/Testaccio, Rome's Open Air Museum

Testaccio, Rome's Open Air Museum


The Testaccio neighborhood is a veritable open air museum that attracts locals and food tourists alike to its authentic market, bakeries, delis, and trattorie. The zone’s history dates back to the Roman era when the Tiber ports (2) lined its banks and the Aurelian Walls (8) traced its boundaries. Ancient terracotta jugs no longer suitable for use were broken up and tossed in a heap, dubbed Monte Testaccio (4). After the fall of the Empire, the massive trash heap and its surroundings were abandoned by most, providing ample grazing territory for shepherds. The most traffic the area saw was from the pilgrims walking along the nearby Via Ostiense to the Basilica di San Paolo.

In the late 19th century the slaughterhouse (5) was built in Testaccio, sparking a development of the region that was continued under Mussolini (notice the case populari and fascist city planning principles evident throughout the neighborhood). The presence of the slaughterhouse a poor population made Testaccio the heart of a Roman peasant cuisine that drew on offal and poor cuts of meat. The recipes and ingredients of this late 19th century cucina romana like trippa alla romana, la pajata, and coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail) can still be found in the trattorie and markets of the neighborhood.

2016-01-07T14:37:31+00:00 November 15th, 2009|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Offal, Rome & Lazio|8 Comments


  1. shayma November 15, 2009 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    i love this post, given my love for testaccio! also, i am sure you already know this, but isnt it amazing how all the streets in testaccio are named after inventors- for eg., Aldo Manuzio being the man who invented the italic print and introduced the use of a semicolon in printing. fascinating.

  2. Giulio November 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Agreed. Did you know that there’s a street dedicated to Nicola Zabaglia? the creator of the sanpietrini? His grave can be found in Santa Maria in Transpontina, which it is in Via Della Conciliazione!

  3. Katie November 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    actually i had no idea! you are a gentlewoman and a scholar.

  4. Katie November 18, 2009 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    giulio i was not aware of that. thanks for the info. did he invent anything else?

  5. […] I am in Testaccio, which is often, I make three stops. The first is to Panificio Passi for a sliver of pizza bianca […]

  6. […] power to stop me in my tracks these days and today I encountered one of them: a chain restaurant in Testaccio. As it is, Chicken Hut, Burger King, Spizzico, and McDonald’s are all over Rome. Even Subway […]

  7. Jay Woodworth December 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Katie, I just used this little page in my research on Roman housing. Haha. Thanks, Katie. When are you coming to New York?

    • Katie December 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      haha nice! got home yesterday and will be in nyc saturday. yipee!

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