Rome is a city of ancient ruins, magnificent art, and fantastic food. However, when tourists visit Rome, they often flock to popular sites like the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain. While these places are certainly worth visiting, they can be crowded and overwhelming. For those looking for a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience, the neighborhood of Testaccio is a perfect choice. Located on the banks of the Tiber River, Testaccio is a vibrant and diverse neighborhood that is beloved by locals and visitors alike. In this article, we’ll explore what makes Testaccio such a special place.
A Brief History of Testaccio
Testaccio’s name comes from the Latin word “testae,” which means “potsherds.” The neighborhood is built on top of an ancient Roman landfill that was used to dispose of broken pottery and other waste. This landfill, known as Monte Testaccio, is a man-made hill that stands 50 meters tall and covers an area of 20,000 square meters. The landfill was used from the 1st to the 3rd century AD and contained an estimated 53 million broken amphorae used to transport wine, oil, and other goods throughout the Roman Empire.
In the early 20th century, Testaccio became an industrial hub, with factories, slaughterhouses, and warehouses springing up in the neighborhood. The working-class residents of Testaccio were primarily employed in these industries, and the neighborhood became known for its tough, no-nonsense attitude.
However, in recent years, Testaccio has undergone a transformation. The slaughterhouses and factories have closed, and the neighborhood has become a hub for artists, musicians, and young professionals. Testaccio’s unique history and location, combined with its modern-day vibrancy, make it a must-visit destination in Rome.
Things to See and Do in Testaccio
Visit the Monte Testaccio Archaeological Site
One of the most fascinating things to see in Testaccio is the Monte Testaccio archaeological site. This man-made hill, as mentioned earlier, is made up of millions of broken amphorae, and it provides a unique glimpse into ancient Roman life. Visitors can climb to the top of the hill and enjoy stunning views of the city while imagining what life was like for the people who used these amphorae to transport goods throughout the empire.
Explore the Mercato di Testaccio
The Mercato di Testaccio is a bustling market that is beloved by locals and foodies. The market sells a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other delicacies, and it is a great place to try traditional Roman dishes like cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper), supplì (deep-fried rice balls with mozzarella cheese), and porchetta (roast pork). The market is open every day except Sunday, and it is a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts.
Visit the MACRO Museum
The MACRO Museum is a contemporary art museum located in Testaccio. The museum is housed in a former slaughterhouse and features works by some of the most exciting artists of our time. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, performances, and events, making it a must-visit destination for art lovers.
Take a Stroll Along the Tiber River
The Tiber River is a central feature of Rome, and taking a stroll along its banks is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. In Testaccio, the riverbank has been transformed into a park that is popular with joggers, dog walkers, and families.