Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Villa Glori: Interesting, if not Glorious.

A road ascending the Villa Glori hill 
If you've never heard of Villa Glori, you're not alone.  It's one of Rome's least known parks.  That's probably because it's much smaller than Villa Borghese or Villa Ada.  Or because it's poorly maintained.  Or because it's located quite far from the city center, in the northwest corner of Parioli.  Still, it's not far (less than a mile, perhaps) from a couple of Rome's new or newish attractions--the Parco della Musica and the modern art museum known as MAXXI--so if you're in that area, find your way up the hill (the park occupies one of Rome's steepest hills) to Villa Glori.

For centuries that hill was known mostly for its vineyards and for hunting.  Between 1908 and about 1950 its lower reaches were the site of a horse-racing track.  In 1923, the property--then belonging to the Boncompagni family--became a public park, dedicated to the Italians killed in the Great War.

It was then called the Parco della Rimembranza, and perhaps still is, by some.  A large stone monument to those war dead is still there, though it's seen better days.  One of the stones (below) lists the battle sites, including Gorizia and Vittorio Veneto.

In 1929 3 pavilions were built at the summit of the hill, to house summer camps for boys who were poor or at risk of tuberculosis.  In 1988 the buildings were redeveloped into a center for the treatment of AIDS.  We did not see the buildings (or maybe we did and failed to take notice).  Tell us if you find them.

More interesting:  in 1997 the city and Italian art critic Daniela Fonti developed an artistic loop in the park, showing off some contemporary sculpture; it was updated in 2001.  The photo below appears to be one of the sculptures.  We didn't see any others.

A stop on the sculpture percorso. 

Monument to Cairoli, the fallen, and
the expedition.  One of Rome's weirder
More excitement to follow.  Villa Glori is undoubtedly best known for a battle that took place there in October, 1867.  At the time, Rome remained outside the confines of an (almost) unified Italy.  It was controlled by the French and the Papacy.  About 70 volunteers, part of Garibaldi's legion and led by Enrico Cairoli, marched from Terni in an attempt to liberate Rome.  They crossed the Tevere near the confluence with the Aniene and made their way to Villa Glori, where they occupied a large house on what was then known as Monte Parioli.  A large force of Swiss carabinieri and elements of the Papal army attacked the would-be liberators.  A hour of combat ensued, including two bayonet charges by the Garibaldini.   Enrico Cairoli died, as did his wounded brother Giovanni, two years later.  A column, erected in 1895 and still standing (in what now seems to be an asphalt parking lot), commemorates the Cairoli brothers and their fellow soldiers.  The Cairoli expendition is known as the Campagna dell'Agro Romano per la liberazione di Roma (the campaign of the countryside for the liberation of Rome).

The house occupied by the Garibaldini in 1867 is reputed to be still standing, though we can't confirm that.  What we can confirm is that the park is a place where Romans jog.  There is also a small but popular children's playground.  Londoners accustomed to the large, elaborate, and well-maintained children's park in Greenwich will not be impressed.  But Romans seem to like it.

Children's playground in Villa Glori.  The swings appear to be new.  


1 comment:

Laurel said...

We used to live nearby and I think I know where the buildings you mention are. At the north end of the park there is a fenced area with, as I recall, some non-descript green buildings. They are on the outer loop, the biggest lop, if you circumnavigate the park.I had no idea what they were. Assumed some sort of maintenance, but Google Maps shows a street called Viale die Settanta and they are at the end of that.

I agree it is rather inglorious, but we found many of the hidden sculptures during various walks up there, and there is a sad little pony ride near Viale Maresciallo Pilsudski. Interesting history of the Risorgimento that I did not know.