The Piazza dei Mercanti is one of the most beautiful squares in the Trastevere district in Rome. The most striking building on the square is the House of Ettore Fieramosca. The square formed the background of famous Italian movies, including Vittoria De Sica‘s “Bicycle Thieves”.
Piazza dei Mercanti Rome
The Piazza dei Mercanti has always been an important square. When the Ripa Grande river port still existed, it was here that the goods that were brought from the sea were traded and transported further on small river boats pulled by oxen. The Ripa Grande was moved toward the end of the 19th century, when the walls along the Tiber were constructed.
Toward the end of the 17th century, the Ospizio Apostolico di San Michele was built, wich changed the character of the square. An ospizio is a sort of old folks’ home. Several smaller buildings were incorporated in the new structure.
The most interesting building in the Piazza dei Mercanti is the one on the corner of the Piazza Santa Cecilia. This 13th century tower house is known as the House of Ettore Fieramosca, a famous mercenary soldier.
The Testaccio Fountain or Pius IX Fountain is located in the Lungotevere Testaccio in Rome. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Pius IX, to celebrate (and brag about) having the walls along the river Tiber constructed.
Testaccio Fountain Rome (or Pius IX Fountain)
History and description
The Fontana di Pio IX a Testaccio in the district of the same name was built in 1869, when Pius IX Mastai was Pope. The fountain is dedicated to the archaeologist Pietro Ercole Visconti, in gratitude for excavating large quantities of marble objects that would later be used to decorate the town’s buildings.
The basin itself is a Roman sarcophagus dating back to the third century AD. The water flows from a lion’s head, which is embedded in brick the wall against which the sarcophagus stands. The wall itself is flanked by marble pillars. At the very top you can see the coat of arms of the Pope.
Above the lion’s head is a wide memorial plaque with an inscription in Latin claiming that Pope Pius IX, in the 23rd year of his pontificate, recovered the steps of the Emporium and, by means of a wall built by himself, made them usable for the people. (The Emporium was the old, now non-existent harbour in what is now the present-day Testaccio district).
During the turn of the century the fountain was severely damaged in a failed robbery.
The Porta Metronia is probably named for a certain Metrobius, who used to own various properties in the area. Another name it was known by is Porta Gabiusa. This is because the road that used to lead to the ancient Volscian city of Gabii used to start here. This road more or less corresponds to the present Via Gallia.
Initially the Porta Metronia was no more than a so-called posterula, a small secret exit out of the city. This is clear because it was included at the base of a small tower on the inside of the wall. Had it been a real gate, it would have been flanked by defensive towers on each side.
In the 12th century the Porta Metronia was closed. The gate became used for a passage of a marrana, as the Romans called ditches that ran through the city. This ditch started near Grottaferrata and was brought to Rome by Pope Callisto II. A grating was put in front of the passage, so that smugglers could not enter the city.
After flowing through the gate, the ditch continued towards the San Sisto Vecchio Church, and via the Circus Maximus ended in the Tiber. Here, in the area called Cloaca Maxima, it fed 14 water mills.
The ditch created a swampy area outside the gate, which came to be called “il Pantano”. Often the stagnant water was the cause of epidemics. This swampy area was completely filled up in the beginning of the 20th century. The Marrana itself was diverted to end in the river Almone.
The gate itself has been bricked up, but its contours are still visible. It is much lower than the present street level.
On both sides of the Porta Metronia there are two arches. On one side these stem from the fascist period and on the other from the period after the war. They were created to facilitate the flow of traffic.
The two plaques on the inside refer to restoration works in 1157 and in 1579.
The 1157 restoration was carried out by the People and the Senate of Rome. The inscription states the names of the counsillors who had had the work commissioned. In those days the city displayed a strong streak of independence from the church, which is why the Pope is not mentioned in the inscription.
In the 16th century, as the inscription shows, times had changed. Pope Gregorius XIII made sure that everyone knew that it was he who had had the gate fixed out of his own pocket, 421 years after the last restoration.
The Porta Latina is named for the Via Latina, which led from Rome to what is now Capua, but was at the time still called Casilinum. In those days this territory was taken up by the 30 or so villages that were part of the Latin League. This was a confederation, founded to create a protection against common enemies. Initially these enemies were the Etruscans, but later they came to include the Romans. Still later Rome joined the Latin League, then took a dominant role and finally submitted the other villages. In 338 BC the organization was disbanded.
In the Republican Age (509-27 BC) the road started, together with the Old Appian Way, at the Porta Capena. The two roads separated near what is now the Piazzale di Numa Pompilio. The initial name of the street is now Via di Porta Latina. After the gate it becomes Via Latina.
Initially the opening was 6.55 metres tall and 4.20 metres wide. Between 401 and 403 Emperor Honorius had this reduced to 5.65 by 3.73 metres. The outline of the original fornix is still visible. The reduction of the wall was part of a completely restructuring to make it easier to defend the city. Honorius also had the right tower rebuilt and the travertine facade restructured.
In the middle ages the right tower was again restored.
Both in 1576 and in 1656 the gate was closed during an epidemic of the plague.
After the construction of the Via Appia Nuova the gate lost importance.
Until the early 20th century it was only open when there were special events at the San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church. Even when the Italian troops tried to enter the city here in 1870, they ended up having to give up on the attempt. Their brothers in arms at the Porta Pia ended up having more luck, though, which is why Italy now exists.
The two windowless semicircular towers on each side have holes that were to be used by archers. The five openings in the upper part were created during the reign of Honorius.
The keystone of the outer arch has the Constantinian Chi Ro monogram on it. The Greek letters forming this monogram stand for Christ. To the left and right of the monogram the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and omega) can be seen, symbolizing the beginning and the end.
The Greek cross on the inner side of the arch is also a Christian symbol.
The entrance could be closed off with a hinged gate on the inside and with a portcullis on the outside.
There is a small door behind the western door, which gives access to a walkway and a room with 17th century walls. According to legend the god Saturn hid in this chamber from his son Jupiter after the latter had dethroned him.
What is now the Ospedale del Celio in Rome is built on the area that used to be occupied by the ancient Villa Casali. After the unification of Italy a big part of the villa was ddestroyed to make space for new constructions.
Ospedale del Celio Rome
The villa started its existence as property of the family Massimo, who later sold it ti the family Teofoli. Later Marquis Mario Casali inherited it from his wife Margherita di Sertorio Teofili.
At the end of the 17th century, the Casali had a house constructed by the architect Tommaso Mattei. They also had an enormous garden laid out.
In 1871 the city decided to develop the area. The owners of the land were supposed to build houses and the city would take care of the infrastructure.
Initially most of the villa was saved. However, in 1884, having decided to build a military hospital on its grounds, the city bought everything and five years later completely destroyed it. More than 50000 m² of green area disappeared.
The new military hospital was constructed between 1884 and 1889. It was designed by Colonel Luigi Durand de la Penne together with the architect Salvatore Bianchi.
It consists of a series of 30 pavilions, connected by galleries and metal walkways.
Works of art
Of the works of art collected by Cardinal Antonio Casali many were lost. Others ended up in Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsbergh Glyptotek. These include the “Casali Sarcophagus”, the “Antinoo Casali” and a mosaic depicting the “Rape of Europe”.
During excavations for the foundations of the hospital several ancient structures were unearthed.
The Basilica Hilariana was built by the pearl merchant Manius Publicius Hilarus. One of the most interesting finds was a mosaic with a depiction of the evil eye, which can now be viewed in the Antiquario Comunale del Celio. The building consisted of a porticoed courtyard surrounded by various rooms. It was probably used as a sort of temple for the followers of the goddess Cybele, who was know as the Magna Mater (“Great mother”) and was a very important deity in ancient Rome. The base of a statue dedicated to Hilarus himself, was also found in this spot.
Other ruins uneartehd in the area include those of the house of the Simmaci, a senatorial family in the Imperial era.
The Clivo di Scauro is one of few streets in Rome that has retained its original Roman name. The most important attractions along this street are the Santi Giovanni and Paolo Basilica and the Roman Houses underneath the Celio Hill. Part of the street is covered by a set of arches. Continue reading “Clivo di Scauro Rome”