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CityLab
Economy

Gentrification, Roman-Style

A working-class neighborhood in Rome is being transformed by a tide of newcomers seeking grit, guts, and authenticity. But there’s a twist.
Part of the former slaughterhouse complex at the heart of Testaccio, a once-industrial neighborhood now enjoying a resurgence.
Part of the former slaughterhouse complex at the heart of Testaccio, a once-industrial neighborhood now enjoying a resurgence. ArchiDiAP

From the outside, the vast structure looks like the entrance to a once-forbidden city. There’s a columned facade, rounded entrances, and a giant statue of an angel wrestling a bull to the ground. Below that, underneath many years of grime and ever-sprouting weeds, you can still read the words STABILIMENTO DI MATTAZIONE.

This is the ex-mattatoio, the old slaughterhouse of Testaccio, a neighborhood in Rome. Enter through the gates, and you’ll see rows of huge barn-like buildings, bearing names like VITELLARA (veal room) or PELANDA DEI SUINI (hog scalder). Overhead are big metal tracks with rusting hooks, for moving carcasses around this massive space. Peer into one of the buildings, though, and you won’t see bloody men with knives—you’ll see students poring over blueprints in bright rooms. You’ll hear others practicing instruments. If you had come in autumn, you may have even stumbled upon an art exhibition devoted to animal rights. Something has changed here.