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Off the beaten path, that’s how we wanted to get to know the city of Rome and its inhabitants.
So we were particularly excited when Dario Andreucci from Mind the Guide offered us, to experience the city from a different perspective with him.
Our destination is the district Testaccio which is very popular among the Roman population and the artists, not least because of the bars, cafes & trattorias that are open late. Cultural events and parties take place here and at the same time one can eat traditional food.
Porta San Paolo and Pyramide di Caio Cestio
The tour starts at the Porta San Paolo, one of the city gates of Rome.
Right next to it is the Piramide di Caio Cestio, a monumental tomb of Caius Cestius, a Roman magistrate and member of the college of priests, built between 18 and 12 B.C.
Its shape is inspired by the exotic taste of Egyptian architecture, which spread in Rome after the conquest of Egypt in 30 AD. The monument however was built in this place according to Roman construction techniques.
The city’s defense circuit of walls, built by Emperor Aurelian between 272 and 279 AD incorporated the Pyramid, thus saving it from the destruction that befell similar buildings. Thanks to the good restoration, we get an idea how the pyramids of Egypt once looked like.
Dario explains us the architectural principles of the city wall. The distance of the towers was chosen so that the archers could defend the intermediate segments. The Aurelian Walls are 19 km long and was originally 6 m highly. Later, they were raised to a height from 11 m.
Street of Fame – Murales
Next highlight is a block of flats in Via del Porto Fluviale. The building was occupied over 10 years ago by refugees and immigrants.
Rome has a social problem because the rents are partly exorbitantly expensive and thus housing is scarce. Meanwhile, a truce with the authorities has been concluded. Inside the building, the laws of the residents apply, the police have no access. Moreover, we were not allowed to film. The artist BLU has turned the building into a work of art. Two facades represent faces that probably should reflect the cultural environment of the residents.
I find the third side (see video above), which is currently evolving, even more interesting. A floating city is attacked by small boats;an allusion to the current refugee politics: the boat is full, even though only one boat (the earth) exists.
Street of Fame – Murales
Murals, wall paintings in the public room with national, social critical or historical contents, can be seen in the Street of Fame.
Here you see faces of people who are or were favorite with the locals, like Obama or Jimi Hendrix.
Cimitero del Commonwealth
We pass the Cimitero del Commonwealth. The cemetery is a small garden near the Aurelian Walls in an area untouched by contemporary urbanization. It commemorates the Commonwealth forces soldiers who died in the two world wars. The cemetery holds 426 graves and was built after the entry of the Allied forces into Rome on 4th of June 1944.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), founded by Sir Fabian Ware in 1917, including six independent member countries, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa is entrusted with the cemeteries’ maintenance.
Monte dei Cocci
A central emblem in Testaccio is Monte dei Cocci, a mound of 53 million broken amphorae. It was easier and more economical for the Romans, to destroy the used amphorae, which were mainly used for the transport of olive oil, and to build new ones. Today, a lot about the economic life of ancient Rome can be derived from it.
Besides that is a pleasure mile, where a substantial part of the nightlife in Testaccio takes place.
The former slaughterhouse has been transformed into a new cultural center.
One part is used by the Museum of Contemporary Art. In other parts of concerts, stage productions and performance events take place.
On the Tiber bridge, Dario brings us the relationship of the Romans to their river a little closer. Although the Tiber is not very clean, it still delivers fish.
Extensive biotopes have developed along the banks, sometimes, the city dwellers even create a vegetable garden in between. In addition, the Tiber is the direct connection to the sea.
Mercato di Testaccio
Where once there was a football stadium located for some years, you find a modern market place in which the Romans get everything they need for their kitchen.
We use the market for a snack.
Right next to it is a street where we admire paintings on a house facade: The jumping wolf created by the Belgian artist Roa
Cimitero Acattolico di Roma
On the Cimitero Acattolico di Roma, the non-catholic cemetery, celebrities such as the English writer John Keats and Percy Shelley, and August von Goethe, the son of Wolfgang von Goethe and many others are buried.
A visit is worthwhile, even if we were not allowed to film. (More about the Cimitero Acattolico di Roma in a separate article).
The Piramide di Caio Cestio is part of the cemetery, so we are back at our starting point.
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We thank Dario Andreucci from Mind the Guide for the many impressions which we gained of the true Rome off the beaten path.
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