Rome: Testaccio and Ostiense

Bt Thumbnail DefaultBt Thumbnail Default

A chance to experience real daily life. Two of the last bastions of salt-of-the-earth romanità in the city center, these middle-class communities are quirky, with rustic sights and booming nightlife.

SEE Macro al Mattatoio
Piazza O. Giustiniani 4, 011-39/06-6710-70400,
A rather melodramatic statue of a naked hero slaughtering an ox crowns the entrance to Rome's defunct abattoir. The main quartering pavilions have been converted into a contemporary art gallery, open 4 p.m.--midnight. Plans are underway for a cultural center with a library and theaters.

SEE Monte Testaccio
Via Galvani, Via di Monte Testaccio, Via Zabaglia
A 150-foot-high mountain made entirely of millions of amphorae (Roman earthenware jugs for oil, wine, and grain) that were broken and dumped in antiquity. You can see the tightly packed potsherds especially well at the corner of Via Galvani and Via Zabaglia; the rest of the hill is covered with grass, trees, and pens with live poultry and goats--in the middle of the city! At night, legions of Roman youths descend on rustic Via di Monte Testaccio, which skirts two sides of the hill and is packed with dance clubs.

EAT Acqua e Farina
Piazza O. Giustiniani 2, 011-39/06-574-1382
A popular pizzeria alternative, where the basic ingredients of water and flour are shaped into mini pies and topped with everything from radicchio and goat cheese to walnuts and Gorgonzola. Eat inside the cozy dining room or outside under the trees.

SPLURGE Checchino dal 1887
Via di Monte Testaccio 30, 011-39/06-574-3816,
What began as a humble wine shop and kitchen, serving the workers from the mattatoio (slaughterhouse) across the square, is now considered one of the finest spots in the city for traditional cucina romana, much of which makes use of the quinto quarto, or organ meats, heads, tails, and feet. Set menus ($50--$88, excluding wine) include such delicious--and initially scary--dishes as rigatoni alla pajata (with lamb intestines) and oxtail stew. The reward for your adventurousness is an all-around wonderful meal, with warm service and a souvenir plate. The dining room is built into the side of Monte Testaccio, and the wine cellar is an excavated grotto--the amphora shards reduce humidity and provide temperature control. Reservations essential. Closed Sun. and Mon. as well as August and Christmas week.

DRINK Ketumbar
Via Galvani 24, 011-39/06-5730-5338,
The hippest and longest-lived of the hot spots on the Via Galvani strip, this stylish Asian-themed lounge is built into the side of Monte Testaccio, whose ancient potshards are visible through a Plexiglas wall panel. You can eat (sushi and creative Italian), but the real scene is after dinner, especially in the colder months. From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., the candlelit, Buddha-bedecked bar and black banquettes swarm with 20- and 30-somethings.

DRINK L'Oasi della Birra
Piazza Testaccio 38--41, 011-39/06-574-6122
Even Romans like to trade vino for beer once in a while. Find all your favorite brews at this inviting cellar, from Belgium's Chimay to Cuba's Mayabe. There's a menu of comforting soups and sausages and other, lighter snacks.

SHOP Mercato di Testaccio
Piazza Testaccio
Rome's most authentic covered food market is a priceless cultural spectacle, totally in line with your stereotypical notions about Italian community life. In the cacophonous main pavilion, tittering housewives haggle with the fishmonger for fresh prawns and clams. Fresh herbs are sold with the roots still attached. Out on the sidewalks of Piazza Testaccio, away from the food stalls, vendors sell inexpensive shoes, skirts, and trinkets. Sat. is the busiest day. Closed Sun.

PLAY Casa del Jazz
Viale di Porta Ardeatina 55, 011-39/06-704-731,
The brand-new "House of Jazz" is a handsome 1930s villa, reclaimed from a Mafia boss and refurbished with a concert hall and recording studio dedicated to the American music genre most loved by Italians. Performances are held almost every night at 9 p.m. inside the 150-seat auditorium or out under the stars and umbrella pines in the garden, which is open daily to the public. Café, bookshop, and restaurant on-site. Ticket prices vary; from free to $25. Cash only.


  • ESCAPE Etruscan Necropolis at Cerveteri
    Via della Necropoli, Cerveteri, 011-39/06-994-0001
    The vast "city of the dead" is a dense and thrillingly ancient- feeling jungle of vines and trees that envelop thousands of mound-shaped tombs cut from reddish tufa rock. The carved burial chambers inside the tumuli (which date from the 7th to the 3rd centuries b.c.) are open to anyone willing and able to walk or climb in. Take a COTRAL bus (see p. 1) from Cornelia metro station to the Cerveteri city center. From there, walk 25 minutes or catch the shuttle bus (011-39/06-9955-1971), which runs four times a day. 8:30 a.m.--sunset. Closed Mon. Bus fare and admission from $13. Cash only.
  • Related Content