Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere

An ancient and colourful Christian church in one of the liveliest spots in town.

TravelCurious Tip

Get some gelato in Piazza Santa Maria and sit on the steps of the fountain to enjoy the enchanting façade.

Quite contary

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the most ancient churches in Rome, and the first Marian church in the city - although it vies for this title with the Santa Maria Maggiore. The church is built on the site where Saint Callixtus founded a chapel in around 220 AD. Callixtus became Pope during a time in the Roman Empire when Christian worship was dangerous, and was martyred by being thrown head-first from a window into a well not far from where the church now stands.

In 340 AD a new church was established here. Originally the Roman legionnaires were not happy about having a Christian church near the taverns where they drank. The Emperor Alexander Severus allowed the Christians to keep their church, saying that it was better to have men worship in whatever form than to have them getting drunk.

Marian mosaics

Pope Innocent II rebuilt the church as a Basilica in 12th century on the plan of 4th century church. The Ionic columns which line the aisle are taken from the Baths of Caracalla. There are also a number of important frescoes inside the nave of the church telling stories from the life of the Virgin Mary by Pietro Cavellini, as well as the colourful 13th century outer mosaic above the entrance depicting the Virgin being presented with gifts whilst nursing the infant Christ.

Santa Maria is located in the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is a main square in the area and one of the liveliest during day and night. Its layout hasn’t changed much since the 1600s and displays a beautiful fountain designed by the famous artist and architect Carlo Fontana. Here you will find musicians, artists, and entertainers of all sorts performing on a daily basis. There are also plenty of restaurants in the square and down the surrounding cobbled streets.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Campo De' Fiori
Host to a daily fruit and vegetable market, this square is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of Rome.
A busy, charming and characterful district across the Tiber which has kept hold of its authenitic Roman feel.
When in Rome, drink what the Romans drink.
Piazza and Palazzo Farnese
One of the most important palaces of the High Renaissance, once home to Pope Paul III and currently the French Embassy.
Villa Farnesina
A gorgeous Renaissance building, with some amazing artwork and lovely gardens.
Piazza Santa Maria
A happening square in the heart of Trastevere where you can relax, people watch and enjoy the festivities in the evenings.

Related Tours

Trastevere Small Group Food Tour
With its narrow cobblestone streets and strong sense of communal spirit, Trastevere is a must-see for any visitor to Rome. At night, it is a wonderful festive hangout for tourists and locals alike, with musicians playing in its narrow, winding backstreets and squares and diners and pleasure seekers spilling out from restaurants and bars. On your small group tour, you and up to 7 others, will:

  • Sample the freshest ingredients on several tastings throughout the course of the evening
  • Indulge in a sit down meal at a local, family-owned restaurant frequented by locals. 
  • Learn what 'suppli’ are and why the locals love them.
  • Enjoy classic Romano food - like cacio e pepe or Amatriciana.
  • Taste the best pastries around and meet the neighbourhood’s resident pastry chef of 40 years.
  • Learn about (and taste!) the real-deal gelato.
  • Sample award-winning local homemade desserts and visit authentic, old wine cellars.
On this evening  food tour, your local expert guide will show you the best of Trastevere’s food scene: from family-run pastry shops and delicatessens to gelato and wine. Meet the people behind the magic and immerse yourself in this area’s wonderfully preserved food traditions with several tastings throughout the walk.  

On the way, you will have the opportunity to stop by local churches and squares - your guide will provide you with a fascinating local insight into this neighbourhood’s history and traditions and how they have had an impact on food culture. With your small group experience, you can enjoy a tailored, adaptable experience - and be entertained by your new friends along with your local guide. Receive  the best local advice for what to do and see for the rest of your stay. Get away from the tourist areas of Rome and spend a fascinating, indulgent day in one of Rome’s most historic areas - this is an evening not to be missed!


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