As the cradle of Christianity, Rome is home to some of the oldest churches in the world. Among the most important is the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, with a facade and interior covered in golden mosaics from the 12th and 13th centuries. Dominating Piazza di Santa Maria, the church is a highlight of historical Trastevere.
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere was originally founded in the third century, but a complete renovation in the 12th century left the church in its present form, with a Romanesque bell tower and shimmering golden mosaics inside and out. Believed to be the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the basilica has a 16th-century portico designed by Carlo Fontana and an interior divided into three naves by lines of columns taken from the ancient Baths of Caracalla. One of the most beloved churches in the city, Santa Maria in Trastevere is often chosen by Romans to celebrate weddings and baptisms.
Explore the church and the vibrant neighborhood of Trastevere on a guided walking, bike, or Segway tour. Guided food tours explore Trastevere and the nearby Jewish Ghetto, both known for their excellent cuisine.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors must wear modest attire covering knees and shoulders to enter the church.
- Photography is allowed inside the church.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
- The square outside the church is pedestrian only and generally filled with street musicians and artists, so a good stop if traveling with young children.
How to Get There
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is located on the square of the same name, along the east bank of the Tiber River, south of Vatican City. Cross the Ponte Sisto on foot, or take tram 8 from the center of Rome across the Ponte Garibaldi, just north of Tiber Island.
When to Get There
The church is a popular venue for weddings and other religious ceremonies on the weekends, during which time the interior may not be accessible. Visit the church in the late afternoon for the best light on the facade, then stop at one of the many cafés in the square just outside for a relaxing aperitivo.
Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere stands on Piazza Santa Maria, the heart of this bohemian neighborhood that is filled by day with Romans and visitors dining at sidewalk restaurants and sunbathing on the steps of the square’s central fountain. Come evening, the city’s youth flock to the many trendy bars and cafés in and around the piazza.