Sitting in the heart of atmospheric Trastevere, Piazza Santa Maria is the focal point of the district and has several different faces. By day it is the haunt of young families and tourists, by night clubbers and students come out of the woodwork to party in the surrounding bars.
The piazza’s western flank is dominated by the ornate Romanesque church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is one of the oldest in Rome, founded around 350 AD as Christianity was becoming prevalent. Several extensions and improvements ensued down the centuries, and now the church has a 16th-century portico and glittering medieval frescoes and mosaics in the apse as well as on its exterior, which glint when floodlit at night. The octagonal raised fountain in the center of the piazza has
its origins in Ancient Roman times and was restored and added to by Baroque master architect Carlo Fontana in 1692. At night the steps leading up to the fountain become a popular gathering place for young locals, while crowds spill out on to the piazza underneath restaurant parasols.
Piazza Santa Maria, Trastevere, Rome. The church of Santa Maria in Trastevere is open daily 7.30am–8pm, free admission. Walk to the piazza
through largely pedestrianized Trastevere or catch Tram 8.