When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When in Trastevere, do as you please, but always find the time to spend at least one weekend evening wrapped in the tourist crowd flooding the narrow streets, slowly finding your way to one of the many little bars where you will have beer like a local, taking in the buzz of the street and the tired beauty of the old ochre houses.
If you are an experienced traveler (not that I am the most experienced of them all), you know for a fact that one place can be either touristic or authentic.
Trastevere manages to be both.
The Roman neighbourhood ‘beyond the Tiber’ has the typically Italian atmosphere of people doing their business without much of a hurry, drinking short espressos and hanging their washing on lines above your head. With swarms of Vespas around every other corner or a lonely old bike that looks like it came from another time.
Perhaps the same time that most of the buildings around here come from.
Indeed, houses in Rome and in Trastevere in particular are old in a tangibly real, partially-falling-apart, romantically non-romantic way that makes them beautiful and sweetly sad at the same time. Like an old lady wearing her best smile that only makes her wrinkles deeper.
Thoughts like this, sad and happy, are a typical companion during a walk in Trastevere in early morning.
In the morning, it is all a bit different than the night before. No crowds, no beers (only a few empty cups arranged in flower pots – see above), no cheering noise or impatient conversations. Buildings look the same and yet somehow changed, yellow, and ochre, and red, and smelling of ages long gone. Strange plants creep up the walls, hiding old doors and ancient secrets. Little coffee shops open their doors and the sleepy air is filled with the smell of fresh coffee and homemade biscuits. You can’t help but sit beside a small wooden table and order one of the best cappuccinos you have ever tasted.
Then, recharged, camera in hand, you continue losing yourself in the winding streets, wondering if it is the first time you pass by this graffiti-painted wooden door with door handles in the form of Egyptian princesses.
There is some arrogance in calling things ‘typically French’, ‘typically Spanish’, or ‘typically Italian’. Yet, you cannot help but think that exploring the labyrinth of Trastevere streets is one of the most Italian experiences you can have in the colourful, magnificent, old, new, crowded, lonely and wonderful city of Rome.