Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Garibaldi Rides Again: A New Museum in Rome

The dashing young Giuseppe Garibaldi
Rome opened a small, but intense, new museum this year on top of the Gianicolo, to our great delight. The Museo della Repubblica Romana e della memoria garibaldina (Museum of the Roman Republic and memory of Garibaldi and his followers – possibly titled by committee) – opens up to Italian and English speakers the intense 19th- century history that unfolded on the hill. The imposing gate to the city itself (see photos at end) houses the museum - it's literally IN Porta San Pancrazio.

In June 1849 some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign to end Papal rule over Italy – and Rome in particular – took place here. Damage to buildings is still visible on the road leading to Villa Pamphilli, where the Garibaldini (the Garibaldi forces) waged their last battle of that year. The top of the Gianicolo is, in a phrase coined by one of our friends, a Garibaldi theme park. And, down the hill from the majestic Fountain of Aqua Paolo is an "ossuary” – a bone repository of the many who lost their lives in those battles.  The ossuary is on the Trastevere itinerary of our new book, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  More on the book at the end of this post.

All of this is clearer now thanks to sophisticated dioramas, maps, flyers in English, and other computer-assisted tools artfully placed in the Porta. We enjoyed the actor playing the part of the martyred Ciceruacchio (“Chubby” - to whom there is a statue on the Gianicolo we had never noticed before – but it too was moved for the anniversary – to a spot in the “theme park”). In a 5 or so minute wall-size video (that one can view in English) he explains why he went from being supportive of the Pope to being violently anti-Pope, which surprised us, and he chides Italians today for perhaps not being as unified as those who fought for state-hood might like them to be. Ciceruacchio, whose real name was Angelo Brunetti, has a Wikipedia entry (you can use a Google translator to get the main points in English).
An original "Red Shirt" - the Garibaldi wore, and were known
by them - and other Garibaldini memorabilia

Six of the 8 adult sons of Ricciotti Garibaldi, one of Giuseppe and
Anita's sons (i.e, their grandsons), in World War I in France.
Fighters/liberators all, along with their 2 other brothers; 2 died
in the Argonne, one in Ceylon
The battles of 1849 resulted in the defeat of the Garibaldini, a defeat which took them 21 years to overturn when in 1870 they breached the gates of Rome on the opposite side of the city - Porta Pia – and Italy’s statehood finally extended to Rome.

"We loved life, but for the health of generations to come, we chose death.  D.'Garibaldi' "- The Balkans 1943-45, and WWI in northern Italy 1915-1918.
The museum goes beyond 1849 to illustrate the subsequent activities of the Garibaldini and specifically of Garibaldi’s sons and grandsons. It’s an amazing tribute to the man and his progeny – both blood-line progeny and war colleagues.

Porta San Pancrazio has been completely refurbished.  Traffic
is no longer allowed to cross in front of it.  The large planters
are designed to deter those who might try.  And, so, one no longer needs to keep one's toes in while snacking at Bar Gianicolo (as we advised in Rome the Second Time).   

In Rome the Second Time, this outline of the 1849 battle forms a large part of Itinerary 2 – War and Water on the Gianicolo. It’s almost as if someone in the city read the book and said, hey, there’s an itinerary here! Of course they didn’t, but it’s nice to think so. And now, anyone can go into the museum and get the lay of the land before - or after – trekking around it oneself.  We've added the museum information to RST Updates - available online.

But of course the newly designed area in front of the
Porta gives many the opportunity to find new ways to park
The museum was not well attended on the free day we went this Fall (it just opened March 17 – in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, but our friends say it was so crowded on opening day that people were turned away. Perhaps this is an effort to rehabilitate Garibaldi (I recall his picture on a wall in my Grandmother’s house) who, along with his ideas of a secular state, some – like historian David Kerzer in a recent book – suggest today has been close to forgotten by the Italian people.

The museum has a website that gives details.  Open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Adult tickets Euro 5.50. It’s worth it.


The ossuary (and more on the Gianicolo) is featured on the Trastevere stairways walk in our new print AND eBook,  Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  Modern Rome features tours of the "garden" suburb of Garbatella; the 20th-century suburb of EUR, designed by the Fascists; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in Trastevere.

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, and other retailers; retail price $5.99.


Judith Works said...

Interesting. I'll try to visit the next time I'm in Rome. Interesting timing too with the celebrations of unification and the northern types wanting secession.

A native said...

Last year we celebrated the 150th
anniversary of the unification of
Italy (1861), not the founding of the Republic which happened
in 1946.

Anyway, great blog!

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Thanks, Judith, and thanks, Native (RST made the correction). For a great read on Garibaldi, we heartily recommend Christopher Herbert, Garibaldi: Hero of Italian Unificatio, first published in 1965.

A native... said...

May I add that Fountain of Aqua Paolo is incorrect? Actually it's called "Fontanone dell'Acqua Paola". Hope I helped!