Giuseppe Conte

Exploring Monte Testaccio

Explore Monte Testaccio, an ancient Roman artificial mound, now a historical landmark in the Testaccio district.

Testaccio Attraction
View of Monte Testaccio in Rome


Monte Testaccio is a man-made hill in Rome, composed of millions of broken amphorae, or clay jars, that were used to store and transport olive oil in ancient times. It is a unique testimony of the economic and social life of the Roman Empire, as well as a fascinating archaeological site. In this article, you will learn about the history and significance of Monte Testaccio, how to visit it, and what to expect from this unusual attraction.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Monte Testaccio is not a typical tourist destination, and it may not appeal to everyone. It is located in a rather industrial area, far from the city center, and it is not easily accessible by public transportation. The hill itself is not very scenic, and it can be dusty and hot in summer. Moreover, Monte Testaccio is not open to the public on a regular basis, and it can only be visited by booking a guided tour in advance. The tours are usually conducted in Italian, and they last about two hours. If you are interested in ancient history and archaeology, however, Monte Testaccio can be a rewarding and memorable experience.

Tips for your visit of Monte Testaccio

  • Book your tour online. You can reserve your spot on the official website of the Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, which organizes the tours of Monte Testaccio. The tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays, at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm. The price is 10 euros per person, and you need to show your ID at the entrance.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Monte Testaccio is a steep and uneven terrain, so you will need to wear sturdy shoes and clothes that can get dirty. You will also need to bring a hat, sunscreen, and water, especially in summer. The tour involves climbing up and down the hill, as well as entering some underground chambers, so be prepared for some physical activity.

After your tour, you can explore the surrounding area of Testaccio, which is one of the most authentic and lively neighborhoods in Rome. You can enjoy some delicious Roman cuisine at one of the many restaurants and trattorias, or visit the nearby attractions such as the Protestant Cemetery, the Pyramid of Cestius, and the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: Monte Testaccio is open on Saturdays and Sundays, at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm. The tours last about two hours.

How to Get There: Monte Testaccio is located in Via Zabaglia 24, in the Testaccio district of Rome. The nearest metro station is Piramide (line B), which is about 15 minutes walk from the hill. You can also take bus 83 or 280 from Piazza Venezia or bus 170 from Termini station.

Price: The admission fee for Monte Testaccio is 10 euros per person. You need to book your tour online on the official website of the Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma.

Crowds: Monte Testaccio is not very crowded, as it can only accommodate a limited number of visitors per tour. However, you may encounter some queues at the entrance or at the security check.

Weather Considerations: Monte Testaccio is an outdoor attraction, so it may be affected by weather conditions. It can be very hot and sunny in summer, so make sure to bring enough water and protection. It can also be closed in case of rain or strong winds.

Photography: You are allowed to take photos and videos at Monte Testaccio, but you need to respect the archaeological site and the other visitors. You are not allowed to use flash, tripod, or selfie stick.

Accessibility: Monte Testaccio is not accessible for people with mobility impairments, as it involves climbing up and down the hill and entering some narrow passages. There are no elevators or ramps available.

Facilities: Monte Testaccio does not have any facilities such as toilets, lockers, or cafés. You will need to use the ones in the nearby area of Testaccio.

Tours: Monte Testaccio can only be visited by booking a guided tour in advance. The tours are conducted by qualified archaeologists and historians, who will explain the history and significance of the site. The tours are usually in Italian, but you can request an English-speaking guide if available.

Bringing Children: Monte Testaccio can be an interesting and educational attraction for children, as they can learn about the ancient Roman culture and see the remains of the amphorae. However, you need to supervise them at all times, as the site can be dangerous and slippery. The tour may also be too long or difficult for some children.

Bringing Pets: You are not allowed to bring pets to Monte Testaccio, as they may damage the archaeological site or disturb the other visitors.

These details are subject to change; please check the official website for the latest information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Monte Testaccio?

    Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill in Rome, made of broken pottery shards dating from the first century BC to the third century AD. It is estimated that the hill contains the remains of about 53 million amphorae, which were used to transport olive oil from Spain to Rome.

  • Why is Monte Testaccio important?

    Monte Testaccio is important for several reasons. First, it is a unique example of ancient waste management and recycling, as the Romans carefully arranged the pottery shards in layers and used lime to prevent odors and pests. Second, it is a valuable source of information about the Roman economy, trade, and consumption patterns, as the amphorae bear stamps and inscriptions that indicate their origin, date, and content. Third, it is a cultural and historical attraction that offers a glimpse into the daily life of ancient Rome.

  • How can I visit Monte Testaccio?

    Monte Testaccio is located in the Testaccio district of Rome, near the Tiber river. It is not open to the public, but you can book a guided tour with a local association or a private company that will take you to the top of the hill and inside the caves that were dug into it over the centuries. You can also admire the hill from the outside, as it is surrounded by a park and a fence.

Must see

  • The amphorae wall

    The amphorae wall is a section of the hill that was exposed in the 19th century, revealing the inner structure of Monte Testaccio. You can see how the pottery shards were stacked in regular patterns, creating a compact and stable mass. The wall also shows the different types and sizes of amphorae that were used over time.

  • The caves

    The caves are artificial tunnels that were carved into Monte Testaccio for various purposes. Some were used as storage rooms, workshops, or wine cellars, while others were converted into chapels, shrines, or catacombs. The caves are decorated with frescoes, graffiti, and relics that reflect the history and culture of the people who inhabited them.

  • The view

    The view from the top of Monte Testaccio is stunning, as you can see the whole city of Rome and its landmarks, such as the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Aventine Hill. You can also enjoy the sunset over the Tiber river and the skyline of modern Rome.

  • The neighborhood

    The neighborhood around Monte Testaccio is one of the most authentic and lively areas of Rome, where you can experience the local cuisine, nightlife, and street art. You can find many restaurants, bars, clubs, and markets that offer delicious food and drinks, as well as art galleries, museums, and cultural events that showcase the creativity and diversity of Rome.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors are to wear comfortable shoes and clothes, as the hill can be steep and slippery; to bring a flashlight or a headlamp if you want to explore the caves; and to book your tour in advance, as they are very popular and limited in number.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • Monte Testaccio is made of millions of broken amphorae

    Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill in Rome that consists of fragments of ancient Roman pottery, mostly amphorae that were used to transport and store olive oil. The hill covers an area of 2 hectares and has a volume of about 580,000 cubic metres. It contains the remains of an estimated 53 million amphorae, which represent the enormous demand for oil in imperial Rome.

  • Monte Testaccio was not a random dump but a carefully engineered structure

    The amphorae at Monte Testaccio were not simply thrown away but arranged in a systematic way, creating a series of level terraces with retaining walls. The amphorae were cut in half and nested into each other, forming a stable pattern. The hill was probably managed by a state administrative authority that regulated the disposal of the amphorae.

  • Monte Testaccio has inscriptions that reveal information about Roman trade and economy

    Many of the amphorae at Monte Testaccio have markings known as tituli picti, which indicate the origin, content, quality, and maker of the jars. These inscriptions provide valuable insights into the trade networks, production centres, consumption patterns, and prices of olive oil in the Roman Empire. They also show that most of the oil came from Spain, Libya, and Tunisia.

  • Monte Testaccio has been used for various purposes throughout history

    After the fall of Rome, Monte Testaccio became a site for celebrations, festivals, and religious ceremonies. It was used for jousting tournaments, carnival feasts, passion plays, and picnics. In 1849, it was also a strategic location for Garibaldi's defence of Rome against the French invasion. In the 19th century, wine caves were dug into the hill, some of which are still in use today.

  • Monte Testaccio is a unique archaeological and cultural heritage site

    Monte Testaccio is one of the largest and best-preserved ancient dump sites in the world. It is a remarkable example of how waste can be transformed into a resource and a monument. It is also a testimony to the history, culture, and identity of Rome and its people. Monte Testaccio is now protected by law and open to visitors.

Historical Background

Monte Testaccio was created between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, when Rome was the capital of a vast empire that stretched from Britain to Egypt. The city had a population of at least one million people, who enjoyed a high standard of living and consumed large quantities of imported goods, especially olive oil. Olive oil was essential for cooking, lighting, hygiene, medicine, and religious rituals. It was also a symbol of wealth and status.

The amphorae that carried the oil were made of clay and had a standard shape and size. They had two handles, a pointed base, and a narrow neck that was sealed with cork or clay. They could hold about 70 litres of oil each and were transported by sea or river on large cargo ships. Once they arrived in Rome, they were stored in warehouses near the Tiber port or distributed to shops and markets across the city.

The amphorae were not meant to be reused or recycled. They were considered disposable containers that had no value once they were emptied. They were also difficult to clean and repair because of their shape and material. Therefore, they were discarded in designated areas outside the city walls, where they accumulated over time. One of these areas was Monte Testaccio, which was located near the Horrea Galbae, a complex of state-owned warehouses that stored olive oil for public distribution.

The disposal of the amphorae at Monte Testaccio was not random or chaotic but organised and regulated. The amphorae were carried up the hill by donkeys or mules and then broken up on the spot by workers who followed a specific procedure. They cut off the necks and bases of the jars and then split them in half along their vertical axis. They then placed the halves on top of each other, forming concentric rings that created level terraces. The necks and bases were used to fill the gaps between the rings and to reinforce the retaining walls. The amphorae were also arranged according to their origin and date, creating distinct layers that can be identified by archaeologists.

The reason why the Romans built Monte Testaccio in this way is not entirely clear. Some possible explanations are that they wanted to save space, prevent fires, avoid pests, facilitate drainage, or create a stable and durable structure. Whatever the motive, Monte Testaccio is a remarkable example of Roman engineering and waste management that reflects the economic and social aspects of life in ancient Rome.

Nearby Restaurants

  • Felice a Testaccio A traditional Roman trattoria that serves classic dishes such as cacio e pepe, carbonara, and saltimbocca. It is famous for its tiramisu and its wine cellar.
  • Flavio al Velavevodetto A restaurant that is built into the hill of Monte Testaccio and offers a panoramic view of the ancient pottery. It specialises in seasonal and local cuisine, such as artichokes, lamb, and cheese.
  • Da Bucatino A family-run restaurant that has been operating since 1935. It is known for its generous portions of pasta, meat, and fish dishes. It also has a wide selection of wines and desserts.

Nearby Attractions

  • Testaccio Market A lively and colourful market that sells fresh produce, meat, cheese, bread, flowers, and more. It also has stalls that offer street food, such as pizza, sandwiches, and fried snacks.
  • Protestant Cemetery A peaceful and beautiful cemetery that is the final resting place of many famous artists, writers, and scholars, such as John Keats, Percy Shelley, Antonio Gramsci, and Carlo Emilio Gadda.
  • Piramide Cestia A pyramid-shaped tomb that was built in the 1st century BC by a Roman magistrate named Caius Cestius. It is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Rome and has an Egyptian-style decoration.


Monte Testaccio is a unique attraction that offers a glimpse into the history, culture, and identity of Rome. It is not only an archaeological site but also a place for entertainment, recreation, and gastronomy. It is a hill that tells many stories and invites visitors to discover its secrets.