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

Porta Pinciana (Book 1) (Day 2) (Map A2) (Rione Colonna) and (Rione Campo Marzio)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 The gate
 The gate of Villa Medici
 The walls between Porta Pinciana and Porta Salaria

The Plate (No. 2)

Porta Pinciana is one of the minor gates of Rome and at Vasi's time it was kept open to allow access to Villa Borghese. In 1808, when a new entrance to Villa Borghese was opened near Porta del Popolo, Porta Pinciana was closed. The ancient Romans called this area Collis Hortulorum (Garden Hill) with reference to its many villas and gardens; the gate was named after a villa belonging to the Pincii family in the IVth century AD (you may wish to see a Renaissance reconstruction (imaginary) of the area with the house of a Pincio Senator - external link).
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below: the numbers indicate: 1) Porta Pinciana; 2) a (lost) gate of Villa Borghese; 3) the gate of Villa Medici. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Campo Marzio (left) and Rione Colonna (right).


(left) The view in June 2009; (right) the view towards Villa Medici from a terrace outside the gate

The gate is in much better shape than at Vasi's time. It was reopened in 1887 when a new quarter was developed in the area of former Villa Ludovisi. During the XXth century the opening of large roads along the walls and across Villa Borghese and of underground parking facilities outside Porta Pinciana greatly increased the importance of the gate (the traffic flows through modern openings).

The Gate

(left) The gate seen from Via di Porta Pinciana; (right-above) Latin cross on the internal side; (right-middle) Greek cross on the external side; (right-below) an "apotropaic" bump (more about these bumps at Porta S. Sebastiano)

Porta Pinciana was the starting point of Salaria Vetus, the old route of Via Salaria which joined the new road (departing from Porta Salaria) near the tomb of Lucilio Peto. When Emperor Aurelian built the walls, Porta Pinciana was just a posterula, a small opening; it was enlarged by Emperor Honorius and strengthened by Belisarius, the Byzantine general who conquered Rome in 536.
The gate was also known as Porta Belisaria, because of a (lost) medieval inscription saying Date obolum Belisario (give alms to Belisarius). According to a medieval legend, Belisarius fell into disgrace and Emperor Justinian ordered him to be blinded and all his possessions to be confiscated; the great general spent his last years as a blind beggar at Porta Pinciana (you may wish to see the painting by Jacques-Louis David - external link).

The Gate of Villa Medici

(left) The gate; (right) inscriptions above the niches; they were dictated by Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany; the following is a rough translation: (above) Guest, now that you have reached these gardens on the summit of "Collis Hortulorum", where you may walk at your pleasure, be aware that the host opens them to all his friends; (below) Guest, now that you are in these gardens, which Ferdinando de Medici ordered with great expense, enjoy their view and rejoice, without desiring anything more

Villa Medici has a very decorated inner fašade and a rather simple outer fašade. The reason behind it is that when it was built, the villa was accessed through a gate near Porta Pinciana leading to its inner fašade. The gate has a typical Florentine appearance, very unusual in Rome.

(left and right) Guarding lions in "cages" inside the gate (more about these lions); (centre) alley leading to Villa Medici; (inset) coat of arms of the Medici family on the wall along Via di Porta Pinciana

The Walls between Porta Pinciana and Porta Salaria

A section of the walls showing towers and ancillary buildings

Some 200 meters from Porta Pinciana a small section of the walls was strengthened in line with Renaissance practices during the pontificate of Pope Julius III. Next to this section, excavations unearthed a small Roman funerary monument which was reconstructed between two towers. The walls and some of the towers have been adapted to houses. Parked in front of one of the towers a red Fiat 500 shines in the sun: this car in the 1950s was the dream of every Italian teenager.

(left) Reconstructed tomb; (centre-above) relief of the cornice (now placed on the tomb); (centre-below) coat of arms of Pope Julius III; (right) a Fiat 500

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Porta Pinciana
Il magnifico palazzo di Pincio Senatore Romano, che quý presso era, dette facilmente il nome al colle, ed alla porta insieme, la quale essendo stata spogliata de' suoi ornamenti di marmo da Teodorico Re de' Goti, rimane ancora nella sua umiltÓ.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Salaria
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Villa Borghese
Next step in your tour of Rione Colonna: Porta Salaria
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Palazzo della Regina di Polonia