The Eternal City may seem eternally flooded with tourists, but worry not, the Testaccio neighbourhood south of the city still offers a true slice of Roman life.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain… Rome is a city drenched in beauty and history, but also one whose paths can often feel well trodden. For an alternative break, head south to the capital’s traditionally working class yet up-and-coming Testaccio neighbourhood. Sitting east of the Tiber river, Rome’s 20thrione (district) is home to a pyramid, cucina povera and a mound of broken pots…
Once home to Ancient Rome’s Emporium port, today the remnants can be seen as the 35-metre high Monte Testaccio. Food supplies would arrive in the city here, transported in terracotta vessels. Once emptied, they were flung aside, creating over the centuries this mound made from the broken fragments of millions of ancient amphorae.
The district also boasts other quirky attractions. There’s the Pyramid of Cestius that juts out 37 metres high, dates between 18 to 12 B.C. and sits wedged against the Porta San Paolo. Meanwhile, a stone’s throw away you’ll find the cimitero acattolico, or thenon-Catholic cemetery of Rome. It’s the resting place of English poets Keats and Shelley, as well as numerous foreign artists and philosophers who settled in Rome. Do keep your eyes peeled for the beautifully melancholic Angel of Grief statue designed by American sculptor William Wetmore Story as a monument to his wife.
You can easily eat your way through the Testaccio neighbourhood, one bite at a time. Once famed for Europe’s largest slaughterhouse (which today houses the Macro, Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art), in the 19th century, the industry’s workers created the quinto quarto style of cooking, that encouraged using of all parts of the animal, especially the offal cast-offs that went unsold. From Roman-style tripe to oxtail soup, these dishes make up the local landscape. Make like a local and head to Mercato Testaccio to pick up locally grown goods, meat and vegetables to try out your own recipes. While you’re there, try one of Sergio Esposito’s legendary sandwiches at Mordi e Vai, where he stuffs slow-cooked meats and offal delights into tasty bread. For other local treats, try Roman-style pizza with its uber-thin and crispy scrocchiarella crust at Da Remo, or head to the historic Volpetti delicatessen (and their neighbouring taverna) which is brimming with cheeses and cured meats galore. Pure foodie heaven!
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