All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in May 2010.
Ponte Nomentano (Book 5) (Environs of Rome)
Scampagnata is an Italian word meaning hike in the countryside (It. campagna). Nowadays the word has become out of date, but in the XVIIIth century many middle class families spent their Sundays taking a walk outside the walls of Rome; many went to Prati di Castello, but also the meadows near Ponte Nomentano attracted picnickers, as this etching by Giuseppe Vasi shows. Ponte Nomentano crosses the Aniene River, a tributary of the Tiber, and it could be reached in about one hour's walk from Porta
Pia; food and wine could be bought at an inn near the bridge.
The immediate surroundings of Ponte Nomentano have not been affected by the modern development of Rome along Via Nomentana; in 1924 the increased volume of traffic was redirected over a new bridge built at a short distance from Ponte Nomentano, which is currently reserved to pedestrians.
The Roman bridge had three arches of which only the central one was not damaged during the Greek-Gothic War; in 552 the bridge was restored; some small arches were added to the central one which was fortified; the tower on the western towards Rome was built by Pope Nicholas V (whose coat of arms is shown in the image used as background for this page).
In the past Ponte Nomentano was the subject of many landscape paintings; you may wish to see the works by Camille Corot and his friend Jean-Achille Benouville (external links).
Monte Sacro means Holy Mountain; it is a small isolated hill which at the time of ancient Rome was chosen by the augurs for watching the flight of birds; based on these observations the augurs determined whether a proposed action had divine approval.
The religion of the ancient Romans did not give much hope about life after death; maybe this is one of the reasons why the wealthiest Romans wanted their funerary monuments to be very noticeable and built them along the roads which linked Rome to the provinces; in this way at least their names and deeds would survive and be remembered by travellers.
A 1792 etching by Johann Christian Reinhart (external link) shows a mausoleum of the Imperial age near Ponte Nomentano; this mausoleum, unlike the ruins shown by Vasi, has not been affected by the urban development of the area.
Simon Bolivar is the national hero of many Latin American countries; at the age of 22, as part of his Italian Grand Tour, he visited Rome and on August 15, 1805 (Ferragosto) from the top of Monte Sacro he swore to free his country from the Spanish yoke; a monument was erected in 2005 to celebrate the event.
The Chigi had a large villa at Ariccia, but in 1763 Cardinal Flavio Chigi bought a farm near Ponte Nomentano which was turned into a small villa by Tommaso Bianchi and Pietro Camporese; Cardinal Chigi personally supervised its decoration with paintings and furniture.
The gate and the entrances to the casino are still decorated with the Chigi heraldic symbols (six mountains and a star), but the furniture and most of the paintings have been sold by the heirs of Flavio Chigi. Today the casino is a private property, whereas a section of the garden belongs to the City of Rome (but the fountains and statues which decorated it are lost).
A large Roman mausoleum near Via Nomentana was named in the Middle Ages Sedia del Diavolo (Devil's Chair) as the
collapse of its entrance gave it the shape of a gigantic chair. It was built for Aelius Callistus, a freedman of Emperor Hadrian (whose second name was Aelius). It is one of many brick tombs which were built in the IInd century AD; it had two storeys, a burial-chamber below and a room for ceremonies above.
Sepolcro di Annia Regilla is a similar mausoleum which retains most of its original decoration.
In the early XXth century excavations at Tor di Quinto, a marshy area north of Ponte Milvio, led to the
discovery of a small circular tomb. At that time Via Nomentana was the site of several rich mansions and the tomb was relocated
immediately outside one of these mansions; later on Via Nomentana was enlarged and the tomb ended up in a traffic island.
Next plate in Book 5: Ponte Salaro
Next step in your tour of the Environs of Rome: Ponte Mammolo
You can follow Via Nomentana until its end and visit Mentana, Monterotondo and Palombara.