All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in August 2009.
Casino della Villa Peretti sulla Piazza di Termini (Book 10) (Map A3) (Day 2) (View B7) (Rione Monti)
Pope Sixtus V built Acqua Felice, an aqueduct which carried water from the Alban hills
to the northern part of Rome and to the large estate (Villa Peretti or Villa Montalto), he had
bought when he was a cardinal. The plate shows the entrance to Villa Peretti near Piazza
di Termini. In 1696 the villa was sold to Cardinal Francesco Negroni and it became known as Villa Negroni. Between 1784 and 1789 it belonged to Giuseppe Staderini, a merchant, who sold all its works of art, including Neptune and Triton, a statue by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (you can see it in this external link). The property was eventually bought by the Massimo.
In 1860 Pope Pius IX decided to build a central railway station in the gardens of Villa Peretti. After the annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 the new government decided to make the railway station a key element in the design of a "modern" capital and in 1888 the casino of Villa Peretti and the long sequence of low buildings on its northern side were pulled down to make room for a large square.
The plate shows a niche of the baths named after Emperor Diocletian; these are covered in greater detail in a page on Piazza di Termini.
Of the many decorations of Villa Peretti a fountain still survives although relocated in Trastevere. It is decorated with the lion and the pears of Pope Sixtus V.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is a new building erected near the site of the old casino; it shows some resemblance to the previous building (the entrance, the number of windows) and it now houses a section of Museo Nazionale Romano.
In 1883 an obelisk was found near S. Ignazio; it was originally erected in Heliopolis by Pharaoh Rameses II. In 1887 it was placed in front of the railway station, but in 1924 it was relocated to the gardens opposite Palazzo Massimo (to see all the obelisks of Rome click here). It is known as Obelisco di Dogali because it embellishes a small monument dedicated to some 500 Italian soldiers who fell in January 1887 at Dogali, in today's Eritrea; this explains why the large square in front of the railway station is called Piazza dei Cinquecento (500).
In 1938 work started to replace the XIXth century railway station with a larger one; because of WWII the construction of the new facility was interrupted and it was completed in 1950. In 1953 it was chosen as the setting for an international movie Stazione Termini - Indiscretion of an American Wife, starring Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones, which had poor reviews.
Later on the new building was completed with a new entrance hall, which is labelled as il dinosauro because of the shape of its concrete roof.
The construction of the railway station led to levelling the ground where the new facility was to be built; a long mound stood to the left of the planned building. The mound was known as Monte della Giustizia because of a statue of Rome at its top, which was thought to represent Justice; the statue was placed at the end of a long alley which is visible in the small 1748 map; the statue was removed and it is now in Castello Massimo at Arsoli.
To the great dismay of railway technicians, the mound revealed an unexpected content: a long section of the so-called Servian Wall, which according to tradition was built by King Servius Tullius. This wall is thought today to have been built after the Gauls sacked Rome in 387 BC.
This section of the wall shows a construction technique which is typical of Etruscan towns and is based on the alternate positioning of tufa blocks of a parallelepiped shape. A ditch increased the effectiveness of the wall; the Romans called agger a fortification protected by a ditch. Another section of the Servian Wall (without a ditch) can be seen near S. Saba.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page: