Many cities in the world have rose gardens which are celebrated for their design and for the number of varieties they exhibit, but the Municipal Rose Garden of Rome (Roseto Comunale di Roma) enjoys a location on the northern side of the Aventine hill, which makes up for its inferior interest from a strictly horticultural viewpoint.
The entrance to the rose garden is presided over by a gigantic monument to Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) which was unveiled in 1949 at the centenary of the short-lived Roman Republic. The bronze statue
was cast by Ettore Ferrari in 1929, the same year the "Questione Romana", the quarrel between the Italian State and the
Holy See (caused by the 1870 Italian conquest of Rome) was settled and a large monument to Mazzini, a very determined opposer of the
Papal State, could have caused undesired complaints from the Vatican.
In 1949 Italy was no longer a kingdom, but a very young republic and Mazzini, who had envisaged for Italy a republican future, became a sort of father of the nation and this led to the decision of erecting such a large monument.
Giuseppe Mazzini during most of his life was regarded as a dangerous conspirator, an instigator of rebellions and acts of terrorism (in 1858, Felice Orsini, a former follower of Mazzini, made an attempt on the life of the French Emperor Napoleon III by throwing several bombs at the Opéra entrance, killing 8 people and wounding more than 150). Even after the completion of Italian Unification Mazzini, who had spent many years in exile in France, Switzerland and England, had to live in Italy under a false name and was regarded as a criminal by the police. His statue now enjoys a grand view over Circus Maximus and the Palatine hill. You may wish to see the rear part of the monument with a relief portraying Jessie White Mario (1832-1906), an English writer and philantropist who worked with Giuseppe Mazzini and wrote a biography of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The Rose Garden was designed in the 1930s on the site of a XVIIth century Jewish Cemetery and the cypresses which border its western side are those which provided shadow to the old tombs. Its upper part borders on one of the many monasteries existing on the Aventine, from which it is divided by Clivo dei Publici, one of the silent streets of Rome.
View of the upper section of the Rose Garden; its alleys are designed in order to form a "menorah", the Jewish seven-branched candelabrum
The rose garden is split into two sections: the upper one shows the permanent collection of varieties of roses, grouped on a chronological basis.
View of the lower section with the roses of the 2011 contest
The lower section of the garden houses the varieties taking part in Premio Roma, an annual contest among international floriculturists.
Winners of the 2018 contest: (left) Evezamont (category: Floribunda); (right) Adasinagruaud (category: Hybrid Tea)
Roses of the Ancient World: Gallica, Alba, Damascena
A small section of the garden is reserved for the roses of the Ancient World: Gallica means from France; Alba is the Latin adjective for white; Damascena means from Damascus. The Romans found that their fragrance had inebriating properties. At the end of a lavish banquet, when the guests were already excited by the effects of food and wine, the perfect host arranged for cascades of rose petals to fall from the ceiling. Notwithstanding its very pagan character, this tradition was not lost with the fall of the Roman Empire: in some of the most sumptuous ceremonies, rose petals fell on the Pope.
In the early XIXth century breeding of new varieties of roses led to crossings between Asian and Western roses; in some cases this caused unexpected consequences. Rosa Bracteata was introduced in Europe by George Mc Cartney, British Ambassador to China in 1793; this species was introduced into some of the southern United States where it has become invasive by forming dense thickets and dominates habitats resulting in the reduction of foraging capacity for wildlife. It displaces native species.
Flavours of the 1950s: Princesse Margaret d'Angleterre and Bettina
The names given to some varieties remind of almost forgotten celebrities:
for much of the 1950s papers which specialize in gossip and love stories thought they had discovered a gold mine in reporting all aspects of
unlucky life of Princess Margaret: she could not marry a RAF WWII hero because he was a divorced man and her case became a
symbol of denied love.
Bettina is the name given by designer Pierre Balmain to Simone Micheline Bodin, a mannequin for whom Hubert de Givenchy designed a very successful kind of blouse. She was the girlfriend (although in the 1950s maybe this word would not have been used) of Prince Aly Khan, a very wealthy and glamorous man. They were one of the best known and elegant couples of the jet set.
In 1997 a New Zealand breeder dedicated this rose to another unlucky princess: Diana, Princess of Wales, who in that same year died in a car crash in Paris. She was referred to as the People's Princess in the tribute to her by PM Tony Blair.
Pax and Peace
Other varieties are linked to historical events. In particular Peace is the name given to a new variety developed immediately before WWII by a French floriculturist: he sent some specimens to correspondents he had in Europe and in the States. When after the war they could write to each other again, they decided to call this now very popular variety with the name of the event they had looked forward to for so many years: Peace.
Luciano del Bufalo
Italy does not have a leading role in the development of new varieties: the large majority of the varieties shown in the rose garden come from France, Germany, Great Britain and the U.S.A. The image above shows one of the few exceptions, a small rambling rose developed in Italy by Maresa del Bufalo.
"Literary" Roses: Porthos, Pinocchio and Albertine
Some varieties are named after literary characters: Porthos and Pinocchio clearly remind of their literary source; Albertine at first seems just the name of the wife or the daughter of the floriculturist who developed this variety: but on second thought one suspects that this rose which is not red and is not pink was most likely named after Albertine, the elusive protagonist of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.
"Literary" roses: Jules Verne and Honoré de Balzac
|Purpura sum terrae, pulcro perfusa colore, |
saeptaque, ne violer, telis defendor acutis.
O felix, longo si possim vivere fato!
|Crimson of earth, a splendid colour dyed.
Take care, behind a prickly hedge I hide,
O happy, could I longer here abide.
Translation by Elizabeth Hickman du Bois
The bell tower of S. Maria in Cosmedin seen from the lower garden (also in the image used as a background for this page)
Other Days of Peace pages:
A Sunny Day in Villa Borghese
At the Flea Market
At the Beach
Voicing Your Views ..... and feeling better
Christmas in Rome
Celebrating the Foundation of Rome
The procession of La Madonna de Noantri
Running the Marathon
Watching the Parade
Finding Solace at the Protestant Cemetery
Attending 2007 July Events
Rome's Sleepless Night
Attending Winter Ceremonies
Jogging at Valle delle Camene
Sailing on the River to see the Bridges of Roma
An October Outing to Marino
Attending a Funeral ...and enjoying it!
A Special Spring Weekend
Embassy-hunting in Parioli
Celebrating Eritrean Michaelmas in Rome
Visiting Rome at Dawn
Visiting Rome in the Moonlight
Visiting Rome on a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus
Visiting Multi-ethnic Rome
Playing in the Snow at the Janiculum
Watching the Pride Parade
Visiting the Movie Sets at Cinecittŕ
Reading Memoirs of Hadrian at Villa Adriana
Looking up at the Ceilings of the Vatican Palaces
Reading Seneca at the Baths
Spending the Last Roman Day at St. John Lateran's Cloister
Reading Ovid at St. Peter's
Walking the Dog at Valle della Caffarella