Barely included in the classic tours of Rome, Testaccio is one of those Rome neighborhoods where you can feel the Roman vibe, experience a traditional way of living, and discover historical sites from ancient and modern times.
There are so many things to do in Testaccio that depending on how much time you have in the city, I would suggest devoting to this neighborhood at least half a day if not a whole day, maybe including also some sights from nearby neighborhoods such as Ostiense, the Aventine Hill or even Trastevere after crossing the river.
If you don’t mind walking or using Rome public transport, you can even book your accommodation in Testaccio. It’s a lovely area to stay in Rome, is well connected with the Centro Storico via bus, tram, and metro, and has plenty of restaurants to enjoy your dinner before heading back to your room after a day of sightseeing.
The things to do in Testaccio offer a great variety of sights. From contemporary street art to the most ancient archaeology, a tour of this neighborhood is a fascinating Roman experience.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Fantastic things to do in Testaccio
- 1.1 Visit the Protestant Cemetery
- 1.2 See the Pyramid of Cestius
- 1.3 Go through Porta San Paolo
- 1.4 Walk Via Marmorata
- 1.5 See Monte dei Cocci
- 1.6 Visit Piazza Testaccio
- 1.7 Duck into Santa Maria Liberatrice church
- 1.8 Shop at Mercato Testaccio
- 1.9 See an exhibition at the ex-Mattatoio
- 1.10 Attend an event at Città dell’Altra Economia
- 1.11 See the Emporium and Porticus Aemilia ruins
- 1.12 Join a local tour
- 1.13 Try the local food
- 1.14 See the local street art
- 1.15 Enter Rome War Cemetery
- 1.16 Visit nearby neighborhoods
Fantastic things to do in Testaccio
Visit the Protestant Cemetery
Founded to be the last resting place for foreigners and people belonging to other religions, the Protestant Cemetery of Rome is probably one of the first places to visit in Testaccio. Even though less famous than big tourist draws like the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums, the Protestant Cemetery is a favorite photography spot for locals because of the many beautiful statues decorating the graves and the stories behind them.
With tombs of notables like the English poet John Keats and the famous Italian writer Andrea Camilleri as well as several diplomats, the Protestant Cemetery is a very scenic spot in the area located in the shade of the big Pyramid of Cestius.
- Where: Via Caio Cestio 6.
- When: Every day 9 am-4.30 pm.
See the Pyramid of Cestius
The ancient Roman tomb of Caius Cestius was built between 18 and 12 BC when Rome was living a highly Egyptian-influenced period. This is one of the most famous landmarks in Testaccio, giant and conveniently located between the Protestant Cemetery and the ancient Porta San Paolo gate.
Measuring 36 meters (118 feet) in height and 30 (about 100 feet) in width, the Cestia Pyramid is entirely coated with blocks of Carrara marble, which give it its candid white color. Inside, the pyramid is finely decorated with ancient frescoes.
Even though unfortunately it’s generally closed to the public, Piramide Cestia opens its door to visitors only with a certified guide. You can book your visit by emailing the Council-credited tour company Coop Culture at email@example.com.
- Where: Via Raffaele Persichetti.
- When: Temporarily closed.
Go through Porta San Paolo
Porta San Paolo is one of the historical gates of the Aurelian Walls of Rome. Built around the 3rd century AD, its ancient name was Porta Ostiensis because the Via Ostiense road connecting Rome to Ostia started from here. Its current name was given when Christianity took over.
This majestic gate has been the theater of several important events including the siege of Rome by the Ostrogoths in 549 AD and the German invasion in 1943. Inside is Museo della Via Ostiense showing relics from the ancient road.
- Where: Piazza di Porta San Paolo
- When: the museum is temporarily closed.
Walk Via Marmorata
One of the cool things to do in Testaccio is a walk through Via Marmorata, one of the longest and main roads of the area lined up with shops and restaurants. Named after the large storage of marbles and stones brought to Rome via river or land, Via Marmorata is very ancient.
Don’t miss the relics from its past such as the Arch of San Lazzaro used from 1400 by pilgrims on their way to the tomb of St. Paul in the nearby Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
See Monte dei Cocci
Easy to miss but pivotal in the history of the area is Monte Testaccio, also known as Monte dei Cocci (Italian for “mount of shards”). This is a 54-meter (177 feet) manmade hill that rose near the river port of ancient Rome. It is made of “testae“, fragments of the ancient jars, from which the area took its name “Testaccio”.
This is where the terracotta jars (amphorae) filled with oil and farming goods were unloaded after reaching Rome. Due to the decomposing nature of their load, the oil jars couldn’t be re-used. To dispose of them, they were made in pieces and piled up adding a coat of lime.
Monte dei Cocci is essentially an ancient dumping site precious to understanding the trades and food customs of Rome until around the 3rd century AD.
- Where: Via Nicola Zabaglia 24.
- When: Always open.
Visit Piazza Testaccio
A locals’ favorite hangout and from where smaller alleys spread out, Piazza Testaccio is a pleasant place to enjoy the shade of the big trees all around, especially in summer. One of the things to see in Testaccio is the fountain in the center of this piazza.
Known as Fontana delle Anfore (amphoras fountain), it’s symbolic of the neighborhood’s history. An important trading hub where the goods reached Rome from the different parts of the empire, we see icons of jars and amphorae returning all around Testaccio.
Check out our article on the most famous fountains in Rome for more sculptural beauties!
Duck into Santa Maria Liberatrice church
Chiesa di Santa Maria Liberatrice is a very recent church built early 20th century on the land the Holy See bought during the papacy of Pope Leo XIII. The construction works, however, started under Pope Pius X.
The church was given the same title as an ancient church formerly in the Roman Forum that was demolished to bring back to light the ruins of the early-Christian church of Santa Maria Antiqua. Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio has a neo-Romanesque style and is rich in artwork including beautiful mosaics.
- Where: Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice
- When: Every day 6.45 am-12 pm (1 pm on Sunday) and 4-7.30 pm.
Shop at Mercato Testaccio
A popular shopping hub for the residents, Mercato Testaccio is a pleasant stop for a number of reasons. Here, you can sip a coffee, stroll around colorful stalls selling local products, and see the ruins in its undergrounds.
Formerly a covered market all around Piazza Testaccio for little less than 100 years, today Mercato Testaccio still shows the authentic side of Rome. The sellers of this new glass-covered location are the still same and the market is a triumph of fresh produce, street food meals, as well as clothes and accessories.
Mercato Testaccio is perfect also if you are looking for authentic souvenirs from Rome that are not too expensive.
- Where: entrances are in via Beniamino Franklin, via Alessandro Volta, via Aldo Manuzio, and via Lorenzo Ghiberti.
- When: Monday to Saturday 7 am-3.30 pm. Sunday closed.
Don’t miss our article on the best food markets in Rome.
See an exhibition at the ex-Mattatoio
A visit to Rome’s former slaughterhouse where the meat was prepared and sent to the whole city is one of the things to do in Testaccio for art lovers. The complex was built between 1888 and 1891 from a project by Roman architect Gioacchino Ersoch and remained operative until 1975.
Fully restored between 2006 and 2010, the building with its pavilions is one of the most important relics of Rome’s industrial archaeology. Today, the ex-Mattatoio hosts exhibitions, performances, and workshops related to modern and contemporary art, photography, and video installations.
- Where: Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4
- When: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am-8 pm. Monday closed.
If you are interested in Rome’s industrial past, check out our article on the modern vestiges of the Ostiense neighborhood.
Attend an event at Città dell’Altra Economia
Città dell’Altra Economia is a large space, some 3500 sq mt (around 37600 sq ft), devoted to what Romans call the “other” economy. Here you can shop and attend festivals promoting healthy initiatives organic farming, sustainable energy and tourism, ethical finance, and fair trading.
One of the coolest things to do in Testaccio, some of the events organized here included an artisan beer festival, a local handicrafts market, and practical shows and fairs for adults and kids, perfect if you are traveling to Rome with your family.
- Where: Largo Dino Frisullo
- When: Tuesday to Sunday 7.30-12 am. Monday closed.
Don’t miss our tips on what to do in Rome with a toddler!
See the Emporium and Porticus Aemilia ruins
Not only traditional food and industrial archaeology, but Testaccio is also the place where to find ancient sites such as Emporium and Porticus Aemilia.
Emporium is Rome’s old river port and was built around the 2nd century BC as a pivotal trading hub for important food supplies such as oil, wheat and wine. Replacing the old Tiberinus port, Emporium quickly started serving the whole city and was equipped with a large storage building, Porticus Aemilia.
Even though we can only see parts of both buildings, they are precious relics of the daily life of ancient Rome and make for a great addition to your Testaccio tour.
- Where: Emporium can be seen in Lungotevere Testaccio 11 while Porticus Aemilia can be found in Via Beniamino Franklin, via Rubattino and via Florio.
Join a local tour
One of the activities I suggest you do in Testaccio is to join a guided tour. Testaccio is a great neighborhood to visit in Rome, but little touristy. I think with the help of a local you will gain a much wider knowledge about the place and also enjoy more your visit.
Some of the landmarks to see in Testaccio are probably not super easy to find, not many people speak English to give you directions effectively, and finding the right restaurants might not be as straightforward as you think.
Additionally, private tours usually last some two hours, so you can use the remaining of your time exploring deeper the places in Testaccio you enjoyed more.
Try the local food
Being a traditional neighborhood, one of the best things to do in Testaccio is certainly to taste authentic Roman food. In fact, there are a few places where you can do that. The first restaurant that comes to my mind is Felice a Testaccio, famous for its tonnarelli cacio e pepe but also for other local fares such as coda alla vaccinara oxtail and carbonara spaghetti.
Some other places where to order your hearty Roman meal? Piatto Romano (Via Giovanni Battista Bodoni 62), another historic local restaurant, and the affordable trattoria Lo Scopettaro (Lungotevere Testaccio 7).
Feeling active and want a grab-and-go meal? Try Trapizzino‘s pizza pockets stuffed with Roman classics or a quick sandwich from Mordi e Vai in Mercato Testaccio.
Don’t miss our guide to the best street food places and cheap eats in Rome.
See the local street art
Even though not as much as in Ostiense, also Testaccio has some street art. Close to Mercato Testaccio, you will see the giant mural of the Jumping Wolf by Ghent-born street artist Roa.
For lovers of contemporary art expressions and street art, this is definitely one of the things to do in Testaccio. There are works from international muralists also at the Mercato Testaccio with the women of famous Italian artist Alice Pasquini, and at the Città dell’Altra Economia with Laura Luvi’s “Il domatore di fiori selvaggi”.
- Where: Via Galvani, ex-Mattatoio, Città dell’Altra Economia, Mercato Testaccio.
Don’t miss our article on all the things you can do in Rome for free.
Enter Rome War Cemetery
Rome War Cemetery is the large and green resting place for the soldiers belonging to the Commonwealth who died here during WWII. It’s located between the Aurelian Walls and the Protestant Cemetery, it was designed by French architect Louis de Soissons and is open to visitors.
- Where: Via Nicola Zabaglia 50
- When: Monday to Friday 8 am-3 pm. Saturday and Sunday closed.
Visit nearby neighborhoods
It might look too out of the way, but Testaccio is actually close to the city center and very easy to reach. If you are staying one week in Rome, I would even suggest you devote a whole day to these more offbeat districts and reach everywhere on foot.
Both Ostiense and Aventine Hill are within easy stroll reach but you can also use local public transport for a stop or two if you want to save some time and properly explore also these other neighborhoods.
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