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New York has its Greenwich Village, and Rome has its Trastevere (literally, "across the Tiber"). In Trastevere's case, however, the sense of being a world apart goes back more than two millennia and despite galloping gentrification, it remains about the most tightly knit community in Rome.

Perfectly picturesque piazzas, tiny winding medieval alleyways, and time-burnished Romanesque houses all cast a frozen-in-time spell, while grand art awaits at Santa Maria in Trastevere, San Francesco a Ripa, and the Villa Farnesina. The neighborhood's greatest attraction, however, is simply its atmosphere—traditional shops set along crooked streets, peaceful during the day and alive with throngs of restaurant- and partygoers at night. From here, a steep hike up stairs and the road to the Gianicolo, Rome’s highest hill, earns you a panoramic view over the whole city.

The inhabitants of Trastevere don't even call themselves Romans but Trasteverini, going on to claim that they, not the citizens north of the river, are the true remaining Romans. No matter: a trip to Trastevere still feels a bit like entering a different time and place. Some call it the world's second-smallest nation (after the Vatican, which is number 1). A living chronology, the district remains an enchanting confusion of past and present.