Guide to Rome’s Testaccio Neighborhood

About the author: Adam is a graphic designer-turned blogger and self-proclaimed hipster. His travel blog is quirky, practical and eclectic. His topics range from music festivals and boutique hotels to wine fairs and gay-friendly travel destinations. For some great advice and a ton of inspiration for your next trip, check him out at his website, Travels of Adam. Here is a post he wrote about a little-known area outside of Rome. 

Testaccio is often skipped by tourists to Rome but there’s actually quite a few touristic things to do there. The neighborhood isn’t far from Rome’s more hip areas, but has plenty to offer for locals and tourists alike. I discovered the Rome neighborhood on a walking tour on my first day in the Eternal City.

Monte Testaccio

Because Testaccio was predominately a low-class neighborhood on the outskirts of ancient Rome, the area was home to many industries. During ancient times the Romans used amphorae vases to store olive oil but because of the corrosive qualities of the oil, each amphorae had to be discarded after being used. These amphorae inevitably built up in the Testaccio neighborhood and eventually the area became a garbage dump for broken amphorae. By the 300s, olive oil was transported and stored in different ways but the broken testae (or fragments from the broken amphorae) remained.

The mound was eventually covered with dirt in many parts, but you can still see visible shards of ancient Roman pottery. The mound is estimated to have as many as 50 million testae which would have stored over 6 billion liters of olive oil!

Protestant Cemetery

Another interesting tourist site in the Testaccio neighborhood is the Protestant Cemetery—also called the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners. The cemetery has traditionally been the burial home for all the non-catholics in Rome. Most notable are the English poets John Keats and Percy Shelley.

Keats’ grave is especially noteworthy because there’s no name on it: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” Keats, ever the English Romantic, was never recognized for his work during his life and died at just the age of 25.

Also in the cemetery is a pyramid dating back to 12 BC. The pyramid was built as a tomb for Caius Cestius, a magistrate of ancient Rome.

Food in Testaccio

Because the area was traditionally a blue-collar, working area, there are many traditional restaurants and food markets. The main food market has over 70 family-owned fresh food stalls—everything from Carmelo the Tomato Poet to seafood mongers.

Just around the corner from the market is the famous Volpetti gourmet food shop which has over 150 different varieties of Italian cheese. If you’re looking for an authentic Roman restaurant, try Flavio al Velavevodetto (website). They’re famous for their Rigatoni alla Carbonara recipe—a very local Rome dish.

Adam is the publisher of Travels of Adam —a hipster travel & lifestyle blog. His blog highlights the coolest cultural things to do around the world, whether it’s political tours in Israel or the best dive bars in Boston. Follow him on Twitter @travelsofadam and Facebook.

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