I’d looked online for an apartment for my week in Rome, until I was sick of the thought of going. At some point I came across a recommendation for a women’s hostel in Trastevere (Tras TAY veree), on what I came to think of as Rome’s Left Bank, a short walk south of the Vatican on the west side of the Tiber River, Fiume Tevere. The more I thought of it, the better I liked the idea. After years of traveling on my own much of the time, the charms of solitude were wearing thin and the thought of staying in a building full of other women, also traveling, sounded companionable. So I booked a week in a private room, shared bath, at Foresteria Orsa Maggiore.
Women's hostel, Orsa Maggiore, in a former convent.
I left my cozy house in the village of Capena, 16 miles north of Rome, and retraced my journey of a few days before, when buying a train ticket had been my motivation for a day trip into the city. I caught the bus to Saxa Rubra station, then the commuter train for the short ride to Piazzale Flaminio. Using instructions sent to me by reception at Orsa Maggiore, I found the 280 bus that took me on a mini-tour of Rome, past Castel Sant’Angelo where we crossed the river and a glimpse of St. Peter’s, before disembarking in Trastevere at Villa Farnesina. A short walk, then, to Via di San Francesco di Sales and the imposing wall that separated the former convent, my home for the next week, from the rabble in the working-class neighborhood, once-upon-a-time. I knew immediately I’d come to the right place, with its narrow streets and casual atmosphere, my kind of city.
I spent the week, as I do, wandering the streets of the district. I particularly loved the Basilica di Santa Maria, possibly the oldest church in Rome, with its luminous mosaics.
Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere
One day I ventured up the hill beyond the hostel, the Giancolo, and discovered Rome’s largest park, once the private grounds of Villa Doria Pamphili, complete with dog walkers, ancient statuary tucked away on tiny paths through the greenery, and topped by the massive Garibaldi monument.
I walked farther and was rewarded by a view of St. Peter’s Basilica, as if seen from a hill in the countryside, horses grazing just below.
I left Trastevere one day for a long walk along Via Appia Antica, the Appian Way, the highway built to move the Roman army across the country, a section of which is a park south of Rome. Reached by local bus, it’s lined with tombs from ancient times, at least one of which, the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, can be entered and is fascinating.
I was so taken with Trastevere, I neglected the city across the river, I’m sure. But I did walk along the western bank, admiring Isola Tiberina that divides its waters, and crossed the Ponte Palatino to discover the Roman Circo Massimo, now a simple oval green space for local children to run. I walked to nearby Vatican City one day and joined a small group for a tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and the grand space enclosed by the basilica. I visited the Pantheon and my favorite sculpture, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, in the otherwise unimposing Santa Maria Vittoria, a short walk from Termini Station. And I spent a day traveling not far from the city to Ostia Antica, about which you’ll hear more next week.
I decided during the week spent in Trastevere that I could not have chosen a better location, given my personal inclinations, for a comfortable environment from which to discover Rome. I’ve returned to Rome since then, briefly, for a short visit and to catch a plane home from a long trip that began in China. Given another opportunity, I’d return to Trastevere without hesitation. I know I’m where I should be when that infrequent thought occurs to me, “I could live here”.
More PortMoresby in Italy.
And others of PortMoresby’s contributions here.