Time is flying. It is already ‘Oggi’. Today! Tomorrow will be “Domani’. Oggi é giovedì, domani, venerdì.
Oggi sono andata in Testaccio. Today I walked in Testaccio, visiting places I’ve never been, and others I know, from before. I have walked through a few neighborhoods in Rome, and Testaccio, in my mind is, most authentically Italian. A working class place in its origin, it is the home of a huge slaughterhouse, being gentrified, to some extent. For example, there is a museum there, that wouldn’t be open for awhile. The buildings of ‘Il Mattatoio’ are huge and cover a large area of land on the fringe of the neighborhood.
The first place I stopped today was the Porta San Paolo. This structure sits on the edge of a roundabout called Ostiense. It looks like a little castle and served as the gateway through the 3rd century Aurelian wall. I am guessing that Aurelian comes from Aurelius, as in Marcus, or better known as Emperor Caracalla, the terrible, who built the baths of Caracalla. It is the home to the small free Museo di via Ostiense. A cool little place where you can walk up to the upper story open air bridge and peer out at the busy street below through the crenelations. There is a huge map inside indicating the roads of Rome. Since I was so engrossed in the building itself I did not study the map, but will do so on another occasion. When I first got to the museum I was at one of the gates and met a couple from the Czech Republic. We were all confused about how to get in from the inside but we figured it out together. Three heads are better than one.
After the Porta, I continued down Via Marmorata and took a left onto Via Caio Cestio, (named for a magistrate) so I could stop at my favorite place, the Cimitero Acattolico, sometimes called the Cimitero protestante (a misnomer*, according to Marlena, my Italian teacher) I had told the Czech Rep. couple about this place and said they must go. They followed my advice and got there before me. At the cemetery we had a nice conversation and got to know each other a little. Susana had orangish red hair and steely blue eyes. She was missing her toddler she left home with Grandma and Grandpa for a couple days. John (in English) was a policemen back in a small city in Moravia, where they live. They let me take their picture. I took three. They even kissed each other, in one of them. I gave them my email so they could write to me to send a picture back. I hope they do.
After taking my usual stroll around the Non Catholic Cemetery, behind the great Pyramid for Caio Cestio, I departed and took a left down Via Caio Cestio, for a change. I usually take a right. I went to the end and found a familiar place I had seen while taking a city bus that I told myself at the time, I wanted to visit. It’s neat to come across a familiar landmark, on an unfamiliar walk. For awhile you’re lost and then you realize where you are. The place I happened upon is sacred. It is called the Rome War Cemetery, or the Cimitero Britanico. Here are buried the British solders that lost their lives between 1939 and 1945, in WWII. It is more than emotive. There is a plaque at the cemetery that tells the story of the role of the British in Italy. Inside a good sized rotunda, at the entry, there is a saying about how the English fought for the Freedom of Italy to preserve the Ancient Friendship they have always shared. I was so impressed by this small place. Did I take pictures? Of course!
After the military cemetery, I meandered down a busy street, which I can’t find on the map at this moment. A couple blocks, I happened upon another place of historic importance called Monte Testaccio. It gets 2 stars in my Frommer’s “Rome Day by Day” book. It was closed, but seems to be a place to go back to. It is the sight of ancient Rome’s ‘remarkable creations the “Monte dei Cocci”, (hill of shards). According to Frommer’s, the hill, 100 feet high is made entirely of broken amphorei, or in other words, tall slender vessels used to transport oil and wine. They were discarded there over the centuries of importations. A kind of landfill, if you will. Apparently you have to call a number to get inside the gates.
In general, Italy is a country of contrasts. They love their cuts of meats, their sausages, prosciutto, salami. Not common in the United States, a huge truck stopped at the local butcher and meat stand and men were unloading carcasses of parts of animals, bigger than themselves. (Sorry vegetarians). Lined on these same streets are boutique stores specializing in whole foods where all the labels look the same and it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s for sale. The prices are usually triple what is found at my favorite little corner verdura and fruit stand.
Eventually I ended back up at the Piazza Testaccio and closer to Via Marmorata. Did some shopping before I headed back to the apartment around 2 o’clock. As they say, the rest is history. Not sure if that saying fits here. You get the idea.
* Marlena is roman and very knowledgable of her culture and language, so I trust there is reason for her correction, though we did not get into any details. The word protestant is attached to this place on Google and in my Frommer Guide Book of Rome in a Day.