envisioned the iconic Italian hillside spotted with colorful houses.
As our van eventually rolled to a stop, I peered outside and hoped we were just stopping for gas. We arrived at a light orange building covered in graffiti and enclosed by rusted gates. At this point, I started to question if we were in the right town. Little did I know that Trastevere would be the sweet neighborhood I would want to return to after a weekend away.
Trastevere is the 13th neighborhood of Rome, and its name is derived from the phrase “attraverso il Tevere” meaning “across the Tiber.” Originally, Romans treated Trastevere like an ugly stepchild after purchasing it as a strategic move to gain control on both sides of the river. Rome had no use for Trastevere, so the people left it to flourish on its own.
The neighborhood has been the home to slaves, the Jewish, fishermen, and sailors. The combination of the location and diversity of the community sparked a unique identity that continues to exist today.
Trastevere is like a cone of gelato with two flavors, one local and one tourist. It allows a traveler to get the historical experience of Rome in a short walk or tram ride while also experiencing the local culture. The cobblestone streets are speckled with authentic restaurants, bars, shops and residences, creating a perfect mix of history and present-day Roman life.
Every morning I take the tram five stops, walk through Piazza Trulissa and into Caffé Settimano. Debora greets me with a smile and no longer asks for my breakfast voucher. The barista knows I would like a cappuccino and only asks if I want it to go. The classroom, where I was introduced to the art of travel writing, is a short walk away.
I was extremely nervous when the van dropped me off over a week ago. I wanted to look out of my window and see the Coliseum. I wanted to be greeted by the pastel buildings and greenery. To my surprise, after leaving for the weekend all I wanted was my light orange building with its rusted gate. Trastevere is not the Italy that appears in a quick Google search, but it is the Italy that feels like home within days of arriving.