Mario Erasmo / Travel

Strolling through Rome: the Fontana delle Anfore

In a new series for the blog, author Mario Erasmo takes you on a walking tour of Rome – exploring the famous sites and little-known gems the Eternal City has to offer. Today, we hear about the Fontana delle Anfore, and a short extract from his book, Strolling through Rome

Fontana delle Anfore, Travel, Strolling through Rome, Rome, Italy, Fountain

The distinctive Fontana delle Anfore (Fountain of the Amphorae) in Piazza Testaccio by Pietro Lombardi references the ancient port of the Testaccio area (Tour 14).  Throughout the ancient Roman world, terra cotta amphorae were used to ship and store olive oil, wine, fish sauce, and dry goods. Unlike olive oil production in Italy today, synonymous with the rolling hills of Tuscany, the majority of olive oil was imported into Rome from Spain. Oil residue made the empty vessels unusable so they were often broken into pieces.  In Rome, these shards were carefully stacked to make the artificial mountain Monte Testaccio that still gives the area its name. Another use for the discarded amphorae was for the burial of infants from the 2nd to the 6th Centuries CE throughout the Roman world.

The fountain returned to Piazza Testaccio in January 2015 where it was originally installed in 1927.  Due to unstable soil conditions in the piazza, it had been moved to the centre of a traffic island in Piazza dell’ Emporio in 1935 at the end of Via Marmorata with Lombardi’s consent.  The renovated piazza with the fountain at its centre attracts locals and tourists drawn to the area’s many pizzeria restaurants and wine bars.  The mercato, formerly in Piazza Testaccio, is now relocated to a new market complex on Via Galvani at the foot of Monte Testaccio called the Nuovo Mercato.  The complex is filled with market stalls, restaurants and pubs and is a lively area in the evening only a short distance from the dance clubs located along the other sides of Monte Testaccio. Stroll on!


Extract from Strolling through Rome: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Eternal City
by Mario Erasmo

Continue on Via Galvani to the end of the block to Piazza Orazio Giustiniani to the former slaughterhouse (ex Mattatoio di Testaccio) designed by Gioacchino Ersoch (1888–91) with a distinctive cow statue over the facade. It is now the Macro Testataccio Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma with exhibitions of contemporary art and events.

Turn left to walk along the curved Via di Monte Testaccio. The shops of ironworkers line the street but at night it is famous for bars and dance clubs. The street ends at the staircase next to the Fontana del Boccale (‘Fountain of the Jug’) by Raffaele de Vico (1931) next to the Rome British Military Cemetery. Cross to the other side of Via Nicola Zabaglia and turn right to walk along the outer wall of the Protestant Cemetery. Go through the arch and turn left to walk along the Aurelianic Walls on Via del Campo Boario. The Pyramid of Cestius is straight ahead. Cross to the other side of Via del Campo Boario when you reach Piazzale Ostiense at the start of Via Ostiense.

From this point, there are several options to continue the tour by bus from Piazzale Ostiense or by Metro line B Stazione Piramide: Musei Capitolini Centrale Montemartini, the Basilica of S. Paolo fuori le Mura, EUR, or to visit the catacombs and walk along the Via Appia Antica. You may also take the Roma–Lido train from the Porta S. Paolo train station to visit Ostia Antica or the Lido di Ostia (Tour 15) or take the Roma–Lido train from the Basilica S. Paolo station after visiting the basilica. An ATAC ticket is valid for all transportation options.

The Musei Capitolini Centrale Montemartini is a satellite of the Capitoline Museums opened in 1997 in the former location of Rome’s first power plant, the Giovanni Montemartini Thermoelectric Centre (1912). To walk, the Museum is .80km away (walk up Via Ostiense with Piazzale Ostiense behind you). To take the bus, cross Via Ostiense to the island in the middle of the street. Take bus No. 23 or No. 769 at the stop to your right that goes up Via Ostiense. The Museum is only three stops away on the right side of the street with a banner hanging outside at No. 106.

Relics from the ancient city were unearthed as construction of the modern city progressed and displayed here juxtaposed with industrial machinery. On the ground floor, beyond the displays in the atrium on the history of the building and its conversion into the museum, is the Hall of the Columns with displays of funerary and domestic goods and Late Republican portraiture including portraits of Julius Caesar and Augustus (27–20 bce) and the famous Barberini Togatus of a man who carries the portrait busts of his ancestors in evocation of an aristocratic Roman funeral procession. On the first floor in the Hall of the Machines, the former engine room, are Roman copies of Greek sculpture (faithful reproductions and variations). These include statues from the pediment of the Temple of Apollo Medicus near the Theatre of Marcellus (Tour 4) that are Greek originals depicting a battle between Greeks and Amazons and from the Area Sacra of Largo di Torre Argentina (Tour 7) with the colossal acrolith statue of Fortuna Huiusce Diei from Temple B. In the Boiler Room are sculptures from ancient gardens (horti) and villas, including the Gardens of Sallust (Tour 11) with Greek original statues and sculpture from the reign of Augustus. Return to Piazzale Ostiense to continue with the other tour options.

Strolling Through Rome: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Eternal City is out now

Strolling Through Rome, Mario Erasmo, Book, I.B.Tauris, Travel, Walking tour, Italy

Mario Erasmo is Professor of Classics at the University of Georgia. He specialises in the Legacy of Classical Antiquity and leads art and garden tours in Europe retracing the travels of the Grand Tour. He is the author of Death: Antiquity and its Legacy (I.B.Tauris) and Reading Death in Ancient Rome.

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