Photo credit: "Testaccio blues" by _mirko_ (無)
When it rains, Rome is usually the last place anyone wants to be. You can’t eat outside, unless you don’t mind getting quasi-soaked. The buses, trams and taxis seems to be in limited edition. The Vatican Museums are overrun and the Forum has a mud river flowing through it. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do in Rome. It just means you have to be clever and get out of the historical center.
And right now, this means visiting Testaccio, the latest “really, truly Roman” neighborhood to be gentrified.
Testaccio is not as quaint as the charming little neighborhood called Ponte between Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’Angelo. It has none of the medieval buildings of Campo de’ Fiori nor the terrazzos of Trastevere. It’s a “new” working class neighborhood with slightly modern buildings, an urban park and large sidewalks.
In its center is probably one of Rome’s more favorite street markets, noted for its egg, tomato and shoe vendors. Famed Volpetti, Rome’s best cheese shop is on Via Mamorata, the main street that leads into Testaccio from the Tevere (Tiber river). Via Galvani, running perpendicular to Via Marmorata, is noted for its row-houses built into Monte Testaccio, a Roman amphorae (pottery) dump and now backdrop to several hip clubs.
Testaccio also is home to two secret enclaves of culture: Centrale Montemartini and MACRO al Mattatoio.
Centrale Montemartini, Rome’s first power station, re-opened in 1997 as temporary housing for 400 of the Capitoline Museums’ Greek and Roman sculptures. Now the Centrale Montemartiniis the permanent home to a vast collection of antiquities which include a terracotta Athena, the famous togato Barberini (a Republican-age senator in toga), ruins of the Temple of Apollo; and, among several others, a Venus seated on a horse. The striking contrast between raw material like industrial engines and turbines and elegant, finished classical sculpture creates an amazing viewing experience.
Centrale Montemartini often hosts contemporary shows along side its permanent collection, and is considered Rome’s favorite “off-the-beaten” path visit for those who chose to venture “outside the walls.” Tickets cost 4 euro 50, or 8.50 for the inclusive double museum ticket of Centrale Montemartini and Capitoline Museums.
MACRO al Mattatoio, open since 2002, is located in a former slaughterhouse, and shows contemporary art exhibitions. The collections are temporary, and always contemporary. Taking advantage of hip location, MACRO opens at 4 pm and closes at midnight, Tuesdays through Sundays.
Via Ostiense 106, Testaccio
Tuesday through Sunday: 9 am to 7 pm
MACRO al Mattatoio
Piazza Orazio Giustiniani, 4 - 00153 Roma
06 6710 70400