In the Middle Ages the hill gains a different role as the setting of recreational and religious popular manifestations. A document of 1256, which mentions it as mons de Palio, seems to attest with regard to the hill and the plain below a more ancient and already consolidated tradition of public games, referred to as ludi maximi of the Roman Carnival. The most famous ludus Testacie was a sort of bullfight: from the top of the hill a bull was freed at regular intervals, followed in its hurried descent down the eastern side by two carts carrying pigs. In the field below lusores awaited and, brandishing weapons, contended for and killed the preys in clashes often mortal for the players themselves. In the Middle Ages the hill also became the destination of the “Game of the Passion”, a sacred representation that during Holy Week departed from the Church of Crescenzi and ended on the hill symbolizing the Golgota. The iron cross placed on the top of the Monte Testaccio in 1914 recalls this tradition and the Via Crucis celebrated for a long time.

At the beginning of the 17th century on the eastern slope of the hill was located a target for the drills of the Castel Sant’Angelo’s bombardiers, whose cannon was near the Caio Cestio pyramid.

However, the most considerable and heavy alteration was caused by the excavation of the wine caves at the foot of the hill. The first measures to preserve the hill were taken by pope Benedct XIV in 1742 and 1744 and prohibited excavations, the removal of the pottery fragments (“cocci”) and the pasture.
In the 19th century the hill continued to be a place for amusements during the vintage time and the famous romans Octobers (“ottobrate romane”) depicted by Belli, Stendhal and Pineli. After the Testaccio quarter was built, the hill was almost completely enclosed by the Mattatoio complex and by private buildings. In 1873 first archaeological surveys started on the hill, that was involved in the architect De Vico project, in 1931, for public gardens in the neighbouring area included between the Mura Aureliane and Via Zabaglia .


(A. M. Ramieri)