The Aventine & Testaccio

A leafy residential hill above a restaurant-filled working-class neighborhood

South of Downtown Ancient Rome—across the Circus Maximus from the Palatine Hill—a wonderfully quiet high-class residential district covers the Aventine Hill (Aventino).

This is an oasis of curving roads where few tourists venture and the views somehow overlook most of Rome's urban sprawl to encompass only the leafiness around you and the mountains in the distance. It’s a good place to stay if you want a vacation from the urban chaos but still to be only a stroll from the nearest bus or Metro stop.

The Aventine is home to a mini-chain of villa hotels, a handful of sadly overlooked but fantastic ancient churches (including the fifth century Santa Sabina), and some lovely views: over the Circus Maximus at the north end, over the Tiber from a tiny public park along Via Santa Sabina, and of the dome of St. Peter's from the keyhole in the gateway entrance to The Knights of Malta compound

To the south of the Aventine, up against the river where it turns south again is one of Rome's greatest working-class neighborhoods, Testaccio, home of the old city slaughterhouse (see the quinto quarto topic) and once Rome's port on the Tiber, now a hopping nightlife and restaurant district.

Testaccio is packed to the gills with cheap pizza parlors and old-fashioned trattorie where extended families hold court over four-hour dinners.

The name of this neighborhood means "ugly head" and refers to the 165-foot artificial hill at its heart. This was created in ancient times (before recycling was invented) as workers at what was then Rome's port on the Tiber would decant imported Greek wine and olive oil from their giant transport amphorae (giant terracotta vases) into smaller, more salable vessels, break the amphorae into shards, and toss them on a growing refuse pile.

That pile grew and grew into the "ugly head," now covered in grass. Since terracotta keeps constant temperature and moisture levels, tunnels and grottoes were dug into the mound for storing wine and food, and many of Rome's most authentic restaurants still line Testaccio, their dining rooms and cellars burrowed back into the artificial hill of pot shards and their kitchens turning out the most ultra-traditional cuisine in the city (see sidebar).

The area's also become rather fashionable, and most of Rome's hottest nightclubs appear in old warehouses here (and often disappear after a few months).

Sights in The Aventine & Testaccio

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The Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) in the church portico (Photo by nekotank)
Free
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

It's a shame that so many who stop to see the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) on the porch don't take the time to go inside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin itself

 
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View of St. Peter's dome through the keyhole (Photo by Angelo Nastri Nacchio)
Free
The Knights of Malta gate
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A peek-a-boo view of St. Peter's dome through the keyhole on the gate to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta on Rome's Aventine Hill

 
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A view of the Circo Massimo from the FAO headquarters (Photo by Le Mai)
Circus Maximus
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The greatest racing arena in ancient Rome is now a grassy jogging oval and outdoor concert venue

 
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 (Photo by MM)
Roseto Comunale
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A hidden Aventine rose garden overlooking the Circus Maximus

 
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The Forum Boarium, with the round Temple of Hercules Victor on the left and the rectangular Temple of Portunus on the right (Photo by Carole Raddato)
Free
Foro Boario
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Fraternal twin temples and the world's first sewer on lovely little "Cow Forum" by the Mouth of Truth

 
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The amazingly preserved 5C carved wooden doors (Photo Peter1936F)
Free
Santa Sabina
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

This ancient church on the Aventine Hill has some of the oldest Christian art in the world

 
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View of the dome of St. Peter's (Photo by fabian.kron)
Free
Giardino degli Aranci
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A hidden garden with great views on the Aventine

 

Lodgings in The Aventine & Testaccio

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A room at the Hotel San Anselmo (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
San Anselmo
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A stylish villa in the quiet residential heart of Rome on the Aventine Hill

 
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A room at the Hotel Aventino (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
€€
Aventino
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A garden villa retreat on the Aventine Hill

 
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A room at the Hotel Villa San Pio (Photo )
€€
Villa San Pio
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A tranquil country oasis in the heart of ancient Rome on Aventine Hill

 

Dining in The Aventine & Testaccio

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 (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
€€€
Checchino dal 1887
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

Class and tradition reign at a famous restaurant in Testaccio

 
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 (Photo by Stefano B.)
€€
La Torricella
Rome: Aventine & Testaccio

A classic working man's osteria in the trendy Testaccio district

 
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for rail travel

English (inglese) Italian (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...train station la ferroviaria [or] la stazione lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah [or] lah stat-zee-YO-nay
ticket un biglietto oon beel-YET-toh
first class prima classe PREE-mah CLAH-say
second class seconda classe say-CONE-dah CLAH-say
one way solo andata SO-low ahn-DAHT-tah
round trip (return) andata e ritorno ahn-DAH-tah ay ree-TOUR-noh
Just the supplement Soltanto il supplemento soul-TAHN-toh eel sou-play-MEN-toh
Just a seat reservation Soltanto una prenotazione soal-TAHN-toh oo-nah pray-no-tah-tsee-YOH-nay
I have a Eurailpass Ho il Eurailpass oh eel YOO-rail-pahs
sleeping couchette una cucetta oo-nah koo-CHET-tah
berth in a sleeping car un posto nel vagone letto oon POH-sto nell vah-GOAN-nay LET-toh
track binario been-AR-ree-yoh
train treno TRE-no
car (carriage) carozza ka-RO-tza
seat posto PO-sto
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay
left luggage deposito bagagli day-PO-zee-toh ba-GAHL-yee
     
punch your ticket timbrare il biglietto teem-BRA-ray eel beel-YET-toh
Is this the right platform for the Rome train? E questo il binario per il treno à Roma? ay KWAY-sto eel been-AR-ree-yo pair eel TRE-no ah RO-ma? 
delayed in retardo een ree-TAR-do
strike sciopero SHO-pair-oh
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
City / Train station names
English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Main station
Rome Roma Termini
Florence Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan Milano Centrale
Genoa Genova Porta Principe
Naples Napoli Centrale
Leghorn Livorno Centrale
Turin Torino Porta Nuova

Useful Italian for air travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
the airport l'aeroporto LAHW-ro-port-oh
the airplane l'aereo LAIR-reh-oh
terminal terminal TEAR-me-nahl
flight volo VOH-lo
gate uscita d'imbarco oo-SHEE-tah deem-BARK-oh
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
delayed in ritardo een ree-TAR-doh
on time in orario een oh-RAH-ree-yo
early in avanti een ah-VAHN-tee
boarding imbarco eem-BARK-o
connecting flight la coincidenza la ko-een-chee-DEN-za
check-in accettazione ah-chet-ta-zee-YO-nee
immigration controllo passaporti cone-TRO-lo pah-sa-POR-tee
security check controllo di sicurezza kohn-TRO-lo dee see-kur-AY-tzah
customs dogana do-GA-na
shuttle la navetta lah na-VET-tah
boarding pass carta d'imbarco kart-ta deem-BARK-o
baggage claim ritiro bagagli ree-TEER-oh bah-GA-lyee
carry-on luggage bagaglio à mano bah-GA-lyo ah MA_no
checked luggage bagalio bah-GA-lyo

Useful Italian for car travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car automobile ow-toh-MO-bee-lay
scooter/motorboke un motorino oon mo-tair-EE-no
gas station stazione di servizio stah-zee-YO-nay dee sair-VEE-tzee-yo
gas benzina ben-ZEE-nah
diesel gasolio [or] diesel gah-ZOH-lee-oh [or] DEE-zell
Fill it up, please al pieno, per favore ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the highway l'autostrada lout-oh-STRA-dah
...the state highway la statale [written "SS"] lah sta-TAHL-eh
...the road for Rome la strada per Roma lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
to cross attraversare ah-tra-vair-SAR-ay
toll pedaggio peh-DA-jo
parking parcheggio par-KEH-jo
road map carta stradale kar-ta stra-DA-lay
where can I pay the fine? dove posso pagare la multa DOH-veh Po-so pag-GAR-ray la MOOL-tah


Typical road signs / terms » more

English (anglais) French (français) 
Stop Stop
Exit  Uscita
Staffic light Semaforo
One-way Senso unico
Dead-end Strada senza uscita
Parking prohibited No parcheggio or parcheggio proibito
Pedestrian zone Area pedonale
Limited Traffic Zone (you pay to drive in) ZTL or Zona Traffico Limitato

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).