Campo Testaccio – You had such Glory

Italian Serie A club AS Roma continue to dream of pastures new via a move to a new purpose built stadium in the Italian capital. Just as any new chapter will open up fresh opportunities so memories of earlier Roma homes still remain etched in the memory of many giallorossi fans.

Until moving to the Stadio del Partido Nacional Fascista (PNF Stadium) in 1940 AS Roma had played football at two different sporting venues.  Founded in 1927 through the merger of older Roman clubs – Roman FC, SS Alba Audace and Fortitude Pro Roma SGS – the club played its early football at the Motovelodromo stadium a venue with a concrete racetrack which was located out in the southeastern suburbs of the city.

Next came the Campo Testaccio which had opened on 3rd November 1929 and sat neatly in the heart of Rome.  Situated on Via Nicola Zabaglia the ground stood near the significant landmarks of the Tiber River and was at the foot of Monte Testaccio.

Monte Testaccio or Monte dei Cocci is an ancient mound which has religious, social and military significance. An artificial hill it is composed almost entirely of fragments of broken clay vessels which were stacked high creating the hill. Today it is a protected site and is a source of archeological evidence helping give multiple clues to the history of everyday ancient Roman life.

The Campo Testaccio had cost the huge sum of 1.5 million lire to build and was constructed almost entirely of wood. With only one stand the stadium had three open areas of terracing many of which were formed entirely by wooden boards painted in the club colours.

A ground benefitting of a successful side, in only 11 years at Campo Testaccio AS Roma lost just 26 home games before they finally had to accept that the ground had outgrown ambitions.

The last fixture at Testaccio came on the 30th June 1940 only 20 short days after Benito Mussolini’s expansionist aims took Italy into the Second World War.  The following season AS Roma kicked off the next chapter in its history at the PNF sharing the stadium for a number of years with Lazio until the move to the Stadio Olympico during the 50’s.

Once one of Rome’s traditionally working class neighbourhoods the area has become like many other inner city areas in Rome. Its character and contribution to the history of AS Roma remains but newer inhabitants have changed the feel and visually its been slightly reshaped with some new build apartments and cafes.

Today little if anything remains of a football feel at Testaccio apart from a location that holds multiple memories for AS Roma fans.  Similar to the one time Filadelfia home of Torino, the Campo Testaccio remains like much of Rome – namely an ancient relic.  Sadly, apart from some football fans it is a location overlooked by the millions of visitors who venture to this global UNESCO listed city each year.

One such location favoured by tourists is the Cimitero Acattolico di Roma (Old Cemetery for non Catholic foreigners) which sits just minutes from the site of the Testaccio.  This graveyard is the final resting place for many famous non-Italians including the English poets John Keats and the idealistic Percy Bysshe Shelley.

On the gravestone of Shelley it is inscribed – Cor cordium “heart of hearts”. This is then followed by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and lines that could easily describe what remains of the Campo Testaccio:

Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea = change
Into something rich and strange.

The period of football AS Roma played at Campo Testaccio saw an Italian game dominated by the traditional giants of Torino, Juventus, Inter and Bologna. Only after leaving for the Stadio Olympico was a Serie A title won by the Rome side. But the period at Testaccio had been successful for what was then a very young club. Twice they finished runners up and there was a third place finish at the end of season 1931-1932.

Unlike Torino’s Filadelfia there may not be any remaining pieces of crumbling terraces propped up by scaffolding nor any areas of ivy covered stadium walls. The land where the Testaccio once stood is really in a poor condition and what remains is securely fenced off. Graffiti has been randomly scrawled on a nearby wall by fans and officially only two plaques commemorate the ground location with the words C’hai tanta Gloria – ‘thou had such glory’.

The location of the Campo Testaccio does remain awash with sentiment especially if you have leanings for AS Roma. Although nothing remains, this is still a football location worthy of a visit.

You can see what remains of the Campo Testaccio here.