Little Italy on the Meuse
Maastricht is perhaps the most Italian city in the Netherlands,thanks to its Roman history and its wealth of Italian culinary establishments. Join Saskia from Ciaotutti.nl and discover the Italian atmosphere of Wyck, the Stokstraatkwartier district, and the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square.
Saskia: ‘The perfect place to start your stroll through Italian Maastricht is Van Wijck. They have a fantastic La Marzoccco espresso machine, so the cappuccinos and espressos here taste just like the ones you would get in an Italian coffee bar. If you’re looking for a real Italian breakfast, make sure you also try a cornetto (croissant) with pure chocolate shavings!
Continue down Wycker Brugstraat and turn right after Café Zondag, into Rechtstraat. At number 19 you’ll find Regalo, a quaint gift shop with an Italian name that is run by people with a mental disability. And at number 22 you will find Toscanella Apuana, an authentic Italian trattoria, which is a great place to go later in the day for lunch or dinner.
Walk past Sint Martinuskerk (St. Martin’s church), leave Rechtstraat, and turn left into Sint Maartenslaan. Head towards the narrow strip of green along the Meuse. Here you'll find two remnants of the Wilhelmina bridge; two reliefs depicting images related to the history of Maastricht, made by artist Hendrik van den Eijnde from Haarlem. The relief on the left portrays the arrival of the Romans, who founded Traiectum ad Mosam here – a 'crossing over the Meuse'.
Continue down Oeverwal along the Meuse until you reach the Sint Servaas bridge, the oldest bridge in the Netherlands. Cross the bridge, turn left before Rivièra Maison, and walk via the Vissersmaas to the little square. Here you’ll find the Mestreechter Geis; a playful, graceful sculpture – characteristics that typify the average Maastricht native. The Mestreechter Geis represents the Maastricht people's way of life. The local version of la dolce vita!
The Mestreechter Geis stands with his back towards Darq, which has plenty to offer for both coffee and chocolate lovers! Order a delicious espresso, cappuccino, or one of the other coffee varieties (made with illy coffee beans from Trieste in northern Italy) with one of the chocolate creations from chocolatier Ralph Hagen’s workshop. Tip: Mestreechter punekes (chocolate kisses) make a great souvenir.
Continue your walk down Het Bat. At Eksterstraat, cross the Maasboulevard to admire the only visible remnant of the Roman bridge on the Maaspromenade: a stone lion looking out over the Meuse (the original lion belongs to the collection of the Bonnefantenmuseum).
Walk along Eksterstraat to the little square Op de Thermen, in the heart of the Stokstraatkwartier district. This was once the site of the Roman castellum, that included, as the name of the square suggests, a large thermal bathhouse. The remains of the baths are unfortunately no longer visible, but in the pavement you can still see the contours of the various buildings. Where the Romans once enjoyed a few hours of bathing, steaming, and swimming, you can now enjoy a splendid selection of wines at Vino & Friends, personally chosen by owners Fabian Wijering and Bas Lenoire, accompanied by classic antipasti, beautiful (home-made) pastas, and delicious secondi. They have a different three- or four-course menu every month, showcasing one of the Italian regions.
A stone's throw away is Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square, where more Roman history awaits, including in the basement of the Derlon Hotel. It was here that archaeologists found the remains of a temple dedicated to Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, as well as the remains of a section of Roman road and the western gate of the castellum. The display cases contain remains of sculptures and a spout from a pouring jug, in the form of a delicately crafted animal's head.
The castellum is also thought to have featured a monumental column with a life-size statue of Jupiter on top. To commemorate this, there is a statue of Jupiter on horseback, high up on a column on Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square. The only visible Roman ‘souvenirs' near the basilica are the spolia, the grey cornerstones on the right side of the church. The beautiful Mariakapel (Chapel of St Mary) has a very Italian feel. While you’re there, why not light a candle at Mary’s feet, just like the locals do.
Luckily, you’ll also find plenty of contemporary Italy on the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square, thanks in part to Ristorante Il Giardino, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in town. The owners have Sicilian roots, but on the menu there are dishes from all over the boot. On the corner of Sint Bernardusstraat is Infinito, a wine bar with mainly Italian dishes and drinks on the menu. For dessert, buy a gelato (ice cream) at Gelateria Luna Rossa on the Graanmarkt square and enjoy a stroll through the former Roman part of the city as you eat it.’
Curious about more Italian locations in Maastricht? Then try Ciao tutti’s City Walk Maastricht – Italy on the Meuse to discover them all. You can order via this link. Buona passeggiata, enjoy your walk!