Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Mapping Rome

We love maps, and we detest GPS systems--at least when used in Rome. Maps help one understand a city, deep down; GPS gets you from point A to point B, but its micro-focus guarantees that you won't know much about how the city is laid out and functions.

We recently bought the map shown here. It's a copy, printed in Rome in 2004. The title is Rome Presente e Avvenire (Rome Present and Future). It's not a Rome-the-Second-Time map; we've lived in seven Rome neighborhoods, and only one of them--just to the east of via della Lungara--is on the map.

And that's what makes it fascinating. On the southwest side of town, the Marconi area where we spent one pleasant (except for the filthy streets) spring, doesn't yet exist. To the southeast, development pretty much ends at San Giovanni in Laterano, at least a mile from our apartment a few blocks from Piazza Re di Roma. Northeast, there isn't much development beyond viale della Regina Margherita; the Piazza Bologna area, the site of two itineraries in Rome the Second Time and one of our favorite places, doesn't yet exist. And to the northwest, there isn't much of anything beyond the walls of the Vatican. Inside the city, the map shows something called Aqua Mariana flowing from Parco della Caffarella through Circo Massimo, and today's village-like neighborhood of San Saba is mostly farmland. The black areas on the map are demolitions.

So, what's a good date for the map? We welcome your help in figuring out just what it is we bought!



Andrew Haines said...

I'm no expert, but it almost looks like a sketch of the modern city with ancient borders. Since Termini is there (although seemingly un-developed in relation to its modern state), and since Prati is cut off on the western edge, above Piazza Risorgimento, in an unnatural way--and most of all, since the Villa Borghese is shown as undeveloped (and it was clearly developed quite well even before Rome had trains), I'd say the map is an admixture of various themes. "What would ancient Rome look like today?" Hmm...

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

You may be right about "the modern city with ancient borders." Parts of the map were clearly drawn after 1870--the monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II is at least roughed out and the huge thoroughfare carved out by Mussolini between that monument and the Coliseum doesn't exist as yet,and the FAO building from the Fascist era--originally the HQ of the African ministry--doesn't exist either. The undeveloped far-out parts of the map may reflect a conscious decision not to draw them as fully as the "old" city, as you suggest. Will think about this some more! Thanks

pkpbsd said...

I have the same map. Bought it at the Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street in Manhattan. It is not dated. I do not believe it is "the modern city with ancient borders." What borders? The walls have not (mostly) moved since the 4th century. The black areas on the map are PROPOSED demolitions—some were eventually carried out, and others (thankfully) were not.

It appears to be a planning map from the turn of the early 20th century. I would put it in1910 (100 years ago) based on:

The map shows the Tiber embankments (mostly) in place; they were constructed between 1876 and 1915. The last section to be completed was below the Aventine, which the map shows unfinished.

The (first) Stazione Termini is in place; it was completed in 1874. (Andrew is thinking of the modern station built in the 1930s.)

Via Veneto is built; it was laid out in 1887.

The map shows the Vittoriano as planned but not constructed; it was constructed beginning in 1887 and inaugurated in 1911.

Bridges in place:

Ponte Umberto I: 1885

Ponte Garibaldi: 1888

Ponte Palatino: 1891

Ponte Regina Margherita: 1886–1891

Ponte Cavour: 1891–1896

Ponte Mazzini: 1908

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele: 1886-1911

The Basilica Aemilia in the Forum is not yet excavated; that was done between 1899 and 1909.

The Palazzo di Giustizia is shown in place; it was built between 1888 and 1910.

It shows the Palazzetto di Venezia yet to be moved to the other (west) end of Palazzo Venezia; it was moved in 1911.

Galleria Colonna, on Via Del Corso at Piazza Colonna, is not yet in place; it was begun in 1914.

The Spina del Borgo is yet to be demolished; the Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via Teatro di Marcello are not shown as planned; the area covering ruins of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus is not yet excavated; the Largo di Torre Argentina, where the Area Sacra (cum cat sanctuary) is, is not yet excavated; these works were carried out under Mussolini after 1925.

Closer analysis of the pink unbuilt areas and of as-yet unexcavated areas in the Forum and on the Palatine could pin it down further, but 1910 +/- on year seems pretty sure.

pkpbsd said...

BTW, highly interesting and informative to compare the amazingly detailed Nolli Plan of 1748 ( with this c. 1910 map with a current satellite map from Google or Bing. The fabric and topography of Rome are a fascination of mine. Also, some of the photos on this forum, Roma Sparita (Vanished Rome), are amazing: