Trastevere is a district that has maintained its local charm. The area’s bustling life is expressed in the tangle of alleys where sacred and profane rub shoulders: unusual small shops, churches, bars, kiosks, fountains, and some sort of religious building on just about every corner. Take a visit and find out exactly why it is so famous. Just start early in the morning, before the restricted traffic time is over, so you can stroll around in peace without any fear of being mown down as you explore the tiny alleys – often without pavements.
Start from Porta Settimiana, and enjoy breakfast at the Settimio bar, where even in winter the sun warms the small tables set outside. Heading up Via della Lungara, you will see Villa della Farnesina, the famous summer residence for the Farnese family, and the less familiar Palazzo Corsini. Go up the Palazzo’s monumental staircase to the first floor, where you will find two remarkable interiors far removed from the mass tourism routes: the Library of the oldest scientific academy in the world, Accademia dei Lincei, whose members included Galileo Galilei. It was also the first Art Gallery for antique art in Rome, and the residence of the Queen of Sweden. Ask to be taken for a tour around the library’s sequence of halls, lined with bookcases containing rare texts and lost manuscripts. The hallowed silence is broken only by the sound of your footsteps on the old wooden floors.
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While you are visiting Palazzo Corsini, you will see glimpses of the botanical gardens behind you. They were once part of the Swedish queen’s garden. Today it is somewhat neglected, but nonetheless the small glasshouses and the old weathered buildings still have a certain charm. Wander through the palms, the sycamores, the bamboo forests and the cork trees until you arrive at the foot of the Gianicolo slope where, carving a path between the plantation and the natural woodland, you will find the splendid Staircase of the Eleven Fountains, which are still supplied by water from the ancient Paola aqueduct.
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Triumphs and Laments
Sometimes gallery space is not enough to accommodate an artist’s intentions, and so they have to look for other contexts where they can create site-specific works. This was the case for William Kentridge, who inaugurated perhaps his most ambitious work, Triumphs and Laments in Rome last April. It is a 500 metre-long frieze running from one bridge to another, from Ponte Mazzini to Ponte Sisto. A procession of mythological figures accompany personalities from recent history: Romolo and Remo’s wolf, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg, Caesar, Saint Teresa, and even Mussolini on horseback. Kentridge explains, “Every story has a negative or shameful part. Every triumph corresponds to a lament, to someone else’s defeat”.
Galleria Stefania Miscetti
There is an unimaginable amount of ancient art in Rome, but the city seems to be an inspiration for artists still today, and it has a vibrant community of artists and galleries. One example is the gallery run by architect Stefania Miscetti, in a refurbished industrial space set into the historic urban scene. It has a packed calendar of events and exhibitions featuring Italian and international artists, who have included Adrian Tranquilli, Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono.
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For more ideas of how to Do, Dine and Spend across Europe and beyond, visit our Destinations page.