The New Testaccio Market in Rome
The New Testaccio Market at via Galvani officially opened on July 2nd. 2014. it’s a new, shiny building opposite the MACRO museum in the old slaughterhouse. Architect Marco Rietti’s goal was to create a marketplace that would not only encourage social encounters and integration, like a modern agora, but also to reproduce Testaccio’s urban structure: 5000 square meters, of which 2000 dedicated to public services and shops, slots for 103 vendors, an underground of 6000 square meters for a total of 270 parking spaces. Additionally, an archeological area of 7000 square meters which can be partially visited in specific times of the year.
A SLICE OF PAST, PRESENT and FURTURE
The New Testaccio Market is a modern-day agora sitting on nearly two millenia of history.
In the 1st century much of the Tiber River trade took place in Testaccio, and the remains of the broken testae amphorae (clay vessels) stacked to create the artificial Monte dei Cocci hill in the heart of the district. In the 1900s thanks to the building of the mattatoio (the city’s slaughterhouse from 1920s until it closed in 1975), Testaccio became a center of activity for butchers and one of Rome’s most traditional working class neighborhoods. Still today you can find here the best traditional roman food. Two decades ago, a process of gentrification changed Testaccio’s hard-at-work face to a more hipster one, shifting it from a raucus blue collar neighborhood to a swinging food and culture mecca.
TWO MILLENIA OF HISTORY UNDER YOUR FEETS: THE AERCHEOLOGICAL AREA OF THE NEW MARKET OF TESTACCIO, COMMERCE IN THE PAST, COMMERCE IN THE PRESENT
The excavation of the Testaccio New Market, a four-sided area extended for one hectare, started from the street level (15 m ASL), and reached a depth of about 9 m, providing an uninterrupted stratigraphy from the Early Roman Imperial age until the Contemporary age.
It brought to light a system of roofed rooms, probably warehouses, and open courts served by a network of service roads, which are peculiar for the building material used. All the “walls” of the structure are in fact made up of amphorae emptied and reused piling them on top of each other.
The warehouses were connected to the Emporium, the river port of the ancient Rome, that roses approximately between the Aventine Hill and the modern district of Testaccio.
Since the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the impetuous economic and demographic development had made the former river port in the Forum Boarium totally inadequate: moreover, it could not be enlarged due to its vicinity to the hills. Therefore in 193 BC the censors Lucius Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Aemilius Paulus established to face the problem by building a new port within a free area on the border of the town, south of the Aventine Hill. On that occasion the Porticus Aemilia was also erected.
In 174 BC the Emporium was paved with stones and divided with walls and ladders descending to the Tiber. Here there was the docking place of the wares and raw materials (especially marbles, wheat, wine, oil); they reached the harbor of Ostia by sea and went up the river on barges pulled by buffaloes (towpath).
During the centuries, the fragments of the amphorae (then used as containers for the handling of liquid foods), were clumped until they created the still-existing hill of shards: the ancient name of Mons Testaceum (“Hill of Shards”) derived from it. The number of stacked-up amphorae is esteemed to be about 25 millions.
THE TESTACCIO MARKET TODAY
ITALYS NEW TREND: FOOD ART
It comes to no surprise that the Testaccio market should become one of the neighborhood’s most striking and beloved attractions. Despite initial skepticism regarding the modern 5000-square meter structure designed by architect Marco Rietti, past and present come together in and among the sky-lit, pristine stalls, which Romans now greatly appreciate.
Fishmongers, butchers, produce sellers and other vendors occupy the 100 or so stalls that circle the central “piazza” complete with refurbished pellet seating and a cafe overlooking ancient Roman ruins of the original 1st century market found in the lower levels during construction. Great mixed juices and vegetarian smoothies can be enjoyed as well as classic cucina romana recipes in sandwiches or fresh seasonal vegetables. Michelin star-studded Chef Cristina Bowerman recently opened another Romeo space in the market. There’s also a gluten free bakery and fresh pasta makers Le Mani in Pasta, which besides selling all kinds of fresh pasta also conveniently serves plates of freshly stretched and cooked pasta for a handful of Euros.
In the Testaccio neighborhood where the market is located there are also contemporary art museums, shops that sell sublime cured meats, balsamic vinegars, cold pressed olive oils and cheeses, plus baked goods, coffee bars, and pastry shops. Not to mention the fabulous restaurants that serve everything from quinto quarto to freshly caught fish!