Piazza Sant'Egidio today

 
This piazza as we know it has been around for several centuries, as you can see from both the similarities between the present view above and the 18th century engraving below by Giuseppe Vasi and from the old map of Trastevere that you will find in the Trastevere section. But the area has been on the beaten track, as it were, for much, much longer. Historians tell us, in fact, that in Roman days the ancient consular road known as the Aurelia Vetus, which originated near the Forum Holitorium across the river at Tiber Island, passed right by here on it's way out of town. This means that in ancient times, it was a way road for travelers and troops, the ground no doubt resounding from the clomp of Roman soldiers’ feet as they marched out of the city and towards the Tyrrhenian sea.
In the 16th and 17th centuries there were already several residential buildings in the square and they are still there today: But the ecclesiastical side of life clearly dominated the piazza: the building in the far background is the outside of the apse of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the bell tower of which is also visible on the far right and the entrance to which can be found around the corner to the left in the piazza of the same name. The small building on the far left was originally the Church rectory and has a facade, described as "borrominiano" (in the Borromini style) but attributed to Giacomo Onorato Recalcati. The large building on the left side where the carriage is parked was for centuries a convent (although in this view it seems much more worldly), and in the left foreground is the Church of Sant’ Egidio.

 


Giuseppe Vasi (1710 - 1782)
Monastero e chiesa di S. Egidio in Trastevere delle suore Carmelitane,
incisione

Nowadays, the structure of the square is the same but the atmosphere has changed completely. The convent has become the Rome Museum of Trastevere. The church dedicated to Sant’Egidio is still there but, together with the small building to its immediate right, has become the center of the Comunità di S. Egidio, a socially and politically-active Roman Catholic organization which is almost as active abroad as it is here in Italy. The police car stationed permanently in the square is to there protect the Community from threats received several years ago when it was involved in peace negotiations in Mozambique and Africa and in the Middle East. The community also owns the building at the other end of the piazza (the light colored building in the photo below) and runs the small restaurant to the right of Attilio’s fruit and vegetable store. Walking rightward round the corner of the Museum you will find yourselves in Via della Paglia. The large building on the left is also owned by the parish and is used for meetings and social programs for both Italians and the country’s growing population of immigrants. The Community collects used clothing for the poor and a few blocks away runs a soup kitchen for the really down and out.
 
The piazza seen from the other side; Atillio's fruit store and the Comunità’s restaurant are in the background.
 
The portone (entrance door) to Piazza S.Egidio 14
 
Opposite the Museum and the Church are numbers 14, 11, and 9 (the later was known during the Renaissance as Palazzo Velli), which are residential buildings. The Ombre Rosse Café in the piazza (you can see barman Luigi cleaning the tables in one of the photos below) has become extremely successful. It is a great place for morning coffee, a light lunch or – in the evenings – an aperitif or an after-dinner drink. Sometimes, in the evenings, there is live music, but don’t worry, the bedroom in the apartment, is in the back and you won’t hear it. Often, especially during the spring and summer, street musicians will serenade the Café’s patrons. Next door is the new version of the Pasquino movie house, which used to have the entrance round the back in Vicolo del Piede.; today it has three small theatres where foreign, films, mostly English-language but not exclusively, are shown regularly. In the evenings, street peddlers often set up their tables and sell handmade jewellery, paintings and other handicrafts. They really aren’t supposed to be there but police surveillance is, to say the least, highly erratic. In the evenings, marching through the piazza, you will no longer find Roman centurions but Italians and foreigners who flock to the area to enjoy its famed restaurants and cafes.
 
Barman Luigi cleaning the tables at the Café Ombre Rosse
 
The museum and the Comunità
 
A view of the piazza showing the stairs to the Museum Another view of the piazza. The apartment is in the orangy building with the green shutters.
 
The church of Sant’Egidio

Another view of the piazza

 
Another view of the Piazza
 
Another view of the piazza
 
Attilio serving a customer at his frutteria