Nestled on the banks of the Tiber River, Testaccio’s origins can be traced back to ancient Rome when it served as a bustling port and commercial hub.
Over time, Testaccio evolved into a working-class area, attracting a diverse community of labourers and artisans. Only during the 1990s, Testaccio experienced a remarkable transformation, transitioning from its industrial roots to becoming a trendy and sought-after area.
Testaccio is one of Rome’s most cherished neighbourhoods
Today, the Testaccio neighbourhood stands as a cultural hotspot, renowned for its lively atmosphere, culinary delights, and a thriving arts scene. Despite its shift towards modernity, Testaccio has managed to preserve its authentic character, making it an important and beloved neighbourhood for Romans, who cherish its history, traditions, and vibrant local life.
The neighbourhood – or rather, rione – possesses a distinct identity. It is so powerful that it is not uncommon for those born and raised in the area to identify themselves as “natives of Testaccio” even before considering themselves Romans.
Testaccio still preserves its authentic character
Let’s explore some things you might want to do to discover the soul of this neighbourhood.
1. Try Everybody’s Favourite Roman Street Food
Testaccio is where the trapizzino was born. Featured in the New York Times pages, the Trapizzino is one of the most beloved Roman street foods, born from the culinary genius of chef Stefano Callegari.
They are fresh pizza pockets with a filling – you can choose your favourite one among several more or less traditional options. You can go for Roman classics like meatballs in tomato sauce or cacciatora (“hunter-style”) chicken. Try the one with aubergine parmigiana, or experiment with one of the 3 special flavours that vary based on the seasonality and creativity of the chef.
Trapizzino shop in via Giovanni Branca
Today, the trapizzino is served in various shops – six in Rome, three in Milan, and one in New York – but this is the first and original one. You can find it at 88 via Giovanni Branca.
2. Admire the Street Art
Testaccio has become a hub for artistic expression, attracting both local and international street artists. Some notable artworks in Testaccio include:
- “La Pelanda” Mural: Located on the facade of the former slaughterhouse turned cultural centre, this large-scale mural depicts colourful and abstract geometric shapes. It symbolises Testaccio’s transformation into a creative and cultural district.
Testaccio’s former slaughterhouse is now an artistic hub
- “Jumping Wolf”: Also known as “il lupo che salta” in Italian, was created by the Belgian artist Roa in just one day.
Jumping Wolf in via Galvani
The street art movement in Testaccio started as a response to the neighbourhood’s transformation and gentrification. As this area of Rome underwent redevelopment, street artists saw an opportunity to reclaim public spaces and express their creativity.
A mural by Alice
The artworks serve as a form of visual storytelling, representing the neighbourhood’s history, cultural identity, and social issues. They also attract tourists and art enthusiasts, contributing to the vibrant and dynamic atmosphere of Testaccio.
3. Attend an Event at Città dell’Altra Economia
Città dell’Altra Economia means “City of Alternative Economy”. This large space is located in Largo Dino Frisullo, and it’s entirely dedicated to businesses and practices with a low environmental impact, placing people and the environment at the forefront.
It’s not only a venue for promoting all aspects of the alternative economy in Rome – it hosts a Sunday organic farmers’ market – but it also provides spaces for exhibitions, sales, and themed events.
In Città dell’Altra Economia several events take place all year round
4. Go Clubbing
Monte Testaccio is a truly unique place – but I’ll tell you the story later, at point #8. Over the centuries, caves were carved into the base of the hill, originally used as cellars and stables (commonly known as grottini).
The caves carved into the base of Monte Testaccio are lively restaurants and clubs
Nowadays, these spaces have been transformed into lively restaurants and disco-pubs, adding vitality to Rome’s nightlife. There are numerous clubs, including some specialising in vintage disco music or Latin American beats. Since they are all in the same area, you can even choose to move from one venue to another for an exciting night out.
5. Visit Mercato Testaccio
The Testaccio Market is an institution. This market is no longer just a simple place to buy the best fruits and vegetables or other food specialties.
You’ll love Testaccio Market
After the recent renovation, the Testaccio market has transformed into a trendy place to go for a unique lunch or refined shopping experience.
Several stalls in Testaccio Market offer delicious and freshly cooked food
If you enjoy eating well at fair prices, you absolutely cannot miss a visit to the market.
Seats inside Mercato Testaccio
6. Capture a Photo of “The Blond Tiber”
The name of the Tiber River, during Roman times, was Albula, derived from the Latin word “albus,” which means white, referring to its clear waters. It is interesting to note how the ancient Romans used to call this river, namely the “blonde” Tiber.
In fact, its waters, at least in antiquity, must have appeared yellowish due to the sand and silt they carried, which also contributed to the fertility of the lands they flowed through.
A picture of the river Tiber seen from Ponte Testaccio
The Testaccio district is located right by the river, and it is possible to take a stroll along the riverbank or capture some photos from the two bridges in the area.
8. Walk by Via di Monte Testaccio
Monte Testaccio is no ordinary hill. This beautiful hill, measuring approximately 54 metres in height, is also known as Monte dei Cocci (Mount of Shards). It served as a designated site where a vast quantity of shards, mostly from amphorae used for transporting goods in the nearby Tiber River port, were systematically discarded and accumulated.
Monte Testaccio seen from Campo Boario
These fragments were meticulously arranged, and the accumulation steadily grew in both volume and height until it ceased during the Middle Ages. It was during this period that Monte Testaccio became a venue for events, as it remains to this day.
9. Learn About AS Roma Football Team
AS Roma – one of Rome’s football teams – has a deep-rooted and cherished relationship with the Testaccio neighbourhood in Rome. The club’s connection to Testaccio dates back to its inception in 1927 when the team was founded in the area.
Testaccio has long been a hotbed of passion and support for AS Roma, with the local residents embracing the club as their own.
If you are a football enthusiast, make sure not to miss the celebration of AS Roma’s victory in Testaccio
The Testaccio neighbourhood has been the heart and soul of AS Roma’s fan culture. It is home to the famous Curva Sud, the dedicated stand where the club’s most passionate supporters gather to create an electrifying atmosphere during matches. The streets of Testaccio come alive with chants, flags, and the vibrant red and yellow colours of AS Roma whenever the team plays.
10. Shop for Unique Clothing
With the process of gentrification, Testaccio has truly become a thriving artistic and cultural hub. There are numerous exquisite boutiques here, including several bespoke clothing stores. The stores make Testaccio one of the best shopping areas in Rome.
Head to Testaccio for unique clothing
If you have a penchant for a consistently unique and refined look, I highly recommend shopping in this area.
11. Have Gelato
There’s never a wrong time for gelato. Testaccio boasts a hidden gem of an ice cream shop that I hold dear, primarily because it stands out as one of the few town establishments offering a vegan coffee gelato flavour.
Additionally, Brivido serves a variety of classic ice cream flavours in a cone, including zuppa inglese (Italy’s take on trifle) and ice cream crafted entirely from fresh, ripe fruit.
Its name is Brivido, and you can find it in via Giovanni Battista Bodoni 62.
12. Have an Authentic Roman Lunch
Testaccio is known for its authentic Roman atmosphere and is home to several renowned restaurants that specialise in Roman cuisine.
Testaccio is home to several restaurants offering traditional Roman cuisine
As a child, my parents often took me to this neighbourhood to indulge in the traditional dishes passed down through generations. Among the notable establishments in the area are Felice a Testaccio, Lo Scopettaro, and Flavio al Velavevodetto.