Get out of the tourist area and get lost in the side streets of the Trastavere district. Trastevere meaning “across the river” is an old, once working class neighbourhood, with bright coloured buildings, cobbled streets, washing hanging out of windows, flowers over flowing from window boxes, busy cafes and some unusual shops. There are of course, being Rome, a fair share of exquisite churches. Really the beauty is to get lost among the winding lanes, with a map in hand but I’ll give you a little direction, apart from that, try just drifting from Piazza to piazza.
When to go:The area is a well known spot for night life, so to see it at your leisure go in the day time. On a week day you will see the museums, shops and restaurants open; on a Friday the knife sharpener makes his rounds on his bicycle; on a Saturday perhaps a wedding and street performers and on a Sunday the Porte Portese market, off Viale Trastevere, open 06:30-14:00, so make your choice. Avoid crowds and the heat by going in the early morning.
Getting there: From the main centre you could walk across the Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio bridges which span the river at the island Isola Tiberia (also worth a look), or cross the Ponte Sisio bridge near Campo de’ Fiori. Otherwise there is tram number 8( from Argentina stop) or 3 (from Colluseum stop), which gives you good views on the way over as well. Get off at the first stop on the Trastevere side of the river.
What to see:Cross the river at Isola Tiberia, stay to your right and take Via Anicia to Piazza in Piscinula. Then continue on Via Anicia until you get to Via Del Genovesi, turn left. At Via Del Vascellari take right. This will bring you to the exquisite Piazza S. Cecilia and it’s Basilica. From there Via Di San Michele. At Piazza Di Porta Portese take right, and right again at Via Della Luce. This brings you to Piazza S. Francesco D’Assisi. Via Carlo Tavolacci and it’s continuation Via Amilio Morosini bring you to Via Roma Libera where you take right. This takes you to Piazza San Cosimato see the outdoor fruit and veg vendors(08:00-14:00), go down Via Natale del Grande for shoping, cross over Via San Francesco to get to Piazza Mastai, with it’s fountain,and continue up to Piazza San Calisto. Continue to the centre of Trastevere, Piazza Santa Maria with it’s Carlo Fontana fountain and the Basilica. From there find your way through the narrow lanes towards Piazza Sant’ Egidiogo, there pop into the Folklore Museum. Down the Vicolo del Cinque, left into Via del Moro (check out the clock shop, and English book shop).Then Piazza Della Renzi and on to Piazza Trilussa and Piazza Sisto. Here you can take the bridge back over the river.
You should be exhausted by now and should have already stopped at several cafes for refueling!
Tips: TAKE YOUR TIME! Soak up the atmosphere. Choose part of the walk I gave if it is too much. Linger in the Piazza.
Eat or drink at Checco, Via Benedetta, 7 or Augustarello, 98 Via Giovanni Branca, or Caffè del Cinque, Vicolo del Cinque 5 or Caffè Di Marzio in the Santa Maria Piazza. There is no shortage of atmospheric cafes.
If you still have energy go see the villa Farnesina on Via della Lungara, or go up Gianicolo Hill for brilliant views and more sites.