The Town Council selected Testaccio – already in 1872, after the Italian troops entered Rome – as the best centre for planning a modern industrial and commercial quarter. The area was chosen for its topographical features: a plain along the river, immune to floods, bordering the urban centre but outside it, located along the railway Roma-Civitavecchia.
The works were delayed because of the intense property speculation, so that the first building phase started with difficulty only ten years later, in 1883.
The newborn district Testaccio is at the beginning of the XX century without facilities and with few and desolate dormitory buildings where workmen, farm labourer, immigrants and unemployed persons crowded together living a life of hardship: the project of an exemplary working class quarter failed.In the first 20 years of the XX century, it was the residents who improved the conditions of the area: they animated, with their intense participation, the existing educational, cultural, and health care institutions, and found the Comitato per il miglioramento economico e sociale di Testaccio (Committee for the economic and social improvement of Testaccio),

which testifies the achievement of a strong popular identity and of the political will to make Testaccio develop.
The Committee found in the mayor Ernesto Nathan a good interlocutor: in 1912 the Town Council stipulated an agreement with the Istituto romano Case Popolari for erecting 30 controlled rent buildings, destined to shelter 6,000 people. The building typology of the district radically changed: a housing inspired by modern standard of hygiene and functionality, with large and airy spaces endowed with gardens and shared premises, strongly asserting the “educational” potentiality of better conditions of life.
In 1921 Testaccio obtained the title of rione (district) and under fascism the urban landscape of the area was completed, with the construction of residential buildings for office-workers which introduced a middle-class element in a traditionally popular area.


(A. Ancona)