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Trastevere

T intro

 

For the fourth and final Rome installment, I wanted to venture further afield, into the real suburbs of Rome. But neither Coco nor I have been 100%, and the days have been too short to stray far – with temperatures hitting 36-38 degrees C, you only start thinking about going out after 5pm.

When I reviewed my shortlist of potential Roman neighbourhoods, I decided to choose one that I’d previously dismissed – Trastevere. Just west of the River Tiber, it’s within the Aurelian Walls and is one of the rioni of Rome. Jam packed with history – and tourists.

But as much as I feared it would be too postcard perfect and lacking in depth, I was pleasantly surprised; unlike much of Rome, Trastevere manages to transcend its tourist hordes.

Some facts… Name comes from the Latin trans Tiberim, ‘beyond the Tiber’. Isolated for a long time due to its location across the river. It houses two of the most ancient churches in Rome, Santa Maria and Santa Cecilia, as well as a multitude of restaurants and bars. Today, it’s still a maze of narrow, winding streets paved with the distinctive cobble stones, sampietrini – the enemy of the stiletto.

Okay, for the last time, andiamo!

 

Part 1: Santa Maria

One of the oldest churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere is tucked away in a corner of the neighbourhood’s main piazza. Not particularly grand or imposing, your eye is drawn more to the central fountain and the restaurants and bars that line the square.

But its interior is impressive – as are the events that take place here. On one day, a prayer vigil for the African boat people, the next, a glamorous wedding. Santa Maria may be a thousand years old but she’s still very much alive and kicking.

 

 

entering Rione XIII, place of many churches

entering Rione XIII, place of many churches

 

 

 

 

Santa Maria, outside and in

Santa Maria, outside and in

 

 

 

 

ripples

ripples

 

 

 

 

in her dreams she swam free

in her dreams she swam free

 

 

 

 

water water everywhere but not a drop to swim in

water water everywhere but not a drop to swim in

 

 

 

 

please God, turn the temperature down

please God, turn the temperature down

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Tourists aren’t the only people who love Italy

Italy is one of the countries that many North Africans and others are fleeing to, in search of a better life. But many don’t survive the journey across the seas. In 2011, 2,200 people died trying to reach Italy’s shores.

We happened to be in Trastevere when a prayer vigil was being held at Santa Maria - Morire di Speranza, Dying of Hope, ‘in memory of victims of voyages to Europe’.

It’s complicated of course; not everyone in Italy wants more immigrants.

It reminded me of the tragedy of the boat people who try to make it to Australia – and the wars they cause amongst the politicians and the populace.

 

 

Morire di Speranza - Dying of Hope

Morire di Speranza - Dying of Hope

 

 

 

 

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 1

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 1

 

 

 

 

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 2

 

 

 

 

they fled their homes in search of paradise - but ended up in heaven

they fled their homes in search of paradise - but ended up in heaven

 

 

 

 

life is beautiful - and precarious

life is beautiful - and precarious

 

 

 

 

compassion

compassion

 

 

 

 

something needs to change

something needs to change

 

 

 

 

These are hard times in Europe – you can feel the desperation on the streets, far more so than in Australia. As a result, the tensions over immigration are worse than ever. Yet Rome is probably as multicultural as it’s ever been. All the immigrants we met had jobs and felt life in Rome was pretty good. They are the lucky ones.

 

 

Rome is multicoloured - Khan Asi from Pakistan

Rome is multicoloured - Khan Asi from Pakistan

 

 

 

 

and then she hopped on her scooter and drove off - Bernadeth, Sri Lanka

and then she hopped on her scooter and drove off - Bernadeth, Sri Lanka

 

 

 

 

one of the lucky ones - Ignatious from India

one of the lucky ones - Ignatious from India

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Wedding bells

The next day we visited, Santa Maria was hosting an altogether different kind of ceremony – a wedding. Coco and I watched from the back of the church then hopped outside once it was over to take some shots. Kids tearing about the piazza, grandfathers blowing bubbles, kisses everywhere – it was chaos. But I did manage to capture one of the flower girls, Ginevra – well, I tried anyway. Everyone else seemed happy to have me in their midst – but not Ginevra.

 

 

not amused - Ginevra

not amused - Ginevra

 

 

 

 

please Ginevra, turn around so Louise can take your photo

please Ginevra, turn around so Louise can take your photo

 

 

 

 

one angelic, one not

one angelic, one not

 

 

 

 

I gave up in the end. Actually, that’s not true. I never give up. Ginevra and her family drove off so I had no choice. Her mum asked me to send her a photo – didn’t she see that her little darling hadn’t played nice?

Defeated by a four year old I took two more snaps and left. At least the bride smiled at me. Sort of. (Yes, I know, I crashed a wedding, what did I expect?)

 

Sopranos-esque?

Sopranos-esque?

 

 

 

 

I don't remember you being on the guest list

I don't remember you being on the guest list

 

 

 

 

Part 4: The mix

Trastevere is populated by a mix of locals and tourists from all over the planet. You can tell who’s who by  looking at the clock – those eating at the restaurants before 8pm, well, that’s your tourist. No self-respecting Roman would even consider sitting down to dine before then.

First up, a few locals…

 

summer palette - Carlo :: 1

summer palette - Carlo :: 1

 

 

 

 

summer palette - Carlo :: 2

summer palette - Carlo :: 2

 

 

 

 

Carolina and her grandfather, now and in a few years time

Carolina and her grandfather, now and in a few years time

 

 

 

And my favourite, Ferruccio. When I asked to take a photo, he said, one?, why not take two – and proceeded to assume the pose below.

 

'leave the gun, take the cannollis' - The Godfather

'leave the gun, take the cannollis' - The Godfather

 

 

 

 

And then there are the tourists…

 

from freezing Finland to steamy Rome

from freezing Finland to roasting Rome

 

 

 

 

Spanish gals

Spanish gals

 

 

 

 

different walks of life - the busker and the beauty

different walks of life - the busker and the beauty

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Different types

Trastevere has a handful of interesting typefaces and signage from different eras spotted around the place. My favourite, the lettering outside a now derelict 1950s cinema; it was almost demolished a few years ago to make way for apartments but the community loved it so much they resisted the development and won. So far so good anyway.

 

now starring in its own love story

now starring in its own love story

 

 

 

 

dear mum, I met this Italian guy at dinner and I'm staying for the summer

dear mum, I met this Italian guy at dinner and I'm staying for the summer

 

 

 

 

graphics, old and new

graphics, old and new

 

 

 

 

sigh

sigh

 

 

 

 

and its Fiat Bambinos

and its Fiat Bambinos

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Of the cities we’ve visited so far, Rome seems to be the one that’s most infused with tourists. I suspect in fact that all the ancient pillars and ruins are only remaining vertical for the tourists; were the backpack-wearing, map-toting mobs to evaporate, I think the old stones would take a long last breath before crumbling to the ground. What would they have to live for without the tourists?

But Trastevere seems different to me. Yes it’s touristy, but the place has so much soul that it rises above the masses that come to eat, drink and be merry down its narrow lanes. Were the tourists to evaporate in Trastevere, life would go on here perfectly fine. Just ask Ferruccio.

 

 

the piazza that makes everything glow red

the piazza that makes everything glow red

 

 

 

 

Coco Gelato

Coco Gelato

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

As I said, both of us haven’t been 100% this week, not helped by the debilitating heat. But Coco was well enough to enjoy her umpteenth gelato so things can’t be too bad.

I, on the other hand, felt much improved after meeting our neighbour. One night this week the power went out in our apartment. Pitch black, no torch, no candles. Both Coco and I on our hands and knees to get down the stairs to the front door to fiddle with the fuse box. After flicking all the switches and nothing happening, I went and buzzed the other apartments – and who should answer our cry for help but this handsome man. He takes one look at the fuse box and flicks a switch I didn’t see – and hey presto, light! The perfect excuse to plant a smoocher on him, on the cheek of course. Just as we were leaving Rome… Agh, he’s probably married anyway.

(Oh, and then I met this incredibly sexy priest in Trastevere. There was definitely chemistry between us. I think. Not sure if you can have chemistry with a priest – Thornbirds anyone? – but I think we did. Yikes.)

Clearly the heat is getting to me and it’s time to head north to cooler climes. So, Rome, arrivederci! Your famous old bits are impressive but it’s your people and your neighbourhoods that I really like. And thanks to everyone we met for their ‘suburb’ suggestions and general encouragement – Lisa, Elisa, Simone and Ana, and Ilaria and Luca. Grazie mille!

This suburb has been brought to you by Chrissy Griffin

We’re heading over to Madrid for a few days to meet up with friends so we’ll see you in Berlin in two week’s time – the first Berlin post will be on Monday July 9. Can’t wait.

 

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you once again! Oh wow, it seems I’m the first to comment! I’m glad for all your love and smooches! Thankfully some priests can and do marry, just not the Roman types I would think! Enjoy your week in Madrid, you’ll be missed, but hopefully you’ll be on the repair (and Coco remains well supplied with gelato!)

  2. Simeon says:

    Love it. Love Trastevere, long wanted to go back there.

  3. Karen says:

    I’ll be staying in Trastevere in October – very much looking forward to a couple of weeks of wandering the back streets :) Love your photos – have a great time in Madrid!

  4. Chrissy Griffin says:

    Amazing post! I want to fly to Roma NOW! Also, how amazing was that bride? So stylish… so Italian!
    Safe travels and I hope you start to feel better soon!

  5. ALison MUdie says:

    Divine colours, can feel the heat!
    Great post Louise
    x

  6. Claire says:

    Great post Louise, how you make me laugh! It’s great to read your personality coming through in these o/s posts. I spent a week in Trastevere last time I was in Rome. I really loved the neighbourhood feel. What a great experience for Coco. Keep up the great work!

  7. NIKI HUGHES says:

    I especially like the beauty walking along the paved road and the FIAT…as a pom in Oz, I miss hopping over to Europe. I can feel the culture….

  8. Joyce says:

    Thanks Louise,
    I look forward to your weekly post as you allow me to travel and dream without leaving my seat.
    Have a nice break in Madrid, I have been there and love this beautiful city.

  9. Tanya says:

    Thank you for the journey through Rome Louise, I especially loved the diverse people or should I say characters, enjoy your stay with friends.

  10. Pip says:

    Wonderful post Louise. If you have any time to read try Lloyd Jones’ The Hand Me Down World which picks up on your immigration theme. Will be good to read it in Berlin. And I think I’ve been to that old cinema in Trastevere. Px

  11. Louise says:

    Sarah – I tried to take a photo of the sexy priest but he told me he liked to stay under the radar, even where he works – in the Vatican. He’s one of 500 or so priests there. He was walking his dog, collar open, sunnies on. Just something about him.
    Simeon – Well, at least you went back in a virtual sense.
    Karen – October, much more sensible! The weather should be just perfect for exploring.
    Chrissy – I was intrigued with the bride’s head gear and bare tattooed shoulder – not your average church wedding fare. I suspect the after party would’ve been a hoot.
    Alison – Oh that heat. Mind you, we’re now in Madrid – and it’s hotter!! No wonder no one eats dinner until 10pm.
    Claire – It’s always tricky, deciding how much to share – glad you enjoyed the post.
    Niki – I can imagine. I’ve always been so incredibly envious of people in Europe, the way you can access so many different cultures within a few hours. I love Australia dearly but it’s so far away!
    Joyce – Grazie, and so glad you’re enjoying your travels.
    Tanya – I’ll miss those characters for sure. And thanks so much to you and Rogerseller for supporting the project!
    Pip – Thanks for the book tip, I’ll try and find some time to read it. And interesting about the cinema – I can imagine it must have been wonderfully retro inside.

    Grazie to all – and thanks to those who wished us better health. We’re both much better now – but still too hot! Madrid was close to 40 degrees C yesterday.

  12. Sarah says:

    Your photos are amazing! I love the energy and soul you manage to get into each shot and the way you fuse them together in your blog is definitely a case of the sum being greater than the parts…. I want to buy and frame them all for my home!!! Trastavere is one of my favorite places in Europe ( not that I’ve been everywhere) and you are so right about it being a surprisingly untouristy suburb. Have fun in Madrid- I’ve never been there so can’t wait for you photos x

  13. Louise says:

    Sarah – Muchas gracias as they say here in Spain. But sadly I won’t be posting from here – we’re only here for four days to see friends – the next post will be from Berlin!

  14. Red Peony says:

    Love your latest post; and especially your wrap up and “on the home front”

    You sound so contented if a little tired. Stay well, enjoy Madrid. Am looking forward to your next post from Berlin.

    • Louise says:

      Red Peony, grazie – and see you in Berlin!

  15. Katie says:

    You go, Louise! Handsome priests and gallant strangers.. oh la la! x

    • Louise says:

      Katie, I guess if you can’t find them in Italy, you can’t find them anywhere. Definitely brightens the day.

  16. Tatyana says:

    it’s such a pity to leave Rome… you made us feel like home here Louise … but yay to the new adventures! Thank you so much for the weekly inspiration. Enjoy your time in Madrid!

    • Louise says:

      Tatyana, Rome seemed to pass in a flash – but I’m glad you enjoyed it. And yes, next stop, Berlin!

  17. Elisa says:

    I was touched reading this post: reading your words for this neighborhood (you know: it is my favorite), thinking to chat with you and coco, and thinking to ice cream ate together. I’m already missing you! I wish the best for your trip to berlin (and new york), I can’t wait to read your posts! A big hug to you and your chatty girl… I love you!
    P.S.: Ferruccio is the best!!
    P.P.S.: Sounds crazy, but… I KNOW THE BRIDE!! She was an assistent in my school when i was a child!! Ahahaha it’s amazing!

    • Louise says:

      Elisa, it was just wonderful to meet you too. We love you too! And I cannot believe you know the bride – how weird is that? Take care and come and visit us in Sydney one day. Big hug and kiss from Coco. x

  18. Peter W Davies says:

    Hi Louise, I have really enjoyed looking through the 52 suburbs sites. since the search for the beauty in the ‘burbs of Sydney i have followed with interest. I have been living in Mexico City for the last 9 months or so and have been working on my own project, to document urban life around every station of the metro system. you can check it out at http://www.mexicocitymetro.wordpress.com/

    The photographic quality is not too good but anyway it has been an incredible journey to discover this city. I see that New York is coming up for you. you might be interested in one guy who is doing his own project to walk every single street of the 5 boroughs, amazing! his project is at http://imjustwalking.com/

    all the best for the rest of the project, I look forward to following it

    • Louise says:

      Peter – Mexico City is one I’d love to include in this project but I hear it’s genuinely dodgy. True or false, I’d love to know. And thanks for the link to the NY dude.

  19. Katie says:

    Thanks for the great pix! I learned about your work through an SMH article a couple of months ago. I’ve been living in Buenos Aires since February last year and it made me homesick looking at all the burbs! And now of course seeing a few of my favourite cities outside of Australia and some that I’d love to visit. What an amazing time you are having, and what great experience for Coco! Looking forward to the expo when we’re both back on Oz soil :) Travel safe and party on!!!

    • Louise says:

      Katie, merci, grazie, dank! See you at the exhibition.

  20. Kim Crowley says:

    I met you and Coco at a Roman bust stop last Saturday and learned that Coco and I shared a birthday.
    Happy Birthday Coco!!!

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Kim! Hope you had a great birthday too.

  21. Georgia says:

    These are wonderful photos and stories – love the sexy priest! I can’t wait to see what you discover in Berlin!

  22. Peter W Davies says:

    Hi Louise, well I have been all over Mexico City in the last 9 months and have had absolutely no problems. Even parts of the city where I have been warned to avoid or be particularly on guard were fine. This city has the second largest population of any in the world so it is rare that you will find yourself without quite a lot of other people around. genuinely dodgy? fanciful and false! Like Mexico as a whole Mexico City gets a bad rap and sure there is a lot of violence in the country but the majority of the country feels an is very safe and welcoming. Mexico City is an incredibly vibrant and diverse world city that from my point of view and travels around 30 or so countries feels just about as safe as anywhere… so maybe you could pop down from NY and include in your project! any questions feel free to contact me peterdavies1980@yahoo.com.au

  23. Ellen says:

    I dont no y i wasnt readin for a bit buti love these

    • Louise says:

      Ellen – Amazing! I was looking back at my HK posts and saw your name – and thought, huh, haven’t heard from Ellen in a while – and then your name popped up just now! Welcome back.

  24. Lise says:

    That little bubba & her nonno what a beautiful little girl : her eyes are amazing. Such gorgeous pics of peeps & places. Mille grazie xxx

    • Louise says:

      Lise – Aren’t they beautiful those two? She’s like a doll – and he is so handsome.

  25. Clare says:

    Thank you so very much for taking me back to Rome! I was there in summer 5 years ago, and I know all too well that heat!

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