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Rome - Around Town : Trastevere and Prati (part 1)

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Trastevere, which literally means “across the Tiber”, is Rome’s left bank and Bohemian neighbourhood. The former working-class ghetto has retained its medieval character better than any other part of Rome, despite having become one of the most restaurant- and nightlife-packed zones of the city. The Borgo is Vatican turf, a largely uninspired grid of streets strung with kitsch religious souvenir shops and bad, tourist-orientated restaurants. Its medieval character was ruined when Mussolini laid out the grand Via della Conciliazione leading to St Peter’s. North of the Borgo however stretches Prati, developed in the 19th century and one of Rome’s most genuine, non-touristy, middle-class neighbourhoods. Its widest boulevards, Via Cola di Rienzo, Viale Giulio Cesare and Viale delle Milizie, are where Romans shop for everything from sporting goods to CDs to imported foods and the best fresh-baked calzone in town.

St Cecilia

Cecilia was a Roman patrician and secret Christian. In 230 she was locked in steam baths for three days by political enemies. She came out singing (hence becoming patron saint of music), so they tried to behead her, but the requisite three strokes initially failed and Cecilia lingered for three days, converting hundreds to her faith.


Sights
  1. Vatican City

    One of the great museum complexes of the world includes Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the extensive Raphael Rooms.

  2. St Peter’s Basilica

    The capital of Christendom is packed with works by Bernini, statues by Michelangelo and panoramic views from the dome .

    Dome, St Peter’s Basilica
  3. Villa Farnesina

    Peruzzi’s sumptuous villa (1508–11) was built for papal banker Agostino Chigi, whose parties were legendary – he would toss silver platters into the Tiber after each course. In a downstairs room, Peruzzi painted Chigi’s horoscope on the ceiling, Sebastiano del Piombo painted scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Raphael painted the sensual Galatea. Peruzzi’s upstairs hall features a trompe-l’oeil balustrade overlooking hills. The 1527 graffiti by Charles V’s troops is now historic vandalism, protected under glass. The bedroom contains Sodoma’s Wedding Night of Alexander the Great (1517) .

    • Via della Lungara 230

    • Open 9am–1pm Mon–Sat & afternoons by appt

    • Adm €5

  4. Santa Maria in Trastevere

    Rome’s oldest church dedicated to the Virgin was founded in 337 on the site where a miraculous font of oil spouted the day Christ was born. The miracle is depicted in the stupendous Life of the Virgin mosaics (1291) by Pietro Cavallini, covering the lower half of the apse. The current 12th-century church has 13th-century mosaics, 22 mismatched ancient columns and a Cosmatesque pavement. There’s also a rare 7th-century panel painting of the Madonna della Clemenza in the chapel left of the altar .

    • Piazza S Maria in Trastevere

    • Open 7:30am–8pm daily

    • Free

    Mosaic, Santa Maria in Trastevere
  5. Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

    Built atop the saint’s house, some of which is visible in the crypt excavations. A Guido Reni painting of Cecilia’s decapitation sits off a right-hand corridor of the nave. Under the apse’s glittering 9th-century mosaics rests a baldacchino (1293) by Arnolfo di Cambio and Carlo Maderno’s 1600 statue of the saint (he saw her incorrupt body when her tomb was opened in 1599). Ring the bell on the left aisle to see the top half of Pietro Cavallini’s Last Judgment (1289– 93), his only remaining fresco in Rome.

    • Piazza di S Cecilia

    • Open 9:30am–1pm, 4–6:30pm daily (summer 4:15–6pm)

    • Adm €2.50 for crypt

    St Cecilia statue, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
  6. Vatican Gardens

    Typical 16th-century Italianate gardens of lawns, woods, grottoes and fountains. Structures include the first Vatican radio tower, designed by Marconi in 1931, Pier Luigi Nervi’s shell-shaped audience hall (1971) and the Mannerist Casina of Pius IV (1558–61), home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

    • Viale Vaticano

    • Tours 11am Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat

    • (06 6988 4676 or www.vatican.va)

    • Adm €30.00

    • DA

  7. Castel Sant’Angelo

    Hadrian designed his massive circular tomb in 123–39. Aurelian fortified it in 271 as part of his city walls . It was the papal castle for 1,000 years – a viaduct from the Vatican let the popes scurry here in times of crisis. Gregory the Great named it in 590 after a vision of St Michael announced the end of a plague from its tower, commemorated by the bronze statue of a sword-bearing archangel. There are frescoed Renaissance papal apartments and a small arms and armour collection (Etruscan through to the 1900s), plus stunning panoramas from the ramparts.

    • Lungotevere Castello 50

    • Open 9am–7:30pm Tue–Sun

    • Adm €5.00

    Fresco, Castel Sant’Angelo

    View of the Tiber from Castel Sant’Angelo
  8. San Francesco a Ripa

    Though altered during the Renaissance and Baroque eras, the church was built just 12 years after St Francis stayed at this hospice in 1219. Ask the sacristan’s permission to visit the cell in which St Francis stayed, bearing a copy of his portrait by Margaritone d’Arezzo. The last chapel on the left houses Bernini’s Beata Ludovica Albertoni (1671– 4), in a state of religious ecstasy bordering scandalously on the sexual.

    • Piazza di S Francesco d’Assisi

    • Open 7am–1pm, 4–7:30pm Mon–Sat, 4–7:30pm Sun

    • Free

    Bernini sculpture, San Francesco a Ripa
  9. Gianicolo

    This long ridge separating Trastevere from the Vatican offers some of the best views of Rome . Its two equestrian monuments celebrate Garibaldi and his wife Anita, who is buried underneath.

  10. Ponte Sant’Angelo

    Hadrian built this bridge in 133–4 to access his mausoleum, but only the three central arches of that span remain. Clement VII had the statues of St Peter (by Lorenzetto) and St Paul (by Paolo Taccone) installed in 1534. Clement IX hired Bernini in 1688 to design the statues of 10 angels holding symbols of the Passion.

    Statue, Ponte Sant’Angelo
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