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Porta Pinciana (Book 1) (Day 2) (Map A2) (Rione Colonna) and (Rione Campo Marzio)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
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).
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).
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
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.
The Walls between Porta Pinciana and Porta Salaria
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.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
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