New Testaccio Market in Rome

I finally went to visit the new Testaccio Market built near the former abattoir that is now home to other sections of the MACRO museum  and the Department of Architecture of Roma Tre University.  It opened last July and had been talked about for 17 years before becoming a reality.  It comprises 5,000 square metres under one roof, so I read, and can accommodate 103 stalls.  It is painted white and has windows as a roof, for a skylight effect to bring in light during the darker months of the year (it hadn’t made enough provision for the hotter months of the year at its opening apparently, much to the disgruntlement of customers and stall keepers alike!).   A very pleasing feature for someone like me is its underground parking.  It’s all very well for people to walk to the market if they live in the vicinity but if they live further away, then parking is a very sensible idea.

The thing that struck me the most was that it was much cleaner and brighter than the old market.  However, there weren’t any throngs to speak of and, because it is so much larger than its predecessor, the atmosphere didn’t seem so ‘communal’ or cosy — that’s if ‘cosy’ is an adjective that can be applied to a market.  It is early days yet and I am sure it will grow into its new spaciousness over time, and redesign a character all of its own.  For nostalgic old-timers like me, however, there is a nudging feeling that yet another bastion of ‘romanità’, i.e. the romanness that made Rome and its home-grown Roman citizens what they were, has been directed to the ‘to be filed’ archive.  The opening of Eataly was trumpeted and heralded and launched in triumph.  The opening of the new Testaccio Market, which should likewise thrill and enthrall, and raise a hurrah! for all of us who believe in good, fresh food at affordable prices, accompanied by banter and the forging of a genuine relationship with the stall-owner, has not sparked off the same momentum.  For all its glitz and glamour, Eataly is in actual fact a supermarket.  And you know how I feel about supermarkets !

In terms of produce … it was as a market should be although I missed seeing any fresh herbs in bunches.  The chap who used to be called the “poet of tomatoes” — because that’s all he sold and could hold forth for some time on the virtues of each kind and give whopping advice on how to put each variety to best use — was conspicuously absent.  I was surprised to see a crate of carciofi (artichokes) from France (they are not in season now in Italy).  Romans would have sniffed at the thought of buying food that is not in season but maybe they are for the restaurants who have to feed tourists a favourite Roman dish (even though the carciofi hail from Brittany).  There were lots of butchers and one of them in particular, Sartor, caught my eye.  I bought something called ‘arrosticini messinesi’ and organic eggs from them, and noticed, good to know, that they sell proper Olive Ascolane made in Fermo.

There was only one group of foodie tourists from the United States, visibly happy and enjoying their taste of pizza and nibbles.  But then again, it was rather late in the day, almost 1 o’clock.  I left with the sensation that generations of people in Great Britain must have felt at the passing of a king (or queen).  The Testaccio Market is dead.  Long Live the New Testaccio Market!

Here are some more photos.

Coming out of the stairwell of the underground parking …. this is what befell my eyes.

Light dappling through onto the fish stalls. High heels should never stop you from shopping at the market (see lady on the left).

Empty.

Carciofi from Brittany placed next to watermelons: to a Roman eye of yore this would have been a seasonal contradiction in terms, but there you are …

I remember these butchers from the old Market.  They were exulting when Roma fooball club star, Francesco Totti, scored a match-winning goal and his wife had a baby round about the same time.  A team from the RAI Television were there interviewing them and other market stall keepers.  The Testaccio area is the very essence of the Rome Football team supporters.  You can’t get more ‘romanisti’ than them!

Now here, at last, a character: Sergio Esposito.  He is Mr Sandwich man Roma-style.  Sandwiches Made  with boiled meat, the bread dunked in the meat stock first for that added taste, and seller of cooked tripe and pecorino and other typical Roman goodies.  Not for the faint-hearted gastronomically speaking and a delight, instead, for people who adore ‘real’ tastes that have been handed down by generations.

Mr Esposito has received the endorsement of the prestigious Gambero Rosso.  A very charming man.  I bought some tripe to take home for my husband and bought a sandwich of ‘bollito’ (boiled meat).  My son wolfed it down when I got home and pronounced it (or rather: he didn’t ‘pronounce’ it as such, he raised his thumb heavenwards) very good.  My husband thought the tripe good but says my mother’s is unbeatable.

This stall was very painful for me to walk by … oh the wafting of scents and pricking up of olfactory nerve endings in the nostrils, oh the rumbling in the stomach crying out “feed me, feed me, can’t you smell how delicious all this is?”.

Torture to look at when one is hungry …

Downright mean-spirited …

This stall also sells special breads for people who are celiacs or suffer from gluten intolerance.

This butcher sells Abbruzzesi specialities too.

Mmmm … pancetta and guanciale and what have you for super-duper pasta dishes.I asked these guys permission to take a photo.  I knew they wouldn’t refuse (who can resist me and all that) but it’s always nice to be polite and ask first.  The older chap wasn’t at all surprised.  “That’s because we are the  best looking butchers here!” he confidently acknowledged — and who am I to disagree, hey?  “Ma certo,” I confirmed, wink wink say no more.  How often can you joke like that with people working in supermarkets (at least, here in Italy)?  They all look abject and depressed and in need of a holiday.

This butcher sells horsemeat as well as … er …. ‘normal’ meat.  Can’t say I would care to eat  mares and mustangs unless it were a life-saving situation like soldiers use to when they had nothing else to eat (I can’t do ‘bunny’ either) but there is one famous recipe from Zagarolo that requires it: “il tordo matto”.

Raisins, almonds and pine kernels by the tub.

Wine, coffee and dried herbs …

And here is a butcher’s I think I am going to become very friendly with, their name is Sartor.  The tomato sauce in bottles is organic as are their eggs.

A selection of Sartor’s prepared meats.  I went for the arrosticini messinesi.

And here are some genuine olive ascolane, made in Fermo (the Marche region).

All the stuff from this stall is produced by a farmer in Mentana.  Next time I shall get some garlic (I’ve still got plenty at home for now).  It might surprise you to discover that it is very difficult to find home-grown Italian garlic in general (impossible in a supermarket) — most of the garlic one finds comes from as far away as China (! yes!) or otherwise from Spain.  Can someone explain that to me, please?

And last but not least, the coffee shop outside.  Next time.  I was in a tearing hurry to join some girlfriends for lunch near the Piramide, close to Testaccio.

“In bocca al lupo!” as they say in Italian when wanting to wish any one good luck.  Happy days, new Testaccio Market.

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Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
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13 Responses to New Testaccio Market in Rome

  1. Great to read this Jo. I saw the new market in the last stages of being built when I was in Rome in March and stared through gaps to look inside. So pleased I got to go round the old Testaccio market too though before it closed. It’s hard to imagine the new one compares as a nice experience … but hopefully given time it will.

  2. Maureen g says:

    Nice work, Jo! Following the slow construction of the new Testaccio market, I have never been impressed with the structure from the outside (especially for a building in Testaccio). However, it is better than the old market from an hygienic perspective. It does lack character, and it is sterile, but when you are buying fresh food, I guess that is a good thing! I was also very happy with the addition of Sergio Esposito and his “Mordi e Vai” panini. I agree with your son about the bollito – it leaves me speechless too. Keep up the good work – and next time you head to the Testaccio market, don’t have lunch plans – and we can do some more “research” at the market!

  3. rachel says:

    Really sorry to have missed the chance to take this stroll with you, I would have been wearing impossibly high heels obviously. Spot on, I agree with everything you say.
    My regular stalls are split, half – extremely happy to have such great working conditions and water and more space. The other half – grumpy and sad to have left the charm and history and rent of the other space. I am getting used to the market. Sure, it’s very sad and some things (T poet) have gone forever, but lets hope that this new, very white, very sharp space can herald good things. Sartor – yes yes.

  4. AdeL says:

    ciao Jo, sorry for reading this post pretty late. Have you ever been to Mercato Trionfale? It seems very similar to the one you showcase here. Ok, I’m being serious: this is just a mean excuse to have you and your husband drop in, as we actually live round-the-corner ;-)

  5. Pingback: Eurotrip Part 6: Rome Day 4 Eating Italy Food Tour | One City At A Time

  6. Leonardo Osorio says:

  7. I’ve wandered through here a couple of times the past week or so, and it’s actually starting to feel more like real, community market finally. Not sure it’s exactly cosy yet (like the old one), but it does feel more alive, with more of the units filled, more punters, more banter in the aisles. It just needed time to bed in a bit. I mean, hey, the “new” Esquilino Market is very lively, but everyone apparently (I wasn’t around then) mourned when that moved from its old location too.

    • I suppose that “passing on the baton”, figuratively speaking, is always painful in existential terms — it involves change with a capital C, and we mere mortals tend to fear change. When dearly beloved iconic establishments undergo change, I think it says something about a marked “break” in our lifestyle, or a passing away of a generation. So glad to read your comment and its positive outlook. Even so, the passing away of both the older markets is most definitely a “watering down” of Rome’s “romanità”. Whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on people’s personal view.

      • I know what you mean, but places like Testaccio have a strong culture still so I think the new market is acquiring its romanita’ again, its mojo. I dunno, I think the city of Rome has always been a place of change, recycling, re-use – temples becoming churches, an ancient drain cover becoming a famous tourist attraction, the old slaughterhouse is re-used for an art gallery, markets, gig venue, etc.

  8. As someone who has just moved to Testaccio this post was a delight to read while simultaneously a torture due to the hunger pains I felt while reading it! Thanks a lot!

  9. Vicki says:

    Hi. Found your blog through google. I will be visiting rome in october which is my first visit and I would love to go to New Testaccio Market. Is it very far from the Piramide Metro? (I used the google map but I couldn’t really find the exact location. ) Can you show me the right route to the market and what is the opening hours? I would be very grateful :)
    Grazie!

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