Testaccio and Trastevere (by day), Rome, Italy

Today, we had initially planned a day trip to Tivoli, just outside of the city, but decided to get off the beaten path in Rome to give this city’s less-touristy side a chance by daylight. Based on initial research I’d conducted, there were a couple cool spots to hit: the Quartiere Coppedé, the Testaccio neighborhood, and actually, Trastevere, a neighborhood we explored by night with our Devour food tour.


We started with the Quartiere Coppedé, Rome’s so-called “Fantasy District” which is named for the architect Gino Coppedè, who designed the ‘neighborhood’ (more like a traffic circle) using a mix of styles, including influences from Art Nouveu, Baroque, medieval and ancient Greecian architecture. It reminded me a bit of Barcelona, where Gaudi’s buildings pop against a normal backdrop.

As soon as we got off the bus, we started to notice beautiful motifs, including the facade of a beautiful chapel (which is otherwise in Romanesque-style).


The quarter itself is beautiful – it’s a truly amazing mix of architectural styles, including beautiful mosaics, a neat chandelier, and some amazing facades.


Each building also seems to have a unique facade, which was interesting to see.


Given the ‘quarter’ is really a collection of ~6 buildings around a traffic circle, we finished up in about fifteen minutes and then waited for a bumpy bus to take us all the way across Rome to the neighborhood of Testaccio, where a family-run restaurant called Felice e Testaccio awaited us for lunch (a recommendation from our Devour Tours guide and many a food blog!). Roman buses are… honestly, they’re almost worse than New York City buses, which is saying something. I think the shocks wore out on the newest bus sometime in the first Bush administration, and the cobblestones aren’t helping anyone. While clattering across town for ~40 minutes, we watched a man clipping his nails, which was quite the in-ride entertainment. Anyhow, we were both very glad when we arrived.


Testaccio is a beautiful, if partially gritty, neighborhood, which is a great mix of vibrantly colored buildings and ruins from antiquity and modernity. We wandered for a little bit and ultimately ended up at the restaurant just as they opened, hoping to snag a non-reserved table.

The food certainly didn’t disappoint – I tried their signature spaghetti, which had a festive sauce with a variety of herbs like oregano, mint and basil. We also got the Amatriciana (again!). The great thing was that no one spoke English, so it really felt like we had finally found a non-touristy slice of Rome; the negative was we weren’t sure how to say no to the waitress when she up-sold us on the tiramisu, and honestly, it was worth it!

After lunch, we continued wandering the city, heading back to the Trastevere neighborhood we’d done the food tour in on our first night in Rome. Initially, we intended to head to Rome’s best pizza, just across the Tiber River. We wandered through a variety of ‘lived’ Roman streets, only to find that, of course, the pizza place was closed despite the hours listed both on Google and the door itself.


However, it was nice seeing a bit of Rome most tourists wouldn’t venture into. Once we realized it was closed, we wandered through a couple different sites to get back towards the river. We ended up in a closed campus, which we later realized was an art university in Rome.


Then, finally, we found the city walls, and back into ‘Rome’ were we!


The remainder of the walk was beautiful along the Tiber River, including crossing Tiber Island, which has a variety of nice amenities including a cute little pedestrian lane, a bridge, and some nice church and pharmacy facades.


Once across Tiber Island, we wandered through Trastevere, which is just as intriguing by day as it is by night (I wish we had the foresight to stay in this neighborhood, but unfortunately, most ‘luxury’ hotels are on the opposite side of the city and we booked on points to save money!).


The neighborhood is a bit gritty, but seems to have lots of heart, and many, many spots to stop in and grab a delicious pastry.


I took far too many pictures of the architecture to post here, but one item that stuck out was the church Santa Maria in Trastevere – it has a beautiful facade, and an interesting motif of old blocks incorporated into the interior walls. Of course, it also has some beautiful mosaic art.


We also tried to visit the ancient pharmacy, but of course, you have to email someone to get an appointment to enter – oh, well! We then spent a solid hour or so wandering back through Trastevere and across the river towards the hotel.




Once nice thing about our wandering today was that, given Epiphany was yesterday, a lot of the crowd has cleared out, leaving many of the downtown streets a bit clearer.


The entrance to a church in downtown Rome!

Generally, it was a fun day of exploration! We had dinner near our hotel in Ludovisi, a ‘modern’ take on Roman food. Tomorrow, we see the Villa Borghese gallery and then are homebound.

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