Moira’s Ancient Wonders: Rome’s Rubbish Tip

moiras-ancient-wonders-romes-rubbish-tipYes, even the ancients had waste management issues. And in the case of ancient Rome, the culprit was olive oil amphorae.

Monte Testaccio is a man-made hill consisting of millions of pottery shards which date back around 2,000 years. And when I heard about it while watching a history doco, I knew I had to find it. I had visions of myself frolicking amongst ancient pottery, with ample opportunity to just reach down and… oops… how did that ancient piece of history get into my luggage, kind Italian Customs officer?

Now, you may be wondering why I would suggest you visit a historical place of refuse. Well, I’m not. I simply wish to point out the hidden gems that may be waiting for those curious travellers who wish to dig a little deeper – pardon the pun.

Unfortunately, this particular gem would remain hidden from me. On our second trip to the city in 2007, my husband and I decided to track down the mysterious eighth hill of Rome. When we arrived at the site (the location of which is a secret known only to those who possess a slightly different guide book called Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide), we were greeted by a grass-covered hill surrounded by ramshackle houses embellished with graffiti (unfortunately, not ancient).

We walked the perimeter (about 1km), but alas there was no way in. The revered ancient site (popes used to perform the Good Friday rite there) was surrounded by… nightclubs?! If one online reviewer is to be believed, the place is “clubbing heaven”… I personally felt a bit nervous walking there in broad daylight, let alone at 5am.

Ahhh such a treasure… just out of touch. In all my journeys to ancient sites I have found that this is usually the way, but at least the lack of access will help preserve these sites for the future.

Have you come across an unexpected gem in your travels?

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  1. Pieces of Literary History by Clare Griffin…

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