The Celio district is the 19th rione of Rome. It is one of the neighborhoods most frequented by tourists, since important monuments like the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine can be found within its borders. The district is named after one of the city’s famous seven hills.
Celio District Rome (rione XIX)
The district gets its name from the hill Celio, which was one of Rome‘s original seven hills. Until the year 1921, when the districts were reorganized, what is now Celio belonged in part to the rione Monti and in part to Campitelli.
Before it got the name Celio, the hill was was called Mons Querquetulanus. (Quercie are “oak trees”.)
In the late Republican age the area became residential and several luxury dwellings were built. During the Imperial age, the top of the hill stayed residential, but the slopes toward the Colosseum and the Esquiline Hill were taken up by insulae, a kind of apartment buildings with more than one floor.
In those days a long street called Via Celimontana ran from the Porta Celimontana all the way to the Porta Maggiore. It followed the present Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, Via Domenico Fontana and Via Statilia.
Four acqueducts ran alongside the Via Celimontana. Three of these were underground, the Appia, Marcia and Iulia Aqueducts. The fourth one was an offshoot of the Acqua Claudia Aqueduct and was built by Nero to get water to his Domus Aurea.
In the middle ages the Frangipani built a fortress between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The Arch of Constantine was transformed into a tower and incorporated in the construction.
In the middle ages the Via Celimontana became less important. As a result population declined and the area acquiered a rural character.Most of it was property of the San Gregorio, the Santi Quattro Coronati and the Santi Giovanni and Paolo Churches. The rest was taken up by the Villa Celimontana, the Villa Casali and several vineyards.
This did not change until the end of the 19th century, when the city started building roads and houses. One of the results of this building spree was the destruction of the Villa Casali and the vineyards. From 1921, when the rione Celio was instituted, the repopulation of the neighborhood started for real.
The district’s coat of arms consists of a profile of an African warrior with a head-covering in the shape of an elephant head. The origin of this is historical, since the empire’s African legionairs used to live on the Colle Celio. Their leader was Console Scipione, nicknamed “the African”.
A bust of an African soldier found during excavations in the area can be seen in the Capitoline Museums.
Apart from the aforementioned Colosseum and Arch of Constantine there are many interesting monuments and other attractions in the area. The Villa Celimontana park is among Rome‘s most beautiful ones and the churches Santa Maria in Domnica and the Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati are well worth visiting.