Trastevere (literally ‘cross the river’) is molto charming. There are always tourists around, as many areas are quite ‘discovered’ and because it is regarded as quintessential Roma, but it is certainly calmer and more relaxing than Rome’s center. Picturesque cafes line every square, idyllic seats in the sun are around every corner. There is even an old-fashioned, intimate book store in one of the main squares where left-minded locals and intellectuals browse Italian classics and pick up children’s books for their bambini.
Early mornings in Trastevere are treasures: I have the whole maze of a neighborhood to myself, except for a few bread bakers. I follow the tip of my nose to these bakeries where the ovens are roaring and dough is rising. The sweet smells of focaccia and the savory scent of pizza comes later in the morning. Once in a while I hear a woman’s voice calling her dog who has run down the cobblestones to lift his leg on a potted plant. She leaves her front door wide open and meanders into the narrow street, only to run into a neighbor who is on his way to Gianicolo for a bit of exercise (a new, strano concept in Italy.) They gesticulate for a few minutes as her dog unknowingly returns to its home.
By mid-morning, the neighborhood is stirring, and the tourists are out with their cameras to visit Santa Maria and dine on overpriced food in the main square. I walk back over the Tiber River and lose myself in the narrow back streets behind Campo dei Fiori. There are even more outdoor cafes here, and the little cobblestoned streets between Campo and the river are deafly quiet compared to the bustling piazza. I stop at one of my favorite cafes where architects sit on comfortable oversized chairs and pour over plans for a client’s modernized palazzo. I admire their effortless Roman style; their disheveled hair, their cuffed pants, their thick black glasses, and their Italian leather shoes. I watch the comings and goings as I have a bowl of farro made with carrots, zucchini, and tuna. Tuna in Rome is the best I have ever had: it is so flavorful on its own, it needs nothing else to accompany it.
After my late lunch, I wander along Via Giulia, a beautiful, wide, cobblestoned road that I have grown so fond of. It runs parallel to the Tiber, and it is one of my favorite spots in the entire city. When I reach the end, I feel full. That is what Rome does to a person: it fills you up with its electric blue sky, its demonstrative people, its vibrant colors and Roman architecture, its whiffs of freshly baked focaccia and steaming espresso, and its horns, whistles, and laughter, rising deep from the bellies of the Roman people.