If you walk along Via Galvani towards the market, you will eventually see this:
But if you try to get in, you will find a locked gate. Unauthorized persons prohibited.
This is Testaccio’s Monte dei Cocci – its hill of amphorae.
Limited entrance is allowed by guided tour only, because the mountain is ancient.
Sure, there are plenty of famed hills in Rome, but this one is made of pottery.
Remember, Rome was a big empire. It needed a lot of supplies pillaged from other lands to continue to function properly.
So they shipped in large quantities of oil, mainly for lighting lamps because it was from not-Italy (gross) and thus not up to Roman eating standards, even then.
Terracotta is a pretty good ancient way of transporting stuff, but once filled with oil, the terra-cotta couldn’t be used again.
So the smashed it up and piled it in Testaccio, not far from the port.
Today, the hill stands 35 m tall at its highest point, and offers views across Rome.
From there, you can gaze across shards of amphorae and straight to the gasometro.
It feels a bit surreal, to know that you are walking on a big, old, beautiful garbage dump.
But then you get caught up in the view again.
I loved seeing the pyramid and the walls of the non-Catholic cemetery from this vantage point.
But the most breathtaking thing of all is that you can hold a little bit of history’s trash in your very own hand and marvel at the things we throw away over the ages.
For better or for worse, Testaccio’s Monte dei Cocci is not regularly open to the public and visits must be arranged in advance.
Katie Parla also sometimes hosts special visit tours of Monte Testaccio in English.
Or if you want to go tomorrow 27 February, Testaccio’s organic restaurant Ketumbar is hosting a visit + brunch. The cost is €30 for the guided tour from 12:30-13:30 followed by a bio brunch. Reservations are essential.