From piazza Fiume, two short diversions can be made.
- For the first one, follow via Calabria; at the first crossing turn left, and walk along via Collina, to piazza Sallustio:
Here, several metres below the present ground level, you can see a roman hall with
a very high vault. This site [map ref. g]
was named Sallust's Gardens after Sallust, a tribune and historian who
lived in the 1st century BC. In those times, this area lay
outside the republican walls. i.e. the city's older boundary. The roman obelisk which today
stands at the top of the famous Spanish Steps was originally found on this spot.
Unfortunately, the site is not open to the public, and can only be seen from the
Back in piazza Fiume, the second diversion is along via Salaria: about 350 metres off the square, now surrounded by buildings, stands a tomb in the shape of a large cylindre [map ref. h], once completely covered with turf, where trees and other vegetation likely grew, according to the typical fashion of mausoleums (monumental tombs) that housed the ashes of high personalities.
The inscription on the front tells us the name of the dead, Lucilius Paetus and
his sister Lucilia Polla.
It dates back to the late 1st century BC, at the beginning of
Rome's imperial period. As the previous site, also this one cannot be
accessed by the public, and can be only seen from the street. A permit for a visit may be applied for
by the 10th Department of Antiquities and Fine Arts (10ª Ripartizione delle Antichità e
Belle Arti), located in via del Portico d'Ottavia 29.
the tomb of Lucilius Paetus
the Breach of Porta Pia
Back on the walls route, from piazza Fiume keep following the outer side, and very soon you will reach a large memorial with a tall column in front of it [map ref. i
], in memory of the historical event that affected Rome's modern history in a most crucial way: "the Breach of Porta Pia"
took place on this very spot. Here, on September 20th, 1870, the Italian troops that besieged the only city left under the rule of the pope, succeeded in opening a passage through the wall; as the Bersaglieri corps rapidly took hold of the city, the centuries-old Papal State came to an end, and Rome finally passed under the jurisdiction of the unified Italian country, to become its capital city in a very short time.
The event is remarked by an inscription on the column, which ends with the touching words: "...through this breach Italy entered Rome again".
Not much further, we reach a fourth gate, Porta Pia [map ref. 4].
The embattlements and the overall aspect clearly reveals that this is a much more recent
structure than the roman wall: pope Pius IV had it built in the mid
16th century, appointing for its making nobody else but the famous Michelangelo.
Up to those days, the ancient road called Nomentana (from the Latin name of the small town it reached, Nomentum, presently Mentana, see map of ROME'S ANCIENT SURROUNDINGS
) ran behind this wall, more or less along the first
stretch of the present via XX Settembre, and made a bend in order to pass through the nearby small Porta Nomentana [map ref. 5
an original roman gate. Therefore, the aim of Porta Pia was basically to provide an easier and wider access
to this main road.
Still today this spot is a busy approach to the city center.
via Nomentana, before and after
Porta Pia was built
Due to the above-mentioned facts of 1870, the central part of the gate now houses a
museum dedicated to these troops, and a monument in the middle of the square remembers
the Bersaglieri corps.
Just inside the gate, on the left side of via XX Settembre, an
interesting modern building (1971) by the English architect Basil Spencer houses the British
Soon after, following the wall, we come to the above-mentioned Porta Nomentana
[map ref. 5], a secondary gate;
when Porta Pia was built, and the course of the old via Nomentana was moved towards it,
this passage became totally unused, and was closed for the sake of the walls' security. It can still be told,
by the base of the surviving semicircular tower, by the different brick texture of the wall.
The other tower that stood by the doorway was taken
down in the early 19th century to enable the exploration of a roman tomb located by its base.
Porta Nomentana (bottom left), barely visible
Note how, unlike Porta Pinciana (and other major gates), Porta Nomentana had no white stone facing,
or similar additional elements; all the roman gates must have originally looked quite similar
to this simple yet rather steady brick structure.
Behind the closed gate are the grounds of the aforesaid British Embassy.
As we carry on along the wide street, now called viale del Policlinico, a tower with windows
marks the site where Aurelian's wall joined the Castrum Praetorium, described in
Turning to the right, on viale di Castro Pretorio, the first part of the tour comes to an end.
Further down, on the left, you will notice a large modern building, the National Library.
In front of the library's entrance is the subway station Castro Pretorio (line B).