The 47 Boutique Hotel staff has expressly asked me to explore better the Testaccio area. What do you think about? Are we going to have a look in the Roman alleys?
Among the things that deserve to be seen, there is certainly the former Slaughterhouse of Rome.
The first slaughterhouse of the “modern Rome” was located in Piazza del Popolo, in a good position but certainly not so functional, due to the slaughter discharges that polluted the Tiber.
In 1887 it was decided to demolish and rebuilt the new slaughterhouse right in front of us, in the Testaccio district.
Works went on really fast, following the project of architect Gioacchino Ersoch and ended in 1889, allowing the first processings in 1890.
The particular statue located on the central entrance depicts a winged genius grasping a bull by the head in the act of throw it to the ground. Once, in the right area there was the house of the Director of the slaughterhouse and the Hall of Commissions, on the opposite side, instead, the offices of Health, Inspectorate and Supervising were found.
At the sides of the building there were stables for the cattle, zoothermal baths and blood processing plants. The slaughter took place in the internal courtyard divided into four covered structures.
On the left there was the sector for the processing of pork, on the right the tripe and the slaughter of goat. The duty sector was located at the rear entrance, in front of Ponte Testaccio. As you can imagine, the part dedicated to the market was not lacking: in fact, on Viale del Campo Boario, there was a structure similar to that of the slaughterhouses. Mattaotoio (slaughterhouse in Italian) was celebrated as one of the most modern in Europe and was written off in 1975 and replaced with a new structure in the Prenestino district.
Thanks to the conservation action completed in 2010, today this magnificent area is dedicated to art and culture, where exhibitions and events take place.
If you remember, I have already talked about the origin of the name Monte Testaccio (head = earthenware) in reference to the material with which it was artificially made, the amphorae discarded from the neighboring settlement.
Now, you can see in front of your shiny headlights, what I was talking about: the lime is the only material that holds together the debris (earthenwares), where there is a thick vegetation, which makes the Monte lose the idea of the artificial and makes it closer to a natural hill.
It has a perimeter of about 700 meters, a maximum height of 36 meters and an area of about 22,000 square meters.
The indications on the fragments allow us to date the origins of Monte Testaccio between 140 AD. and the middle of the 3rd century. Among the various fragments, there are African oil amphorae. The cross, located on the top, reminds us that this place was the arrival point of one of the “Via Crucis”. The procession usually started from a house, now disappeared, in via della Bocca della Verità 37 (“Locanda della Gaiffa”), passed through Casa dei Crescenzi (which depicted the house of Pilate), then through S. Maria in Cosmedin, the Arch of S. Lazzaro and ended here, in Monte Testaccio.
But the memory of the mountain and the surrounding site is linked above all to the carnival celebrations, the “Ludus Testaccie”. The games that took place there were very lively and violent, in particular they consisted of launching pigs, bulls and wild boars down from the mountain, where the “players” compete with each other to kill them with swords and take over them.
On the 17th of October 1670, thanks to Pietro Ottini and Domenico Coppittelli, this place underwent important changes. They bought part of the land around the hill and opened the “grottini” (a sort of chiringuitos of our time), giving way to the nightlife that still today characterizes this neighborhood.
A very particular street of this neighborhood is Via Marmorata. It takes its name from the large deposits of marble and stone that arrived in Rome by the river or by land, and were stored in this place, waiting to be sold or processed.
Think that in the 16th century all the blocks used for the construction of the Casina of Pius IV in the Vatican passed through Via Marmorata!
The route of the road follows that of the ancient Via Ostiensis, which started near the river from “Vicus Portae Trigeminae” and ran under the Aventine hill in the direction of the “Ostiensis gate”. Still in 1920 Via Marmorata continued until S. Maria in Cosmedin, along Lungotevere Aventino. Close to my house, in short!
Even if it doesn’t seem real, these ruins, useful today as a restaurant signboard, were part of an arch: the San Lazzaro Arch. Before Via Marmorata was enlarged, the arch overhanged the road and was the access to the Emporium, and it was thought that it served as a link between the department stores and the slopes of the Aventine hill. The chapel, dedicated to St. Lazarus, is due to the fact that the same arch, in the 1400s, was used by pilgrims as a passage towards the tomb of St. Paul.
The strangeness linked to the arch dates back to the Renaissance period when it acquired a name whose origin is still unclear: “Sette vespe arch” (arch of the seven wasps) and “arch of the Vespilloni”. Some motivate the name to the decorations on the arch itself, others to the name of the inn that was located nearby, which is why the street itself was also called “via delle sette vespe”.
Speaking of names, right in this neighborhood we find Via Zabaglia Nicola. Does this name mean anything to you? Nicola is considered the forefather of the “Sampietrini”, the workers who guarded the “Fabbrica di San Pietro” (Saint Peter’s factory). Thanks to his skill, Nicola Zabaglia became from simple bricklayer to superintendent of the maintenance workers of Saint Peter church, the “Sampietrini” for the note!
The Confraternity of the Sampietrini was born in Rome in 1548; among their tasks was to light the flames of the torches outside the St. Peter’s dome for the great religious holidays. This rite remained standing until 1938 when Pope Pius XII decided to replace the lanterns with electric bulbs due to a worker’s death who slipped while lighting a lantern.
What a pity… I saw myself as a member of the Confraternity of the Sampietrini! Do you think they had a leucitite cube as their emblem? The leucitite, coming from the Vulcano Laziale flows, is also called flint, and it is the matter with which the cobblestones are built. Exact! The blocks with the shape of a truncated pyramid that pave many streets of the Eternal City and that, alas, often break the heels of the Roman girls …
For today our adventure ends here… I come back to 47 looking for new stories to tell you!