Trastevere is back. Hardly any other quarter of Rome has suffered as badly from the lockdowns of the corona pandemic as the nightlife district “beyond the Tiber”, as the name of the district translates. Now the district with its winding streets, crimson houses and well-worn cobblestones on the right bank of the Tiber is firmly in the hands of party people again, from late afternoon until the early hours of the morning.
One could also say: In Trastevere all hell is loose again. To the chagrin of the long-established residents of the quarter. Since Roman times, the district has been the home of migrants and the marginalized, the “proletarii” even more than the “plebei”, while the “patrizi” lived on the other side of the Tiber, on the “this side” of the river. Go “to the city”, the people of Trastevere – actually a larger village – used to say when they crossed one of the bridges over the Tiber. The Jews and the first Christians also lived “beyond the Tiber”. That is why there were once ten synagogues in Trastevere – and to this day some of the most important early Christian basilicas. First of all, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the first Marian church in Rome, consecrated in the year of the Lord 220.
The fact that all hell breaks loose in Trastevere on weekends could be seen in a mobile phone video at the beginning of November, which became notorious on social media. You can see how several young people kick a homeless man who is sitting on the ground in the Piazza Trilussa in the head. Just for fun and cheered on by their cronies. It follows a mass brawl between two enemy “baby gangs”, as criminal youth gangs are called in Italy. The homeless man treated in the emergency room of a clinic, a well-known former drug addict in Trastevere, did not want to press charges against his tormentors.
The social fabric of Travestere is torn
Trastevere’s social fabric has been torn under the weight of gentrification. Citizens’ initiatives by local residents are protesting against street vendors with tourist scams and against innkeepers who continue to occupy public space by putting far more tables than allowed in the streets and squares. The innkeepers reply to their neighbors, who are unnerved by the noise and the garbage, that they are reliant on making up for the losses from the lockdown times with the currently booming business before the next recession comes due to the Ukraine war and the energy crisis.
Right in the middle of Trastevere is the Catholic lay community Comunità di Sant’Egidio. It was founded in 1968 by retired history professor and former minister Andrea Riccardi, then just 18, and some of his school friends. The young people, inspired in equal measure by the Christian faith and by the revolutionary dream of a world of justice and peace, occupied an empty, run-down Carmelite monastery in the Piazza di Sant’Egidio in the heart of Trastevere. The monastery church was dedicated to Saint Ägidius (640 to 720), one of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers”, who have been honored as patron saints since early Christianity. So the left-wing Catholic community named itself after Sant’Egidio.
According to their own statements, the community now has around 60,000 members in 73 countries – how many exactly is not known, because there is no formal accession as with a religious order. The community has grown tremendously since its inception over half a century ago. Thanks to its peace efforts in Africa (particularly in Mozambique, where Sant’Egidio brought about an end to the civil war between the left-wing liberation front Frelimo and the right-wing guerrilla Renamo in 1992 after two years of negotiations with the “Treaty of Rome”) as well as in the Middle East and on the Balkans acquired great international renown. The annual international prayers for peace of Sant’Egidio have become pilgrimages for political leaders of all persuasions and spiritual leaders of all religions; In 2023, the “Preghiera per la Pace” will take place in Berlin for the first time.