Trastevere is a district in Rome. The district’s name derives from the Latin words “Trans Tiberem”: beyond the Tiber river. Today Trastevere is one of the centers of Roman night life; rich in pubs, restaurants, clubs. The area has a high population of expatriates and American college students as there are two American universities in the area.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Originally built sometime before the 4th century, this is certainly one of the oldest churches in the city, and one of the grandest, too. With a nave framed by a processional of two rows of gigantic columns (22 in total) taken from ancient Roman temples and an altar studded with gilded mosaics, this interior conjures up the splendor of ancient Rome better than any other in the city. Although there are larger Roman naves, none seems so majestic, as it’s bathed in a sublime glow from the 12th – and 13th-century mosaics and Domenichino’s gilded ceiling (1617). Supposedly Rome’s first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was rebuilt in the 12th century by Pope Innocent II (who hailed from Trastevere). The 19th-century portico seems to focus attention on the facade’s 800-year-old mosaics, which represent the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. The piazza is enhanced by their aura, especially at night, when the church front and its bell tower are illuminated. Back inside, the semicircular apse is covered with the most important mosaics, Pietro Cavallini’s six panels of the Life of the Virgin (Their new sense of realism is said to have to have inspired the great Giotto). Note the little building labeled “Taberna Meritoria” just under the figure of the Virgin in the Nativity scene, with a stream of oil flowing from it. It recalls the legend that on the day Christ was born, a stream of pure oil flowed from the earth on the site of the piazza, signifying the coming of the grace of God. Off the north side of the piazza, there’s a little street called Via delle Fonte dell’Olio in honor of this miracle.