October 19, 2014

Discovering Testaccio - the heart of Rome

In the charming neighbourhood of Testaccio we enjoyed life as the locals - inspired by the stories of Roman every day life throughout the centuries.

A warm, sunny first week of October, my mum rented a grand apartment, fitting our whole family of three generations, in the Testaccio neighbourhood. 

Testaccio is located in the southern part of central Rome, across the river from Trastevere, and also close to Terme di Caracalla.

Testaccio is called the heart of Rome, although it is not even included in you regular tourist map. This is a former working class neighbourhood where Romans have lived for generations. 

The area has an interesting history, telling the story of everyday life and trade in Rome, from ancient to modern times.

Dog in the Testaccio neighbourhood
The old match field of the Roma football team is in Testaccio
Street art in Testaccio - the artist might be inspired by the story of Romes origin - Romus, Remulus and the she-wolf.
Back in the days, most of the locals here, worked at a huge local slaughtery, which exported meat all over Europe. They were payed in meat - and not just any - but the leftover parts of the animal. Thus, Testaccio is the home base for the real cucina romana, embracing the so-called fifth quarter (tripe, nerves, Adam’s apple). To get a glimpse, visit the slaughter shop in the Testaccio market. The "trippa" (tripe - the lining of the stomach of the cow) is particularly interesting! A lot of the local restaurants also serve the traditional dishes, if you dare to try.

The old slaughter house of Testaccio is now the MACRO museum of modern art.

At the Testaccio market
Once a slaughter house - today a modern art museum - MACRO Testaccio.
Moreover, in antiquity, much of the traded goods was transported along the Tiber river in clay vessels. The remains of broken pottery were stacked so high as it created an artificial hill - known as the Testaccio hill - Monte Testaccio. The hill built entirely out of discarded amphorae is today a source of understanding ancient everyday Roman life.

A few restaurants and bars are placed at the foot of the hill, and the inside of the hill is now being used as wine cellars with perfect temperature for storing wine. Further remains of pottery can be seen at an excavation sight in the midst of the Testaccio market.
Monte Testaccio - is an artificial hill made out of broken pottery used for transporting goods in the ancient Rome.
Restaurant at the foot of the Monte Testaccio: Flavio Al Velavevodetto.

What to visit in Testaccio:
  • The Protestant Cemetery - graveyard for the foreigners: Cimitero Acattolico, 5 Via Caio Cestio
  • Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma (MACRO), Mattatoio: A branch of Rome’s modern-art museum, housed in a former slaughterhouse. Piazza Giustiniani.
  • Pyramid of Caius Cestius (pyramide Cestius), built in 12 BC, and the old city walls. Piazza di Porta San Paolo.

The Protestant Cemetery

The Protestant Cemetery - Campo Cestio- graveyard for the foreigners: Cimitero Acattolico, 5 Via Caio Cestio
For the foodies - in Testaccio:
Being where the Romans live and eat, this area is also a find for food lovers.
  • Testaccio market - one of Rome’s liveliest - visit the Cicilian who makes fresh cannoli! Via B. Franklin
  • Eataly - huge modern food complex, which also has a few restaurants. Across the the train station Roma-Ostiense. Piazzale XII Ottobre 1492
  • Volpetti - a deli to remember - one of Romes finest shops for cheese, hams and salamis. Try for example: Pecorino al Tartufo. Prosciutto di San Daniele. Salame al Barolo. Via Marmorata, 47
  • Barberini. Bakery (pasticceria). Via Marmorata, 41
  • Volpetti Piú, simply means more of Volpetti, and this is where you buy their cooked and prepared food. The place is super popular at lunch time. Try the pizza al taglio and suppli (the Roman version of the arancina - fried bun of rise). Via Alessandro Volta 8.
  • Giolitti, gelato, Via A. Vespucci 35 
(see restaurants and caffées furhter down the page)

Cheese tasting at Volpetti
Great selection of cured hams and salamis at Volpetti

Volpetti Piú - means "more of Volpetti" - great for a quick lunch or take out.
At the Testaccio market, visit the Cicilian stand and get a freshly made cannoli.
Cannoli - very fresh
Pasticceria Barberini in Testaccio - try the Tiramisu in an eatable bowl of dark chocolate (left).
Restaurants and cafées in Testaccio:
  • Volpetti Piú, Via Alessandro Volta 8.
  • Flavio Al Velavevodetto, Via del Monte Testaccio, 97.
  • Great restaurant in the San Saba neighbourhood: Al Callarello, Via Salvator Rosa 8.
  • La Villetta dal 1940. Serves great food, especially for football-lovers. Viale della Piràmide Cèstia, 53
  • Brunori - coffee and rock'n'roll - a combined caffé and record shop - great for breakfast or a drink.  Viale di Porta Ardeatina.

Check out my updated list of my favorite restaurants and bars in Rome.

Our family gathered at a great restaurant in the San Saba neighbourhood (near Testaccio): Al Callarello, Via Salvator Rosa 8.
Brunori is a combined record shop and cafée.
Public transportation
It is easy to get to Testaccio from all of Rome. The local metro station is Piramide, which is also a hub for buses and trams in all directions.

Morover, by walking up via Marmorata, you reach the bridge to cross over to Trastevere. A bit further in the oposite direction is the train station Roma-Ostiense, where you can take the train to Fiumincino airport, or to other parts of Italy.

The apartment we rented
A spacious apartment in a typical Roman neighbourhood. It had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. A giant terrace which was a blessing in the summer temperatures. The apartment was close to the Piramide station, where you find all kinds of public transportation. https://www.airbnb.no/rooms/710560?guests=12&s=BpTX 

I'm so happy that I discovered this shop - right by Piazza Navona
This sandal-boutique is a gem! It allows you to choose your very own sandal-design, and then the shoe maker will custommake them for you. You can pick all kinds of colors and leather for the straps, heel hight, ornaments etc. The hard part is to choose.
You first pick your prefered design - than come back after a few hours to get the sandals fitted.

The result: A unique sandal with a perfect fit.
The shop is called: di San Giacomo - Arte orafa e Moda.
Adress: Via di Tor Millina, 10/11 (right by piazza Navona).
Or: Via di Santa Dorotea, 17 (Trastevere).

Pick your own design and get custommade sandals at di San Giacomo - Arte orafa e Moda, right by piazza Navona.

Not very bold - I know - I like it simple. Nevertheless, these are my new custommade sandals - in my very own design!

Famous sights of Rome

Piazza Navona

Castello di Sant Angello
Forum Romanum and Capitol hill
Terme di Caracalla
Kids enjoying gelato.

L'arc di Triumph - viewed from the Colosseum
Stadio Olimpico