While most city breaks to Rome will involve a Colosseum tour, and a wander through famous spots like the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, it can be worth getting off the beaten track and seeing how the Romans really live. Exploring some of the city’s bustling, residential districts, in fact, is a great way to round off your Rome vacation.
One such neighborhood is Testaccio, a former working-class district now home to a young and trendy crowd, as well as an older generation steeped in the area’s traditions. At the start of the 20th century, its huge slaughterhouse was one of the biggest employers in the area, a fact which gave rise to an entire culinary institution: workers were often paid in offal, subsequently requiring their wives to come up with tasty recipes for the cheapest off-cuts of meat. Today, you can still sample some of those ingenious dishes in Testaccio’s typical trattorias, such as Da Oio a Casa Mia or il Bucatino. The slaughterhouse is no longer operational, but in its renovated shell, a modern art gallery, Macro, an organic café and performance venue enrich the neighborhood’s cultural life.
Testaccio is also home to a bustling covered market, where it can be fun to buy some fruit while you wander, or sample some great street food. One of its most legendary stalls, Mordi e Vai, is run by Sergio Esposito, humble purveyor of another great Testaccio invention: the trapizzino. Half sandwich, half pizza, it’s a delicious triangle of soft white dough, filled with an appetizing sauce more associated with a sit-down pasta dinner, first created at 00100 Pizza on Via Giovanni Branca. Choose fillings such as picchiapò (traditional Roman boiled beef, stewed with tomatoes and onions), lingua (tongue), amatriciana (guanciale and tomato sauce) and polpette fritte e ciocorietta ripassata (fried meatballs with refried wild common chicory) to keep hunger at bay.
Then there’s Monte dei Cocci, a rather older monument, dating back to Roman times. Essentially an ancient Roman rubbish dump, it’s a grass-covered mountain, composed of shards of earthenware jars. When oil was brought to the adjacent river port from Ostia, in ancient times, in terracotta amphorae, they couldn’t be used twice because of their porosity, and were thrown onto a heap. Today, discos and bars have grown up around the mountain, many of which have a glass wall at the back to show a cross-section of history. It’s also a nice metaphor for how the district has always combined old and new, and continues to reinvent itself in the most imaginative ways. Just a 25 minute walk from the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, or minutes from the Piramide metro stop, make a date with Testaccio after you’ve explored one of Rome’s other attractions with us!