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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.


The Streets of Rome

Introduction

The current network of streets in central Rome is, with some simplification, the result of five periods of growth of the population and of the role of Rome.
Ancient Rome (brown lines in the map) had its center in the valley between the Palatine, the Capitol and the Quirinal hills. Via Sacra flanked by religious and public buildings was the main street of Ancient Rome. Streets linked this center with the bridges on the Tiber and the gates of the walls.
Renaissance Rome (red lines in the map) was mainly interested in facilitating the access to St Peter's and the Vatican Palace.
Late Renaissance Rome (1550-1600) (magenta lines in the map) saw an increase in population which led to an expansion of the populated part of Rome in the direction of S. Maria Maggiore.
XIXth Century Rome (blue lines in the map) saw the opening of new streets designed at enhancing its new role as capital of the Kingdom of Italy (after 1870).
XXth Century Rome (black lines in the map) led to pulling down some medieval blocks of houses to provide a "grand" entrance to the Capitol, the Colosseum and St. Peter's.

Map

Streets of the same period have the same colour. Each period has its own numbering series.


1912 Map of Rome

Ancient Rome (brown lines in the map)

1) Via Sacra: in the Middle Ages the center of Ancient Rome became a cattle market (Campo Vaccino) with temples and arches partly buried in the ground.
Vasi showed Via Sacra/Campo Vaccino in Plate 31 and Plate 32.
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2) Via Flaminia or Via Lata now Via del Corso: it was the initial section of Via Flaminia and it was located outside the Servian walls, but it was included in the larger walls built by Aurelianus in AD 275. It became known as Via Lata (lata in Latin means broad) because of its size and it acquired its current name towards the end of the XVth century when Pope Paul II (1464-71) organized the first horse races (race=corsa) which started in Piazza del Popolo and ended in Piazza Venezia where he had built his palace.
Vasi showed Via del Corso in many plates covering its main buildings: Accademia di Francia (Plate 170), Chiesa di S. Maria in Via Lata (Plate 44), Chiesa di S. Marcello (Plate 133), Palazzo di Sciarra (Plate 67), Palazzo Ruspoli (Plate 68), Chiesa di S. Carlo al Corso (Plate 140).
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3) Ponte Fabrizio or Quattro Capi and Ponte Cestio: Isola Tiberina, a little island in the river, was an easy crossing place and the Romans built two bridges which withstood the action of floods and earthquakes.
Vasi showed the bridges in: Ponte Quattro Capi (Plate 93), Chiesa e Convento di S. Bartolomeo (Plate 92) and Ponte Cestio (Plate 91).
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4) Ponte Elio or Ponte S. Angelo: it was built by Hadrian with the sole purpose to provide an appropriate access to his Mausoleum, but after the collapse of Pons Neronianus or Triumphalis, it became the only access to the Vatican.
Vasi showed Ponte S. Angelo in Plate 85-ii and Plate 86.
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5) Via Appia now Via delle Terme di Caracalla and Via di Porta S. Sebastiano: in the Servian walls Via Appia started at Porta Capena, but Aurelianus in 275 AD included its initial section in the new walls of Rome. The street is now named after the Baths of Caracalla and the gate of S. Sebastiano.
Vasi showed this section of Via Appia in the pages covering Chiesa di SS. Nereo e Achilleo (and Terme di Caracalla) (Plate 58), Chiesa di S. Cesario (Plate 59) and Porta Capena o di S. Sebastiano (Plate 10).
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Renaissance Rome (red lines in the map)

1) Via Recta or Via dei Coronari: it was part of the streets of Ancient Rome, but in the XVth century it was freed of medieval obstructions and paved with little stones. It allowed pilgrims coming from the north and entering Rome through Porta del Popolo to reach Ponte S. Angelo and the Vatican. It was called Via dei Coronari because there were many shops selling devotional goods to the pilgrims including rosaries and small crowns (hence Coronari).
Vasi showed Via dei Coronari in the plate covering Collegio Germanico (Plate 164).
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2) Strada Papale or Via dei Banchi Nuovi and Via del Governo Vecchio: it was called Papal Street because after his election the Pope went from the Vatican to St John's in Lateran (the Church of the Bishop of Rome) through this street. The various sections of the street were known by other names.
Vasi showed Strada Papale in the plates covering Chiesa de' SS. Celso e Giuliano (Plate 109), Piazza di Pasquino (Plate 26bis), Palazzo Massimi (Plate 76), Chiesa di S. Andrea della Valle (Plate 134), Palazzo Altieri (Plate 79) and Palazzo Panfili (south side) (Plate 39).
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3) Via dei Banchi Nuovi, Via del Pellegrino and Via dei Giubbonari: it was the street used by the pilgrims entering Rome through Porta S. Paolo. It was enlarged by Pope Alexander VI towards the end of the XVth century.
Vasi showed Via del Pellegrino in the plate covering Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica (Plate 74)
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4) Via Giulia: it is named after Julius II, who at the beginning of the XVIth century did not hesitate to pull down many medieval buildings to renew the Roman tradition of designing straight streets. Via Giulia linked Ponte S. Angelo with Ponte Sisto. Vasi showed Via Giulia in the plate covering Palazzo Sacchetti (Plate 71)
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5) Ponte Sisto: in 1450 a mule got restive on Ponte S. Angelo during a crowded Jubilee procession and many people fell into the river. In view of the forthcoming 1475 Jubilee, Pope Sixtus IV built on the site of Pons Aurelius a new bridge to facilitate the access to the Vatican and avoid a repetition of the 1450 accident.
Vasi showed Ponte Sisto in two plates: Plate 87-iii and Plate 89.
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6) Via della Lungara and Via della Lungaretta: Julius II provided another link between Ponte Sisto and the Vatican by opening Via della Lungara, a straight street between Porta Settimiana and Porta S. Spirito. The street with the name of Via della Lungaretta continued inside Trastevere.
Vasi showed Via della Lungara in the plate covering Palazzo Corsini (Plate 72) and Via della Lungaretta in the plate covering Basilica di S. Maria in Trastevere (Plate 60).
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7) Via dell'Aracoeli: it was opened by Pope Paul III in 1536 to allow access to Palazzi del Campidoglio from the western side of the Capitol hill. Its last section, a ramp, was designed by Michelangelo.
Vasi showed Via dell'Aracoeli in the plates covering Chiesa del Gesù (Plate 135) and Chiesa dei SS. Venanzio e Ansovino (Plate 116)
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8) Via di Ripetta and Via della Scrofa: they were opened by Pope Leo X in 1518 and they made it easier to reach Ponte S. Angelo from Porta del Popolo.
Vasi showed Via di Ripetta in the plate covering Chiesa di S. Ivo dei Brittoni (Plate 107) and Via della Scrofa in the plate covering Convento di S. Agostino (Plate 123).
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9) Via del Babuino and Via Due Macelli: they were opened by Pope Clement VII in 1525 and they defined an area between these two streets and Via del Corso which soon became known as the Strangers' Quarter, because of its many inns and taverns.
Vasi showed in part Via del Babbuino in the plate covering Piazza di Spagna (Plate 40).
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Late Renaissance Rome (magenta lines in the map)

1) Strada Pia now Via Venti Settembre: it was named after Pope Pius IV. The purpose of the street was no longer related to facilitating the flows of pilgrims to the Vatican, but to enlarging the populated area of Rome to the hills which once were the center of Ancient Rome. Strada Pia followed the path of Alta Semita, a street of Ancient Rome, and it linked the Quirinal with Porta Pia a new gate designed by Michelangelo in 1561. It is now called Via Venti Settembre, because on September 20, 1870 the Italian infantry troops, the bersaglieri, entered Rome through Porta Pia.
Vasi showed Strada Pia in the plates covering Palazzo Pontificio sul Quirinale (Plate 61), S. Andrea al Quirinale (Plate 135-ii) and Monastero di S. Susanna (Plate 148).
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2) Via Tabernola or Strada della Nuova Suburra, now Via Merulana: in the last decades of the XVIth century the construction of the new Basilica di S. Pietro did not allow any longer the use of the old basilica and the popes preferred to transfer most of the religious ceremonies to the nearest major Basilica, S. Maria Maggiore. Via Tabernola linked this basilica with S. Giovanni in Laterano and it was completed for the Holy Year 1575.
Vasi showed some sections of Via Tabernola in the plates covering Chiesa di S. Prassede (Plate 127-ii) and Chiesa de' SS. Pietro e Marcellino (Plate 50).
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3) Strada Felice now Via Sistina, Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via A. Depretis: it was named after Pope Sixtus V (Felice Peretti) who between 1585 and 1590 put S. Maria Maggiore (and his nearby Villa Peretti) at the centre of a star-shaped net of new streets. Strada Felice linked S. Maria Maggiore with TrinitÓ dei Monti. It crossed Strada Pia at Piazza delle Quattro Fontane. It is now named Via Sistina (with reference to Sixtus V) from TrinitÓ dei Monti to Piazza Barberini, Via delle Quatttro Fontane in the section near Piazza delle Quattro Fontane and Via A. Depretis (a XIXth century Prime Minister) in its last section.
Vasi showed Strada Felice in the plates covering Ospizio dei Frati Eremiti (Plate 122) and Piazza delle Quattro Fontane (Plate 35-ii).
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4) Via di S. Croce in Gerusalemme, now also Via Carlo Alberto and Via Conte Verde: it was opened by Sixtus V and it linked S. Maria Maggiore with S. Croce in Gerusalemme. It helped the pilgrims in their visit of the seven basilicas. Sections of the street are now named after members of the Savoy family.
Vasi showed a section of Via di S. Croce in Gerusalemme in the plate covering Chiesa di S. Eusebio (Plate 49).
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5) Via di Porta S. Lorenzo (lost): it was opened by Sixtus V and it linked S. Maria Maggiore with Porta S. Lorenzo and Basilica di S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura. It helped the pilgrims in their visit of the seven basilicas. The area near Porta S. Lorenzo was largely modified in the XIXth century and the street does not exist any longer.
Vasi showed the starting point of Via di Porta S. Lorenzo in the plate covering Chiesa di S. Eusebio (Plate 49).
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6) Via Panisperna: it was opened by Sixtus V and it linked S. Maria Maggiore with Piazza della Colonna Traiana. It is named after the church of S. Lorenzo in Panisperna, where during some medieval ceremonies bread (panis) and ham (perna) were distributed.
Vasi showed Via Panisperna in the plate covering Chiesa di S. Lorenzo in Panisperna (Plate 152).
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XIXth Century Rome (blue lines in the map)

1) Via Nazionale: it was opened in the 1870s with the purpose of making it the main street of the capital of the Italian Kingdom. The side streets are named after the main Italian cities (Milan, Turin, Florence, etc). It linked the central Railway Station (Stazione Termini) with Piazza Venezia.
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2) Corso Vittorio Emanuele: it is parallel or it follows Strada Papale. It was constructed in the 1870s by connecting some little squares or by enlarging existing streets, so although most of the buildings are of the XIXth century, it is flanked by some old palaces and churches. It linked Piazza del Ges¨ with the Vatican.
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3) Via Arenula and Ponte G. Garibaldi: they were built in the late XIXth century to provide an easy access to Trastevere. Via Arenula was opened by cutting through the houses of Regola, one of the historical quarters of Rome.
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4) Viale del Re, now Viale Trastevere: this large avenue provided Trastevere with a new main street, which split the quarter in two sections, a major one centered around S. Maria in Trastevere and a minor one centered around S. Cecilia.
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5) Via del Tritone: until the end of the XIXth century Via del Tritone was a little street leading to Bernini's Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini. The current Via del Tritone which replaced the old one is a large street linking Piazza Colonna with Piazza Barberini.
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6) Via Cavour: it was opened in the 1870s to provide a link between the new intensively built area near the central Railway Station with Campidoglio. The last section was not completed because of the growth of a more cautious approach to opening new streets in populated areas.
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7) Lungotevere: in December 1870 Rome was flooded and the event led the Italian Government to build high walls along the Tiber and two large streets at the two sides of the river. With the exception of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini all the churches near the river were pulled down.
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XXth Century Rome (black lines in the map)

1) Via dell'Impero, now Via dei Fori Imperiali: in the 1930s a new large avenue linked Piazza Venezia with the Colosseo. The new avenue led to pulling down the medieval area which had been spared by the decision not to complete Via Cavour.
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2) Via del Mare, now Via A. Petroselli: it is a large avenue opened in the 1930s by pulling down a medieval area between Campidoglio and Teatro di Marcello.
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3) Via della Conciliazione: it was designed in the 1930s, but it was completed for the Holy Year 1950. It provided a grand entrance to Piazza S. Pietro, but several palaces and churches were pulled down to achieve this dubious result.
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Other Directories Historical Roads of Rome The Silent Streets of Rome