There was a sense of relief when the overnight train from Vienna pulled into Rome’s Termini Station. For the first time on the trip, we knew exactly where to go. The same bus going to the same Trastevere bed and breakfast where the same host—the wonderful Danilo at BB Danilo—would be waiting for us. No orientation necessary meant we could just start enjoying the city.
We really loved Rome the first time around and wondered if it was just the thrill of a new city or the city itself. It didn’t take long to figure out it was the latter. We enjoyed a quick espresso with Danilo, then set out on the town.
Having checked out most of the major sights last time, we could focus on exploring some different parts of Rome this time, starting with the Porta Portese Flea Market along the Tiber River in Trastevere. Open every Sunday, the nearly mile-long market starts at the Ponte Sublicio bridge and runs down Via Portuense before spilling into the side streets at the Ponte Testaccio bridge.
The somewhat-chaotic market is great if you’re looking for cheap bags, clothing or knick knacks and the aggressive vendors are open to haggling. Chances are the products aren’t exactly what they claim (“Of course it’s made in Italy!”), but even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth a trip just for the experience.
At the end of the market, we crossed the Ponte Testaccio bridge where several cars were parked in front of a dilapidating complex. We figured they were coming across the bridge for the flea market, but instead they were walking into the complex. Seemed prudent to see where they were going!
The rundown complex was a former location for the Peroni Brewery and a slaughterhouse built in the late 1800s. Vacant for two decades, the MACRO, Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art, took over the grounds in 2000, sharing the space with the Sapienza University of Rome School of Architecture.
We followed the others through the grounds into a large courtyard on the other side where the Città dell’Altra Economia farmers market was in full swing. We’d found our people as vendors sold organic products, arts, crafts and food. Local artists sold their works from the trunks of their cars at the Car Boot Market. Café Boario was just starting to populate their mostly-vegetarian buffet, taking care of our lunch for the day.
After a little rest to recuperate from the lack of sleep on the train, we headed back into Trastevere’s old town. Trastevere is unique compared to Rome’s sightseeing center. While there are still tourists, there’s also a lot of locals, including a younger crowd of ex-pats thanks to the two American universities located in the neighborhood.
We had an early dinner followed by gelato at the popular Checco er Carettiere restaurant. The crowds at the cafes started to pick up as Roman dinnertime started around 8 p.m. We wandered the cobblestone streets, taking in the ambience, until the rain forced us to call it night.
More Photo of the Day posts from our January-March 2016 trip to Europe