Just across the river from the bustling and popular Trastevere, lies Testaccio; a small Roman neighbourhood with a quirky history and a big foodie scene. In Ancient Rome, it was one of the most important points in the city; the arrival port for goods and materials that were shipped up the Tiber River from Ostia. Because of it this, the quarter has always been home to the working class. But in recent years it has slowly transformed into a hip little neighbourhood with a lively atmosphere.
What to See
Monte dei Cocci
At first glance, this might look like any regular hill. But in fact, it’s entirely artificial, created from an Ancient Roman garbage dump! Yes, you read that correctly, it is in fact made up of the broken pieces of 53 million amphorae (terracotta pots).
Olive oil, wine, honey and sugar were transported in these terracotta pots from Ostia, and once the contents were emptied and sold at market, these pots were discarded. Due to the enamel inside the pots, it was impossible to reuse them. The solution? Smashing them into pieces and piling them up in the place that Monte dei Cocci now stands.
This ex-slaughterhouse turned modern art museum is worth a visit just for the buildings themselves. The complex was built between 1888 and 1891 is an excellent example of Testaccio’s industrial history, complete with the original iron rods and hooks that were used to hang the animals after slaughter.
However, if you’re a modern art lover, don’t miss a visit to the museum. Details on current exhibitions can be found here.
Città Dell’Altra Economia
Next-to the Mattatoio, you’ll find ‘The city of the other economy‘ which aims to promote organic and social agriculture, fair trade, renewable energy and sustainability.
On a regular day, the 3,500sqm space is pretty deserted, its only permanent fixture being a bio shop-bar-restaurant. But, there are regular events organised like the popular annual beer festival, vintage/fair trade markets and concerts. Check out the website for details of current and upcoming events.
Where to Eat and Drink
This undercover market is one of Rome’s best, if not the best! Home to over 100 stalls you can find everything you need in one spot, but absolutely don’t miss the food! You can shop for fresh produce, BUT there are a few stalls worth visiting if all that shopping is making you hungry.
Stall 15, Mordi e Vai serves Roman dishes in a sandwich! Choose from an array of options; l’allesso (tender beef), salsiccia (sausage) trippa (tripe) or a classic Roman pasta like cacio e pepe.
If you prefer your pasta without a panino, head to stall 58 for fresh pasta at Le mani in pasta. You can buy a dish while you’re there, or choose some fresh pasta to take home.
In the mood for wine and aperitivo? Chicchi e Lettere (stall 43) is the place for you. A glass of wine will set you back a mere €2.50 and there’s quite a selection of reds and whites.
Trapizzino, Via Giovanni Branca 88
Looking for something quick? Don’t miss Trapizzino! While this trendy street food has been popping up all over the city, it was born in Testaccio. A delicious triangle pocket of white pizza filled with your choice of; chicken cacciatore, meatballs in red sauce, eggplant parmigiana, tripe and oxtail to name a few.
Felice has been a staple in Testaccio since 1936, serving outstanding and authentic Roman dishes. It’s famous for its Cacio e Pepe but equally famous for being notoriously hard to get into! Reservations recommended.
Pizzeria da Remo, Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice 44
Loved by locals for its classic thin crust Roman style pizza, Da Remo is a must-visit in Testaccio. As in many pizzerias, the service is a little lacking but the pizza more than makes up for it.
Fraschetta Da Sandro, Via Galileo Ferraris 5
A perfect spot for lunch or aperitivo (open until 8pm), da Sandro brings the fraschette tradition to Testaccio. You can build your own panino with the array of cured meats, cheese and vegetables, or ask for a mixed plate and try a little of everything.
A historic salumeria turned Taverna, Volpetti prides itself on serving quality. You’ll find artfully presented food full of flavour and tradition. Prices are a little higher than average; a plate of pasta around €14 and a second course around €20, but you get what you pay for here!
Flavio al Velavevodetto, Via di Monte Testaccio 97
Aside from the exceptional food, when you dine at this restaurant you’ll have the unique experience of dining in the Monte dei Cocci, as the dining room is carved into the hill. For classic Roman cooking and a great atmosphere, don’t miss this gem.
Giolitti, Via Amerigo Vespucci 35
A local bar and gelateria, and not to be confused with the famous Giolitti near the pantheon, this Giolitti is a historic bar in Testaccio. Here, you won’t find a huge selection of flavours, but everything is handmade and flavoured naturally, so you won’t be disappointed!
If you’ve got a sweet tooth but gelato isn’t your thing, then look no further than Pasticceria Barberini. Serving a delectable array of pastries and sweets, your biggest problem will be choosing what to order.
Where to Drink
Masto, Via Galvani 39/41
This enoteca-restaurant is a small, but cosy place filled with wine, cured meats and cheese. Essentially; heaven! It’s a perfect spot for a glass of wine (or three), accompanied by a plate of meat and cheese. The welcoming staff will help you with your wine selection and make you feel right at home.
L’Oasi della Birra, Piazza Testaccio, 38/41
One of Testaccio’s most popular drinking spots, this ‘Beer Oasis’ is a former bottle shop turned bar-restaurant. Sitting right on the main square in Testaccio, it gets pretty lively. If you are beer lover, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice. Don’t worry, for those wine lovers out there, there’s wine available too. If you come at aperitivo time there’s an impressive spread for just €10 (drink included).
Trentatrè, Via di Monte Testaccio 33
Boasting an extensive cocktail list, this lounge-bar won’t leave you thirsty! A large all-you-can-eat style buffet is also served at aperitivo.
Via di Monte Testaccio
Famously known as the ‘club street’ in Rome, well, because it’s lined with clubs, via Monte Testaccio is the place to go when you want to go out, but haven’t can’t quite decide what you’re in the mood for. There’s an array of clubs from Conte Staccio which has live music (usually Rock) to Caffè Latino which is a Latin dance club. A quick stroll along the street will give you an idea of what your choices are. The area can get pretty rowdy at night, so make sure you go with friends.
We hope you found this neighbourhood guide helpful! Have you visited Testaccio yet? Tell us what you think of our suggestions and let us know about your favourite spots in Testaccio in the comments below!
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Author: Rebecca Allison
Rebecca is an Australian writer and history lover who has been living in Rome since 2015. She loves travelling around Italy (and beyond), as well as marvelling at the many architectural and historical feats that Rome has to offer in the streets and museums.