Close to the historic centre but still retaining a vibe, the neighbourhoods of Testaccio and Ostiense offer an authentic Roman nightlife experience; local Testaccina Lauren Caramico shares where to find it.
Ostiense and Testaccio have long been known for their bars and nightlife. Though Testaccio’s bars and clubs have dwindled since its heyday in the ’90s, Ostiense has retained its edgy vibe; today, you can find numerous bars and pubs scattered throughout these two residential neighbourhoods. These are local resident Lauren Caramico’s favourite bars in Ostiense and Testaccio.
Bar, Beer, Cocktails, Wine, Snacks
Courtesy of Ch1887
Ch1887 may be one of Testaccio’s best-kept secrets; hidden on the second floor of the 130-year-old restaurant Checchino 1887, even longtime residents aren’t aware of this bar. Simone Mina is the mastermind behind the operation, and draws inspiration from his roots in Testaccio to serve up the best (and most unique) cocktails in the area. Simone’s creativity can be seen in every last detail within this intimate space; everything is handcrafted by him, from the wooden bar to the cocktails served on it and even the artwork on the wall.
Inspired by owner Massimo Marchetti’s first trip to the USA, Rec23 is a unique hybrid in Rome. He and his sister Flavia compare it to a modern bistro-pub; the vintage ’80s-style decor borrows elements from the classic New York pub, but the kitchen is firmly rooted in Italy. You can come and enjoy aperitivo every day of the week from 6.30pm to 9pm (and it costs just €12 (£10), including a drink) with a DJ bringing the party on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to 2am. Equal parts traditional American and Italian, Rec23 is the place to go for any homesick traveller or any Italian looking to experience some Americana in Rome.
With Trentatre, owners Demetrio and Andreais have created more than just a nightlife destination. Opening from 7am for breakfast and serving food right up to dinner (including the best value aperitivo in the neighbourhood at just €9/£7.60), this is a lounge bar that you’ll want to hang out in throughout the day. Not that the fun ends when the sun goes down: Trentatre is open until late, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays from a rotation of excellent local bands. Pull up a seat and take a look at the vast menu, which features around 200 drinks – if you have trouble choosing, a mojito (there are 20 types on the menu) is the way to go. When Demetrio isn’t behind his own bar, he recommends paying a visit to On the Rox.
On the Rox attracts a crowd as idiosyncratic as the space itself. With drinks ranging from €1 (£0.85)) tequila shots to a selection of single-malt scotches, this bar perfect for anything from a crazy night out to a quiet after-work cocktail. It’s got a casual, comfortable vibe; there’s a beer-pong table at the entrance and an impressive selection of top-shelf drinks, with spirit brands you just wouldn’t be able to find in your basic dive joint. The clientele is a mix of Roman residents, professionals, college kids and travellers, and with some of the latest opening hours in Rome, the vibe changes throughout the night. But everyone here has one thing in common – they’re all there to have a good time and whatever that means to you, it can certainly be found at On the Rox.
A gourmet delicatessen selling quality wine, chocolates, coffee and cheeses by day, this historical wine shop becomes a restaurant and bar destination at sundown – just head downstairs into the basement. The rustic wooden interiors and personable staff make it feel like a homely, traditional Roman tavern. No need to agonise over what to order here, as the menu keeps it simple: there’s a selection of excellent wine and beer, and the only cocktail on offer is the classic Italian spritz.
A second-generation family-run establishment helmed by sommelier and Testaccio resident Federica Giansanti and her father, Enoteca Giansanti is beloved in the local area. Mirko Russo, a local actor, Ostiense resident and regular, says, “I love Enoteca Giansanti for the high quality of wines carefully selected by a welcoming and prepared staff. The historic wine cellar offers both Italian and foreign products and the bar selection is always refined and constantly evolving. Giansanti offers a careful section of gastronomic products, especially during the holiday season.”
Camillo Affinita and Alessio Esposito (along with their partners Alessandro and Marco) opened up Makai in November 2016. Their unique idea was born out of their fascination with the West Coast, surfing and tiki culture from the USA and the South Pacific. Once you step into their bar, you feel as if you’ve crossed into an island paradise – with decor, cocktails, food and music to match. However, Makai is more than just a theme bar – it’s a spot that caters to Romans rather than tourists, with employees in the local area congregating for regular after-work drinks and special occasions amongst the colourful interiors and cosy basement.
The midpoint of three different neighbourhoods, Testaccio, Ostiense and Trastevere, Städlin is a short walk from each, and the new home of Daniele Arciello. Formally of On the Rox and Doppio Zero, superstar bartender Arciello was recruited by Städlin in February 2019. It was a smart move on their part. One of the first and best names in Flair Bartending in Italy, Daniele is one of those rare, radiant personalities. Whether you’re a celebrity or walking in for the first time, he greets everyone with the same genuine enthusiasm, a smile and an excellent cocktail. Ask him to whip you up his current favourite, as the drinks menu changes every season. Städlin is already famous for its dance-music parties and DJ sets every Friday and Saturday (from 10.30pm to 2am) but they also have a great aperitivo spread for just €10 (£8.40) from 6pm to 9pm every day except Monday.