This is a guest post by Katy Sewall, who has lived in Trastevere, Rome, for the past year. I asked Katy to write this post after listening to every episode, and wanting more, of the wonderful podcast she does with Tiffany Parks about living in Rome.
When you’re a tourist, or a new expat in Rome, the day can get overwhelming quickly. Not only are you adjusting to a new culture, there’s a lifetime’s worth of things to see. How can you pack it into three days, a week, or even a year? Rome just celebrated its 2,767th birthday. That’s a lot of human history to experience.
I’m a new expat to Italy and a temporary one. I’m only living in Rome for a year. Every day I hit the streets to see something new, but I’ve also learned an important lesson. To really enjoy and absorb Rome, you need places to relax and unwind.
I live in Trastevere, which gets its name from the Latin trans Tiberium, meaning across the Tiber (River). It’s off the beaten tourist path and has wonderful places to unwind.
When you need a break, here’s where to go.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
This basilica is cavernous and dark. The air here feels ten degrees cooler, and if you go in the early morning, you’re often the only person there.
You may be alone, but a rich history surrounds you. Legend says that in 38 B.C., a stream of mineral oil erupted at this very place. People took it as a sign the messiah was coming. Pope Calixtus erected a shrine on this location in the 200s A.D. and the spot has never been without a place of worship since.
So history lovers, this is your place. This is also your place if you crave beauty. The apse is one of the most stunning in Rome. Created in 1140, the golden mosaic work still shines as if no time has passed.
Fontana di Santa Maria in Trastevere
This favorite resting spot is right outside the Santa Maria basilica. Tradition says this shell-adorned fountain was made in the 8th century. That may be true, but there’s nothing on the books about it until the late 1400s.
The fountain is perched upon a hexagon of stairs, making it the perfect place to sit and eat, read or watch the world go by. Tired of the view? Just move slightly to the left or right.
I’ve spent many afternoons sitting on these steps. It’s never boring. There’s always a shady side and a sunny side. There are always people walking by. I’ve written and read here for hours. When it’s really hot, you can buy a Peroni beer from the local café for 2 Euros, use their bathroom and return with your drink to the steps.
Street performers love this square. Sitting on the fountain steps on the weekend is often like having an arts festival come to you.
Pizza in Trastevere, Rome: Dar Poeta
You’re about to discover the best pizza in Rome. Traditional Roman pizza has a very thin crust. Personally, I like something a little thicker. Dar Poeta has the perfect wood-fired crust and absolutely delicious toppings.
If you order the Super Bufala you will not be disappointed: Buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan, olives and artichoke hearts. I can literally eat this every week (and I do).
If you want something spicy, try the Lingua di Fuoco: Covered in a cured meat that lives up to its name “tongue of fire.”
This restaurant is relaxing because the food is amazing and the prices are fair. You can eat a very satisfying meal without feeling guilty for overspending your travel budget. Even if you decide to order wine!
The Doria Pamphilj Park
Rome has a lot of green space, but when you’re checking off tourist “must-sees,” everything can seem like cobblestones and pigeons. That’s why you must climb the Janiculum Hill (which looms over Trastevere) and find this park.
This large and historic park is full of expansive lawns, umbrella pines, and crumbling statues. Here, nature collides with history. An Italian Wall Lizard darts across a nose-less statue. Pond turtles sun themselves beside a 17th century villa. Rose-ringed Parakeets screech from one palm tree to another.
Few visitors to Rome see this park, missing the finest taste of nature a loud and busy city has to offer.
The View from the Janiculum Hill
This is where you’ll discover – you love Rome. The panoramic view is ancient, medieval and modern combined; the Pantheon, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Altar of the Fatherland. Standing here, you peer back in history while feeling completely in the moment.
There is no better view of Rome. This is the place that converts tourists into expats.
This is just the beginning.
Listen to The Bitter Sweet Life podcast to learn the honest truth of relaxing, exploring, and living in Rome. It’s like having coffee with good friends while gaining a deeper understanding of the expat/tourist experience. www.thebittersweetlife.net
Katy Sewall is the co-host of “The Bitter Sweet Life:” an honest and conversational podcast on the mirth and chagrin of living life as an expat. The show tackles everything from self-discovery to sexual assault and appeals to tourists, expats and dreamers. Subscribe on iTunes or visit www.thebittersweetlife.net
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