- The Testaccio/Aventino neighbourhood is the fusion of two distinct personalities. Testaccio is Rome’s traditional working class neighbourhood, whose recent gentrification has changed its reputation from hard-at-work to hipster. The area has more than a 2000-year history beginning as Rome’s port city for delivery and drop-off of goods from all over the empire to its 20th-century incarnation as disco mecca. Still a weekend warrior dance destination, Testaccio has become a centre for art, culture and food.
Alongside Testaccio and up on a hill is the Aventine section of the neighbourhood, the refined, older sister of Testaccio. The area is far more tranquil than Testaccio.
Up on the hill and down at the docks
Testaccio/Aventino covers an inverted V-shaped area. In the top of the V is the Aventine, at the top of the ancient Aventino hill, whereas Testaccio resides in the southwest extremity on the Aventino’s southern slope. The Tiber River, on the immediate west, defines the area. The Circus Maximus marks its northern border and the east to west track of the ancient Aurelian wall as southern border.
Testaccio/Aventine has several not-to-be-missed landmarks. On the Aventine hill is the Palace of the Knights of Malta, with a beautiful panorama of Rome. Piramide Metro stop and Ostiense Train Station are located midway in the neighbourhood and are excellent travel references. Border neighbourhoods include Ancient City, Monti, Appia Nuova and South. Ancient City, to the north of the Aventino, is noted by the valley of the Circus Maximus and the unwavering Palatine hill. Monti looms to the north as well, with the slope of the Celio hill facing the Aventine, and likewise Appia Nuova. To its south is the vast south expanse, which leads out of the city to the satellite airport Ciampino.
Know your neighbours
For those staying in the Aventino area, it will be harder to get to know the neighbours as the area is residential and has several posh embassies. Best option would be to head down to Viale Aventino as there are bars and shops where you are sure to encounter a friendly face.
Testaccio is the extreme opposite of Aventino. It is a bustling microcosm with friendly markets, several cafés and engaging piazzas. As soon as you step out of your front door you are bound to chat with your neighbours, so use this as an opportunity to test out a hearty buongiorno!
The best shopping option would be to walk around Testaccio. Piazza Testaccio is the area’s traditional market but it may soon shut down its stands as the Nuovo Mercato Testaccio is getting ready to open with a much more commercial vibe. Supposedly this market will accommodate all the vendors from Piazza Testaccio which include meat, fish and produce sellers along with home and hardware shops. On any of the streets in Testaccio, you can find clothing, shoes, art supplies, cheese, supermarkets, fresh pasta, et al - in other words, everything you need to live in Rome. In additional, the long strip of Viale Aventino is lined with shops.
Testaccio/Aventino is a great location for getting all over the city, whether by foot, tram, bus, metro or regional train. Ponte Sublicio links Testaccio/Aventine to Trastevere easily via foot or public transportation, likewise the Aventino is immediately adjacent to all of Ancient Rome.
Testaccio’s Via Marmorata and Piazza Partigiani will have most buses needed to get you through the city. Buses 3 (tram as well), 23, 75, 175, 271, 280, 719, connect to Trastevere, Janiculum, Historic Centre, Villa Borghese, Piazza Venezia, Largo Argentina, Coliseum, San Lorenzo and Termini. The area also has two metro stops from Line B (Blue): Circo Massimo (on Aventino) and Piramide, east of Testaccio, which connect the area with Termini and EUR. The Piramide metro stop is adjacent to the Ostia-Lido train (trenino), a regional train and great resource that connects to Ostia Antica and Ostia Beach. Likewise, the Fascist-era Stazione Ostiense is located nearby and is a train station with regional connections through Lazio and including Fiumicino airport.
- Testaccio/Aventine could be considered a schizophrenic neighbourhood, with the elegant and quiet Aventine hill area and the bustling, working class Testaccio area. Together, they are an excellent microcosm of Roman life. The area is comprised of monuments, art museums, nightclubs, restaurants and bars, along with parks, schools and public services like football pitches and swimming pools.
Let’s start from the top of the hill. The ancient Aventine proudly displays pieces of the original 4th-century BC Roman wall across its hill, along with several original Christian churches. Most would say to head to the northern part of the Aventine for a peek through the keyhole at the Villa of the Knights of Malta or a walk through the meditative Orange Garden. The amazing Baths of Caracalla are located in the eastern area of the neighbourhood - the impressive remains of the Empire’s largest public bath complex.
Heading down to Testaccio, and inside the ancient 3rd-century AD walls is the Museum of Via Ostiense inside the gate entrance of Porta San Paolo, while slightly northeast is the Museum of the Walls, at Porta San Sebastiano. The Pyramid (Piramide) is a 1st-century BC tomb to Caius Cestius that is rarely opened so if it is, definitely go inside. Nearby is Rome’s public transport museum with vintage trains and trams.
Walk back inside the walls to the Protestant Cemetery where John Keats and Percy Shelley are buried. Take a look at Testaccio and you will see a large hill. This is a pile of ancient amphorae (ceramic vessels) left as trash in antiquity. Now known as Monte Testaccio, this pile can be visited by appointment only. Located in a former butcher’s arena is MACRO Pelandia, the experimental wing to Rome’s MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art Roma. There are many more sites to see, if only from a distance including the post office and Ostiense train station, both beautiful examples of Fascist-era architecture.
Testaccio has a great selection of dining opportunities. For pizza lovers, 00100, da Remo and Il Trapizzino are considered the very best in the city. Foodie fanatics will love Felice al Testaccio, da Buccatino, Checchino dall 1887 and Flavio al Velavevodetto - showing off the very best Roman cuisine. Looking to take something home? Gastronomia Volpetti is recognised citywide for its excellent cured meats, cheeses, pastas and wines. Always review ParlaFood and Elizabeth Minchilli for current reports on Testaccio’s food scene.
Testaccio is the crossroads for all Roman nightlife, in particular dancing and nightclubs. Unlike Aventine, the area surrounding Monte Testaccio is jammed with partygoers from 11pm to early morning, hoping for a bit of salsa, rock, reggae and house music. To find the clubs, head to Via Galvani and follow the music. Discos cover all genres and all walks of life. Some of Testaccio’s staples include Caffe Latino, Radio Londra, Joia and Ketumbar. However, take note - most clubs close for the summer as they set up pop-up parties on the beaches of Fregene, Maccarese and Ostia.
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