Climbing Monte Testaccio – Monte Dei Cocci

If you walk along Via Galvani towards the market, you will eventually see this:

Exterior Monte Testaccio

But if you try to get in, you will find a locked gate. Unauthorized persons prohibited.

Sign Monte Testaccio

This is Testaccio’s Monte dei Cocci – its hill of amphorae.

inside Testaccio Hill

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.

stacks of amphorae

Literally.

ancient Roman amphorae

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.

ancient roman pottery

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.

gasometro

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.

monte testaccio

It feels a bit surreal, to know that you are walking on a big, old, beautiful garbage dump.

ex-mattatoio from above

But then you get caught up in the view again.

Piramide Rome

I loved seeing the pyramid and the walls of the non-Catholic cemetery from this vantage point.

View from Monte Testaccio

Further on, you can look across Testaccio towards the Aventine hill where you have the keyhole and the orange garden.

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.

handprint in pottery

For better or for worse, Testaccio’s Monte dei Cocci is not regularly open to the public and visits must be arranged in advance.

I was able to visit with Fiori&Forchette, after a lovely presentation by Mary Jane Cryan on her book Etruria: Storie e Segreti.

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.

4 Comments

  • Reply Lucy @ La Lingua February 27, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    That’s absolutely fascinating! I can’t even begin to imagine how much oil that must have been to leave all those pots! xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua | Food, Travel, Italy

    • Reply Natalie March 1, 2016 at 7:42 am

      Such a cool place with a cool history! I love that oil was like gold even then, and the pots? Disposable!

  • Reply Robertson Shinnick April 25, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I’ve always been fascinated by Monte Testaccio, but have not been to mainland Europe yet. Thanks for the vicarious visit. Neat stuff!

    • Reply Natalie April 25, 2017 at 11:45 am

      I hope you have a chance to visit one day soon!

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