Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Rome: Not Always Eternal; the Changing Itineraries of Trastevere

Right in the middle of Modern Rome's  Stairs of Trastevere walk.
Suggesting itineraries for visitors to Rome is a hazardous activity.  In some ways, yes, Rome is eternal and some things have not changed for 2,000 years - and more.  But in other ways, Rome changes all the time.

We discovered the latter principle recently when we decided to use some of the stairs in an itinerary in our last book - Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  The itinerary plays off of the popularity of stairways walks in the US, especially on the West Coast.  It's titled: The Stairs of Trastevere.  Ooops!  We were greeted by the nemesis of all Rome walkers: orange netted fencing.
Path looks okay here - note the grotto-like effect.

But, as we looked more closely, we could see there was an easy entrance in spite of the fencing and signs, and that we wouldn't be the first people to use the stairway. These particular stairways use the rough, country-ish, 'grotto' look so prized in the 19th century - ala Tivoli's Villa Gregoriana.  And, they continued to seem that way to us.  Then we saw that the rocks were falling from the supporting walls.
This could be seen as just more authentic looking grotto effect,
but the city likely closed the stairway because of these rocks.

 And, no doubt that danger is what has closed the stairways.

There had been some heavy rains recently; so we guessed the stairways had just been closed and would reopen soon.  Think again! The signs posted said the stairways had been closed since Fall, 2014 (not long after Modern Rome was published), and the residents were sick and tired of waiting for them to be fixed and re-open.

It looked as though no one had tried to get through this fence.
So we didn't try either.
A second set of stairs has no opening and appears to be completely unused.  Better not to try that one.

So for the hundreds of  people trying this stairways walk (p. 70 in the print version, right before the heading "A Fascist-Era Ossuary"), go ahead and walk up the stairs after the hairpin turn.  But when you cross the road to get to the second set of stairs, well-blocked off, turn left instead and walk up to the U-curve and take the stairs in front of you as you round the curve (under the original itinerary you would have been coming down the road to that curve and these steps were  on your right). You'll miss 52 steps.  BTW, we did walk the rest of the itinerary and it's all good.

Lessons learned:  Don't expect any itinerary to stay the same.  Sometimes you can get through barriers, but we don't recommend it unless it's fairly clear others have done so.  Once closed, a monument or site won't reopen anytime soon.  Going off-itinerary isn't all bad.  When the going gets bad, have a coffee or glass of wine.
Bar across from first closed stairway.  It's better than it looks in
this photo.  Lots of nice outdoor tables, fairly large inside.
"Il Baretto" - "the cute little bar."
Other people (that's not RST there) were using this stairway;
a clue that it's fine to use it.


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