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NAME
Trastevere is the Italian version of the Latin expression trans Tiberim, i.e. "beyond the Tiber". This was the first inhabited area on the western side of the river.
The same name Regio Transtiberim (also spelled Transtyberim) was adopted in the late Middle Age, following ancient Rome's Regio XIV, among the districts whose division had been decreed under Octavian Augustus, which had already been labelled with this name.

COAT OF ARMS
A lion's head.
coat of arms of Trastevere district

via di San Francesco di Sales
the Janiculum heights tower over
the northern part of the district
BOUNDARY
Piazza della Rovere; galleria Principe Amedeo di Savoia; viale delle Mura Aurelie; viale delle Mura Gianicolensi; viale Aurelio Saffi; viale delle Mura Portuensi; piazzale Portuense; porto di Ripa Grande; lungotevere Ripa; lungotevere degli Alberteschi; piazza della Gensola; lungotevere degli Anguillara; lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio; lungotevere Farnesina; lungotevere Gianicolense.
vicolo del Leopardo
even the washing adds to the colours of Trastevere

Trastevere district's locator map MAIN FEATURES
(the black numbers in brackets refer to the map on the left)


This large district, only second in size to Monti (Rione I), traditionally challenges the latter in claiming to be the most 'genuine' among Rome's districts. It is directly accessed by seven bridges and, alone, it represents the whole south-western part of the city's historical nucleus, stretching below the Janiculum for most of its extension, but also including the top of the hill, where its boundary is marked by the mighty walls built in the first half of the 1600s under pope Urban VIII (see The Popes' Walls part III for pictures and details).
In ancient Rome this was the neighborhood of the Syrian community and, later on, of the Jewish one. It was officially included among the city districts by emperor Augustus, who had a naumachia, i.e. a water stadium for naval battles, built here.
Then, during the early Middle Ages, Rome's population decreased considerably; the Jewish community gradually moved to the eastern side of the river (i.e. closer to the city center), and this area was left desertic. This is why when in the mid 12th century Rome's administrators agreed the new boundaries of twelve districts, Trastevere was not included among them. It re-entered the urban context only two centuries later, when its population had already started to grow once again.
piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
Garibaldi's statue on the Janiculum Hill
Today the district can be divided into three parts, each with a spirit of its own.
The northern part, which includes the Janiculum Hill and via della Lungara, is mostly covered with parkland, and scattered with monuments and memories of Rome's 19th century history; the central part preserved its typical texture of narrow lanes, but it is often too crowded at night, due to the high number of bars, restaurants, pubs, winehouses and similar establishments; the southern part, silent and somewhat decadent, is still rich of treasures of art and charming corners.
piazza Giuditta Tavani Arquati
a funky window in piazza Tavani Arquati

The district's northern part runs from the Janiculum's top down towards the western bank of the Tiber.
The hill does not belong to the famous seven hills over which the city was founded, so it is also nicknamed 'the eighth hill'. Its name likely comes from that of the two-headed god Ianus; then, during the Middle Ages, it was called Mons Aureus ("golden hill") due to the colour of its sand, but at a later stage the name was corrupted into Montorio (see further in the page). It is Rome's best viewpoint, especially in the late afternoon, when the city below is ignited by the setting sun with a yellowish light that enhances the natural colour of most of Rome's buildings. A road runs all the way along the top of the hill, with breathtaking views over the city's skyline; it is called Passeggiata del Gianicolo (the Janiculum's stroll), opened in the late 1800s when the parkland, originally belonging to private villas and mansions, became a public garden, thus turning into one of Rome's fashionable meeting points for the middle-high society of those years.
It is advisable to take this walk starting from its northern end, i.e. from where Trastevere adjoins Borgo district.
passeggiata del Gianicolo
stunning view from the Janiculum's top

via di Sant'Onofrio
via di Sant'Onofrio
From piazza Della Rovere a double ramp climbs along the hill's eastern side, just before the tunnel that runs under the Janiculum (which is part of the district boundary); on the side belonging to Borgo district, the road follows a massive 16th century bastion that runs across the top of the hill (see The Popes' Walls, part II page 2.
However, it is advisable to avoid the ramp, due to the car traffic, and to take via di Sant'Onofrio, a steep lane that springs from the riverside about 100 m (or yards) further south.
Turning left at the top of the flight of steps, at the end of the street stands the complex that includes the church and the convent of Sant'Onofrio [1]. It was founded in the 1400s as a hermitage, on a spot that used to be still out of reach in those days; in fact, the aforesaid lane was opened shortly after the making of the complex, and was the only approach to this spot from below; its paving was laid only one century later.
Before the actual building stretches a small garden surrounded by a porch on two sides, with a fountain: this is a copy of the one now located in piazza delle Cinque Scole (see Fountains, part III page 11), whose upper parts (i.e. the basin and the baluster), moved here in 1924, stood here up to 1930, when they were taken back to their original location. Below the porch hangs the tombstone of the founder of the hermitage, the Blessed Nicola da Forca Palena (d.1449), and fresco paintings by Domenichino (1605) decorate the lunettes.

A short passage leads to the real cloister, also decorated with well-preserved frescoes, painted on the occasion of the Jubilee year 1600. They tell the life of Onuphrius, the son of the king of Persia, who lived in the 4th or 5th century, became a Christian hermit, and eventually was proclaimed a saint.
piazza Sant'Onofrio
scenes of the life of the Virgin Mary (c.1500)
Several works of art of the late 1400s-1500s are found inside the church, including apsidal paintings by Baldassarre Peruzzi (on the left) and an Annunciation by Antoniazzo Romano; there is also the tomb of one of the greatest Italian poets of the 1500s, Torquato Tasso, who spent his last few months of life in the convent, where he died in 1595.
Sant'Onofrio's complex belongs to the Vatican State, therefore is is granted the privilege of extraterritoriality.
piazza Sant'Onofrio
the complex of Sant'Onofrio

The large institution adjoining the church and the convent is Rome's children's hospital, one of Italy's most important of its kind, founded in 1869; also the hospital belongs to the Vatican since 1924, and it is therefore run under extraterritorial jurisdiction.

passeggiata del Gianicolo - rampa della Quercia
The large institution adjoining the church and the convent is Rome's children's hospital, one of Italy's most important of its kind, founded in 1869; also the hospital belongs to the Vatican since 1924, and it is therefore run under extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The road makes a turn to the right, then after running past the hospital again, it makes a second right turn. By this spot, on the left side, a metal frame props the remains of a very old tree, popularly known as 'the oak of Torquato Tasso' [2], after the aforesaid poet, who is said to have rested below its branches when they were still lush. Also St.Philip Neri (1515-95) and the children whom he tought and entertained, to take them off the streets, used to gather by this same spot. The tree turned dry in 1843, when it was stricken by a thunderbolt.
The old oak overlooks a tiny open air theatre, built in 1619 out of a natural hollow on the hill's side, where once popular celebrations were held. After having fallen into disuse for a very long time, in the mid 1960s it was refurbished, and was used ever since for holding classic plays during the summertime.

The flight of steps next to the old oak provides a short cut that by-passes two narrow hairpin bends of the road.
At the top of the steps, just a few metres further, a tall white monument shaped as a lighthouse [3] makes a rather unusual encounter on a hill top. It was presented to Rome in 1911 as a token of friendship by the Italian community living in Argentina.
From the late 1800s throughout the first half of the 20th century, thousands of families fled from Italy, seeking for a better life in South America; since they left by ship, the last memory of their own homeland was in fact a lighthouse. So the apparently bizarre gift is really a touching reminder of Italy's recent history. At dusk the monument is lit with a green, white and red light, i.e. the three colours of Italy's national flag.

The terrace by the lighthouse, where the view over the city is already stunning, is localy well-known also because from this spot the convicts held in detention in the Regina Coeli prison [4], located below the hill, received vocal messages from relatives and friends, who simply shouted them from the heigths of the Janiculum hill; up to a few decades ago, this custom was still alive.
passeggiata del Gianicolo passeggiata del Gianicolo
the lighthouse:
← during daytime
and after dusk ↑
The jail, a very large complex that stretches all the way down to the river bank, dates back to the late 19th century, and was named after the title of a preexisting church. It is part of Rome's folk tradition: actually, an old popular song of the early 1900s says: "in Regina Coeli there is a step: who does not pass it is not a Roman", which is self-explaining!

Following the same direction, the road very soon comes to a small open space on the right, where a monument of a young woman on horseback [5] remembers Anita Garibaldi (1821-49), a romantic heroine of the Risorgimento movement, which led to the unification of Italy. She was the Brazilian-born wife of the famous general and national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, whom she accompanied in his military campaigns, including the unsuccessful defense of the city against the Zouaves, French mercenaries whom pope Pius IX had called upon, after having been overthrown by the Roman Republic, only a few months earlier. In the very harsh clash between the two sides, which took place on the Janiculum Hill in June 1849, the people of Rome fought side by side with the Red Shirts led by Garibaldi (see also further in the page, for other memories of this battle).
passeggiata del Gianicolo
Anita is portrayed holding a child with one hand and raising a gun with the other, to underline her dual role of mother and revolutionary fighter; she was in fact pregnant for the fifth time when she fell sick during the siege of Rome, and died about one month later, aged 28.
The remains of Anita rest at the base of the monument, where they were moved in 1932 from Nice (France). The author of the statue is Mario Rutelli, among whose other works in Rome is the Fountain of the Naiads.
passeggiata del Gianicolo
(← left) Anita's monument and her grave (above ↑)

In the gardens that follow the road on both sides are about 80 busts of military personalities who took part to the aforesaid battle. Their shape and arrangement are very similar to those of the busts of famous Italian personalities found in the Pincio gardens (see Curious and Unusual page 14).

On the very top of the hill, the road widens up into a plaza, marked by the huge monument of Giuseppe Garibaldi [6], one of Italy's most popular historical personages, known as the Hero of the Two Worlds, having fought indipendence campaigns both in South America and in Europe. The monument has been standing here since 1895, i.e. 17 years after his death.

One whole side of the plaza is closed by a long terrace, from where the view over the whole city stretches as far as the hills in Rome's surroundings. Just below the terrace is a platform: from this spot, every day at 12 AM sharp, the blast of a gun announces mid-day. The brief ceremony, described in Curious and Unusual page 7, is usually attended by a small crowd of people, many of which are children.
piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

From this spot the main road splits into two separate branches, divided by a garden and then by Villa Aurelia [7], a mansion built in the 1600s for a cardinal belonging to the Farnese family; the building changed owners several times, and also acted as Garibaldi's headquarters in 1849. In 1913 it was finally turned into Rome's American Academy.
passeggiata del Gianicolo
the bust of Goffredo Mameli and other patriots who defended Rome
Taking the right branch of the road, almost at its end, the so-called Michelangelo's house [8] can be seen on the right side. It is the fašade of a 16th century house that once stood near the Roman Forum, very likely next to that of the famous artist. When the whole district was taken down in the early 1900s, the front of this house was spared, and rebuilt on the Janiculum hill, where it now acts as a screen that covers a simple water cistern at the back.

Where the parkland comes to an end stands the stout, square-shaped Porta San Pancrazio [9], once a gate belonging to the ancient set of city walls (see Aurelian's walls); it was rebuilt in the early 1600s, and became a part of the wall sponsored by Urban VIII. Also the second gate was damaged in 1849, during the siege of Rome. The present structure (i.e. the third one) dates back to 1854.


The street that runs below the gate, heading downhill, is named after Garibaldi; very soon it reaches the enormous Acqua Paola Fountain [10], built in the early 1600s (described in Fountains, part III page 12 and The Popes' Walls, part III), known in Rome as 'the Big Fountain', a real must for visitors, also because of the beautiful view over the city from the balcony opposite the huge monument.
A staircase, whose left wall encloses scanty remains of the ancient city boundary built by emperor Aurelian (see The Popes' Walls, part III page 2), is a short cut to the bottom part of via Garibaldi, but there is much to see following the main road.

In fact, slightly further, on the left, via Garibaldi runs past a large square monument with arches on its four sides [11], standing in a small garden; its bright white makes a striking contrast with the deep green of the surrounding trees. This is a memorial dedicated to the citizens who lost their lives in 1849, in the aforementioned battle. Their remains are buried in the vault below the monument, whose making dates to 1941 (i.e. much later than the historical facts it commemorates), and is therefore strongly tinged with the boastful, rethorical style of the Fascist architecture, typical of those years.
Among those who rest here is Goffredo Mameli, a poet and a patriot, who wrote the lyrics of Italy's national anthem.
via Giuseppe Garibaldi

piazza di San Pietro in Montorio
Bramante's Small Temple
Just further downhill, on the opposite side of via Garibaldi, in a small square stands the complex of San Pietro in Montorio [12] (after the medieval name of the Janiculum Hill), which includes a church and an annexed building that now houses the Spanish Academy in Rome. The church was founded in the Middle Ages, on the spot wrongly believed to be the place where St.Peter had been crucified; it was then rebuilt by the Spanish king Ferdinand IV in the late 1400s, thus ever since it was chosen as one of the national Spanish churches of the city. Among its artistic features are a chapel built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and a painting (Flagellation, c.1520) by Sebastiano del Piombo, a distinguished Venetian painter, who may have been given the preparatory drawings by Michelangelo.
In the centre of a tiny courtyard adjoining the church is the famous Small Temple by Donato Bramante (1502), a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, whose harmonious shape inspired the creations of several artists through the following centuries. On the floor of the temple's vault is a round hole which, according to the old belief, was left by St.Peter's cross, driven into the ground.

The long and winding via Garibaldi ends by a crossing, whose left side is marked by a Roman gate, Porta Settimiana [13], completely refurbished in the 1600s (it is described more in detail in The Popes' Walls).
Here starts the perfectly straight via della Lungara, once simply called Lungara (i.e. "long way"), stretching for about 1 Km (or half a mile) towards the Vatican. It was one of the first streets of its kind in Renaissance Rome, opened by pope Julius II in the early 1500s by drawing a direct passage leading towards the tomb of St.Peter, through the labyrinth of old medieval lanes that covered Trastevere district. It reflected a typically trend of the 1500s for long and straight thoroughfares, connecting crucial spots; in this case, the aforesaid gate and Porta Santo Spirito, another gate through which the Vatican area was approached. Similar streets were also opened in Ponte district (via Recta, presently via dei Coronari), in Regola district (via Giulia), and in several other parts of Rome.
via della Lungara
Porta Settimiana

via della Lungara - lungotevere della Farnesina
Villa Farnesina
Along via della Lungara, just past the gate, stands Villa Farnesina [14], the large mansion that a rich banker, Agostino Chigi, had built for his family on the riverside, in the early 16th century. Many of its halls are lavishly decorated with frescoes by famous artists, such as Raphael and Giulio Romano. The Farnese family bought it in 1590, whence its present name, Farnesina. The same family had also made plans to build a bridge over the Tiber, in order to connect this villa to the great mansion where they dwelt, Palazzo Farnese (see Rione VII, Regola), on the opposite side of the river. The Farnese family often held in Villa Farnesina rich banquets and feasts. To show themselves grand, after each meal, they threw into the river the dishes and cutlery that had been used, made of solid silver. ...But a long net, strategically set for this purpose by the river bank, enabled the owners to retrieve them, later on!

Another large mansion that stands on the opposite side of the street, facing the aforesaid villa, is Palazzo Corsini. It was built by pope Clement XII (1730-40), who was a member of the Corsini family. It had previously belonged to another important family, the Riario, who were descendants of pope Sixtus IV (1471-84); they moved to Trastevere when their first mansion in Parione district (now known as the Chancellery Palace) was confiscated. When the Corsini took over the property, the mansion was completely rebuilt and enlarged. It now houses an art gallery, featuring a collection of paintings of the 1600s-1700s.

via della Lungara - San Giacomo's church
Bernini's flying skeleton
100 m (or yards) ahead, on the right side of via della Lungara, is the ancient church of San Giacomo alla Lungara [15]. On the wall by the main altar hangs a bizarre tombstone with a flying skeleton, for whose making the famous Gianlorenzo Bernini is credited. But the church also boasts a curious record: it has the only Romanesque belltower in Rome whose windows are not mullioned (i.e. with two or more arches, as commonly found in similar buildings); in fact, when deep alterations were carried out in the early 1900s for the making of the huge walls along the Tiber banks, to prevent further floods, the church would have been taken down, as any other old house along the riverside, but it was spared thanks to its belltower, and was therefore partly encased by a newer building.
lungotevere della Farnesina
the belltower of San Giacomo's church

Via della Lungara then runs by the main entrance of the aforesaid Regina Coeli prison, and finally reaches the starting point, piazza Della Rovere.

↓  the prison complex of Regina Coeli, from the Janiculum Hill;
the row of trees, in the centre, follows the course of the Tiber
passeggiata del Gianicolo