With its narrow cobblestoned streets and numerous terraces brimming with locals each night of the week, Trastevere lives and breathes La Dolce Vita. Considered one of Rome’s most vibrant and bustling neighbourhoods, Trastevere, which means “across the Tiber,” is located west of the river. Want to eat, shop, and play where the Romans do? Head over to this neighbourhood and give the following places a try.
What if I told you that you could get an American-style breakfast will real Canadian maple syrup in the heart of Rome? Being an expat myself, I was overjoyed when I came across Il Meccanismo. The next morning, I woke up and headed to the restaurant to enjoy scrambled eggs, toast, tomatoes, bacon, sausage, pancakes, coffee, and orange juice, all on a sunny terrace.
If you’re craving a typical English breakfast, Trastevere has that too! Pimm’s Good serves up a daily English breakfast composed of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried mushrooms, baked beans, a green salad, a grilled tomato, and toast with butter. Take a seat on their well-positioned terrace and people watch while enjoying your meal. Be sure to come back at night to taste their expertly-crafted Pimm’s Cup!
Did you know that besides pizza, Rome has another kind of street food? Supplì, which are fried, oval-shaped rice balls that resemble arancini, are a staple of this region’s cuisine. Appropriately named, I Supplì is a small, unassuming bakery that only the area’s residents know about. So much so that the staff know each customer by name and speak to them in their dialect. The supplì are just like they’re supposed to be: Fried to a golden brown, filled with fluffy risotto, and oozing with mozzarella.
La Boccaccia is tucked in a small corner on Via di Santa Dorotea – you’ll miss it if you don’t look out for it! Their pizza al taglio is a local favourite with Romans lining up to pick up several slices after work or among friends for a quick meal. One of the oldest – and most popular – delis in Trastevere, visit Antica Caciara Trasteverina for a quick bite on the go and be sure to order the ricotta infornata (ricotta baked in the oven). If you can’t resist the window display made up of focaccia and panini at La Renella, just wait until you see their sliced pizza inside. For a very small price, you can get countless slices of pizza al taglio and panini or focaccia sandwiches – all paired with a cold Italian beer.
With its colourful stools and funky ceramic that can be spotted from outside, Sto Bene (okay, you need to cross the Tiber for this one – but it’s worth it!) is a quaint bakery that makes fresh panini using your choice of bread, cheese, and cold cuts. My custom prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato panini on focaccia bread is one I won’t forget.
If you’re looking for a classic plate of pasta in a casual eatery done right, then you can’t go wrong at Osteria Da “Zi” Umberto. With an animated staff that adds to the lively atmosphere and a terrace that is full each evening, the standout dish of the evening is my spaghetti alle vongole (pictured) paired with house wine – it’s just what I need after a day of exploring the city. Il Duca proposes typical Italian fare, yet stands out with its perfectly executed versions of traditional antipasti (salumi, Roman-style artichokes, fried delicacies) and classic pasta dishes like cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara, among others.
Dar Poeta has a reputation of being one of the best pizzerias in Rome. With a perpetual lineup manned by a feisty Italian with a notepad, make sure you get your name on the list and wait out front for it to be called out. And with virtually every combination available, there’s a pizza for everyone here. Pizzeria Ai Marmi is a close contender with its delightfully thin pizza and a similar lineup that begins to form early on in the evening. With its imposing slabs of marble acting as tabletops (which have become their signature), this place is hard to miss. Be sure to start your meal with their selection of fried zucchini flowers, baccalà (cod), and supplì!
La Prosciutteria is a wine bar with a concept resonates with every child who grew up Italian (including me). Their cantina-style decor is reminiscent of my grandparent’s basement with ham hanging from the ceiling and Mother Mary adorning the wall. Except it’s filled with young Romans sipping wine to the sounds of Aqua’s Barbie girl and Earth, Wind & Fire’s September. The space is small, so patrons are grouped together at several communal tables. My partner and I had the chance to meet a young couple from Rome on our right and an English solo traveller on our left! We opt for red wine and a sharing platter that comes with a gorgeous selection of Italian cold cuts, cheese, bread, olives, fruit, and chutney. Perfetto.
Naturally, every good meal in Italy must end with gelato! Gelateria Fior di Luna is a charming ice cream shop on Via della Lungaretta. I decide to try a strawberry and cream combo – only because I’ve been overdosing on chocolate and nocciola over the last few days – and it’s just as heavenly. The upside is that their gelato is organic and made in-house, while the downside is that they don’t have cones – just cups – and I prefer my gelato in a cone.
There are plenty of charming boutiques in Trastevere. Fashionistas, visit Lungaretta 121 and DJ Dress Rome for trendy clothes. For accessories, head to Il Pallino di Valì and Marta Ray, which is known for leather goods that range from bags to classic ballerina flats. Both Trast and OurBrandCrisis are great for snagging a unique t-shirt, while Acid Drop is an independent clothing and accessories boutique that sells eclectic items made from local artists.
Dorothy Circus Gallery is an art gallery that specializes in pop surrealism and contemporary art. Their stunning black, white, and red decor will strike you as soon as you walk in by making you feel like you’ve entered another world (which is why the gallery is named after Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz). Think outside the box when shopping for souvenirs and head to Galleria Spazio 40 for one of a kind pieces made by local artists. From handcrafted jewellery to hand painted works of art, their mementos make the perfect gifts.
Paris has Shakespeare & Company and Rome has Almost Corner Bookshop. Located on the popular Via del Moro, here is where you’ll find expats browsing through English-language books. If you’re looking for an Italian independent bookstore, piazza Santa Maria’s Libreria Minimum Fax features a broad selection and an intimate setting. Finally, Rivendita Libri Cioccolata Vino is a bookshop that doubles as a wine and chocolate store – yes, this place is real.
Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà caught my interest simply with its name – mission accomplished. This no fuss bar always has a large crowd out front – which is probably because its interior is the size of a walk-in closet. Their beers include a great selection of Italian craft brews. Conveniently located steps away from Piazza Trilussa, SottoSopra serves delicious cocktails and beers alongside their food menu. Take a seat on their terrace adorned with large barrels as tables or take your drink to go and enjoy it on the steps of the nearby piazza.
Freni e Frizioni, which translates to “brakes and clutches,” is where you’ll find a hip crowd made up of young professionals and students. Housed in a former mechanic shop, their daily aperitivo includes a substantial vegetarian buffet to complement your glass of wine.
The best way to end an evening – or a trip – is on Grazia & Graziella’s large terrace, steps away from piazza Di San Egidio. This animated square is always booming and it’s where street vendors sell their crafts, day and night. After a cocktail and one final stroll in the area, I’m once again reminded why Rome is synonymous with La Dolce Vita.
Have you travelled to Trastevere before? Did I miss any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!