Rome Travel Journal – Day Three Part One

2nd October 2014

Day 3 of my trip is dedicated to the Ghetto and the Campo de’ Fiori, once the southern half of the Campus Martius (Field of Mars.

After crossing the river along the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II I head straight down the Via Giulia. The street was laid out by Pope Julius II and is a full kilometre long. It makes for a gorgeously quiet walk away from the traffic that follows the river that it parallels.

Michelangelo bridge on Via Giula

A bridge spans the Viu Giulia at the back of the Palazzo Farnese

The Fontana del Mascherone (Fountain of the Mask) was commissioned by the Farnese family around 1625. During their lavish parties the fountain would flow with wine instead of water.

The Fontana del Mascherone (Fountain of the Mask) was commissioned by the Farnese family around 1625. During their lavish parties the fountain would flow with wine instead of water.

The Palazzo Farnese backs onto the Via Giulia. I had intended to put the gorgeous Palace tour on my itinerary, however entry is by mandatory tour and all the tours in English had sold out weeks before my trip. My only Italian comes from my musical knowledge or my love of food, so the Palazzo Farnese will have to wait for my third trip to Rome, whenever that may be. My itinerary is too crammed for me to have regrets though, so I press on. At the end of the Via Giulia I wander through the streets using a deliberately lackadaisical yet vaguely north east route until I reach Largo Di Torre Argentina. This particularly square is described in my guidebook as ‘a place to wait for a bus and not much else.’ The author of the guide is evidently not as excited as I am about FOUR FREAKIN’ REPUBLICAN ERA TEMPLES. The archaeological site does, however, stink of cat pee as it acts as a homeless cat shelter.

The Temple of Juturna dates from the 3rd Century BC. It was built by a naval commander called Gaius Lutatius Catulus after he won the final naval battle of the First Punic War against Carthage in March 241BC. The Battle of the Aegadian Islands (off of Sicily) was instrumental in bringing the Carthaginians to a surrender. Juturna is the goddess of wells, springs and fountains.

The Temple of Juturna dates from the 3rd Century BC. It was built by a naval commander called Gaius Lutatius Catulus after he won the final naval battle of the First Punic War against Carthage in March 241BC. The Battle of the Aegadian Islands (off of Sicily) was instrumental in bringing the Carthaginians to a surrender. Juturna is the goddess of wells, springs and fountains.

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It’s worth mentioning that the Curia of Pompey lies somewhere roughly under those buildings in the background. Julius Caesar was assassinated on the steps of that Curia on the Ides of March, 44BC. He didn’t say “Et tu, Brute?” (Shakespeare did,) but Caesar did suffer 23 stab wounds.

Time to wander to the next set of ruins, passing the delightful Fontana delle Tartarughe on the way.

The Fontana delle Tartarughe (the Turtle Fountain) dates from the 1580s. The turtles weren't added until the 1690s, perhaps by Bernini.

The Fontana delle Tartarughe (the Turtle Fountain) dates from the 1580s. The turtles weren’t added until the 1650s, perhaps by Bernini.

I wandered down to the Portico of Octavia (built by Augustus and named for his sister) but it was so completely covered in scaffolding I couldn’t see any of it. I’m always glad to see ancient buildings getting a bit of TLC so I tried not be too disappointed. The Theatre of Marcellus next door was a huge consolation.

Marcellus was the daughter of Octavia and nephew of Augustus.  He died in 23 BC, five years before the theatre that bears his name was completed. He was a healthy young man of 19, his mysterious fatal illness is often assumed to be the work of his aunt Livia...

Marcellus was the son of Octavia and nephew of Augustus. He died in 23 BC, five years before the theatre that bears his name was completed. He was a healthy young man of 19, his mysterious fatal illness is often assumed to be the work of his aunt Livia…

The theatre could hold up to about 20,000 people who would gather here to watch theatrical performances and sacrifices. In the medieval period it was converted into a fortress. The three columns are an Augustan period restoration to a Republican temple dedicated to Apollo Sosianus.

Temple of Apollo Sosianus

I suppose I had to have one day of holiday accompanied by rain…

Near to the Theatre is the Church of San Nicola in Carcere (prison) which can boast not one ancient temple under the church but three.

The Republican era Temple of Spes (Hope) is now incorporated into the fabric of the Christian church of Saint Nicholas in Prison.

The Republican era Temple of Spes (Hope) is now incorporated into the fabric of the Christian church of Saint Nicholas in Prison.

The church stands on the edge of what had been the Forum Holitorium (vegetable and herb market) in ancient times. Four temples had stood in a row and their foundations are preserved at ancient street level underneath the current building.San Nicola in Carcere

Before I paid my 2 euros to get into the basement (bargain!) I amused to see a clumsy 9thC AD inscription on a column in the church. The Latin is terrible (yet still better than mine!) and talks of an offering of copper and livestock to the church. Not this church as the column was nicked from somewhere else and brought here in the 12thC AD

+ De donis di, et sce. di genitrci Marie, sce. Anne, scs. Simeon et sce. Lucie, edgo Anastasius, maior domu, ofero bobis pro natalicies best. binea tabul. VI q. p. it portu, seu bobes paria II iumenta s. v. pecora XXX, porci X, furma de rame libras XXVI, lectus itrat V in utilia te pbr. sevaleo lecto, si trato at mansionaris equi sequentibus. + IC requiescit IG ante.

+ De donis di, et sce. di genitrci Marie, sce. Anne, scs. Simeon et sce. Lucie, edgo Anastasius, maior domu, ofero bobis pro natalicies best. binea tabul. VI q. p. it portu, seu bobes paria II iumenta s. v. pecora XXX, porci X, furma de rame libras XXVI, lectus itrat V in utilia te pbr. sevaleo lecto, si trato at mansionaris equi sequentibus. + IC requiescit IG ante.

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Column base from the Temple of Janus - 3rd century BC

Column base from the Temple of Janus – 3rd century BC

Podium from the Temple of Janus

Podium from the Temple of Janus

This alley runs between the Temple of Janus on the left and the Temple of Juno the Saviour on the right

This alley runs between the Temple of Janus on the left and the Temple of Juno the Saviour on the right

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The temples under this church are a bit of a hidden gem and well worth a visit. For an extra euro you’ll get a short guided tour which I highly recommend to help bring the site to life.

I’m getting closer to the little island in the middle of the Tiber River which is reached from the Campus Martius bank by the Pons Fabricius, the oldest bridge in Rome. In fact the bridge has been is continuous use since 62BC. It’s not too hard to imagine Cicero admiring the new bridge.

Ponte Fabricio

In antiquity Tiber Island was used to keep people with contagious diseases away from the populace, along with the occasional despicable criminal. Apparently on the advice of the Sibyl a temple to Aesculapius , the God of healing, was built on the island in the 3rd century BC. There is (as with so many pagan temples in Rome) now a Christian church on the site dedicated to Saint Bartholomew (aptly patron saint of nervous and neurological diseases.) IMG_0347

The other half of the tiny island has been home to the Brothers Hospitallers of St John since 1584. Their hospital is still in operation.

After a quick snack that consisted entirely of cake (I’m on holiday…) I headed over to the Crypta Balbi, another branch of the National Roman Museum, which promised much and delivered little. The presentation is a tad clinical for my taste and there wasn’t as much as interpretation as I’d have liked.

Never mind, it was time to head to the Campo dei Fiori. Depending on who you talk to the ‘field of flowers’ is named either for a mistress of Pompey Magnus called Flora (his theatre was next door) or because in the medieval period this area was a meadow. The area was paved in the 1400s and became a place for socialising, a thriving market that still exists and for public executions.

Campo dei Fiori

The Campo dei Fiori. You can kind of make out the curve on the original ancient structure that still exists in the basements of the restaurants and houses.

The Statue of Giordano Bruno that stands on the site where he was executed in February 1600

The Statue of Giordano Bruno that stands on the site where he was executed in February 1600

Giordano Bruno, a mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, was burned at the stake here after being found guilty of heresy. He’d held beliefs that were ahead of his time and in total conflict with Catholic teachings. He was handed over the the Inquisition in 1593 and burned in 1600. At his execution his tongue was tied down to prevent him delivering any last words to the assembled crowds.

The picture above shows how the current buildings have foundations running along the ancient remnants of the Theatre of Pompey. From what I can tell that particular, smaller curve must follow the Temple of Venus Victrix. There was an ancient taboo about permanent theatres in the city. Pompey simply built a temple with a lot of steps that formed a semicircle – suspiciously theatre like. The nearby piazzas also show the shape of the theatre.

How the Theatre of Pompey would have looked. Note the conveniently shaped steps. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

How the Theatre of Pompey would have looked. Note the conveniently shaped steps. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The theatre compound was finished in 55BC after Pompey was inspired by a Greek theatre in Mytilene.

On my way back to my hotel in the Prati neighbourhood I am incredibly excited to retrace my steps along the Via Giulia for a visit to the Museum of Criminology. As I revel in the dark side of history I knew I would love this small but wonderful museum. It is housed int a 19thC prison and is filled to the brim with torture devices and evidence relating to famous cases.

This female skeleton was found in 1933 inside a ruined tower in a palazzo in Poggio Catino. There are a few theories as to who she is. One theory is that she was taken as a hostage by the Orsini family in the 16th century. Another is that she was the unfaithful wife of Geppo Colonna who chained her in the cell and left her to starve for making him a cuckold.

This female skeleton was found in 1933 inside a ruined tower in a palazzo in Poggio Catino. There are a few theories as to who she is. One theory is that she was taken as a hostage by the Orsini family in the 16th century. Another is that she was the unfaithful wife of Geppo Colonna who chained her in the cell and left her to starve for making him a cuckold.

This was the official robe of the executioner Giovanni Battista Bugatti AKA Mastro Titta. He was the official Papal executioner from 1796 to 1865 and carried out over 500 executions. Charles Dickens wrote about witnessing Bugatti  executing a criminal in the book 'Pictures from Italy'

This was the official robe of the executioner Giovanni Battista Bugatti AKA Mastro Titta. He was the official Papal executioner from 1796 to 1865 and carried out over 500 executions. Charles Dickens wrote about witnessing Bugatti executing a murderer named Giovanni Vagnarelli in the book ‘Pictures from Italy’

This cage, complete with skeletal contents, was found in 1928 by a group of prisoners digging within the walls of Milazzo Prison in Sicily. They found 5 buttons with the body, three of which had "Enniskilling 27" written on them, indicating that the man had been an infantry soldier of the British 27th Regiment of Foot. That helped to narrow down a date for the death of the soldier. The 27th had been sent to Sicily during the Napoleonic Wars where they occupied the Milazzo Prison. The regiment were defeated at  the Battle of Maida on the 4th of July 1806. Researchers were able to identify the body be checking regimental rolls. Private Andrew Leonard, 25, was declared a deserter and condemned to die. He was placed in a cage, possibly mutilated (the feet and hands are missing) and displayed as a gruesome warning to any of his comrades.

This cage, complete with skeletal contents, was found in 1928 by a group of prisoners digging within the walls of Milazzo Prison in Sicily. They found 5 buttons with the body, three of which had “Enniskilling 27” written on them, indicating that the man had been an infantry soldier of the British 27th Regiment of Foot. That helped to narrow down a date for the death of the soldier. The 27th had been sent to Sicily during the Napoleonic Wars where they occupied the Milazzo Prison. The regiment were defeated at the Battle of Maida on the 4th of July 1806. Researchers were able to identify the body be checking regimental rolls. Private Andrew Leonard, 25, was declared a deserter and condemned to die. He was placed in a cage, possibly mutilated (the feet and hands are missing) and displayed as a gruesome warning to any of his comrades.

A section of female face, complete with bullet entry point

A section of female face, complete with bullet entry point at the temple

This is evidence from the infamous Paterno Case. The Countess Giulia Trigona di Sant 'Elia was murdered, aged 29, by her lover on the 2nd March 1912. After a passionate 2 year affair Giulia had decided to break off her relationship with Baron Vincenzo Paterno for the sake of her husband and two small daughters. Paterno asked to meet her one last time before he left to rejoin his cavalry regiment in Naples. They met at their habitual hotel at noon. Shortly afterwards a chambermaid heard screams from the room and peered through the keyhole to see Paterno stabbing Giulia with this hunting knife, then taking a revolver and shooting himself in the head. Paterno survived the bullet wound and was charged with 1st degree murder. He plead insanity and was sent for psychiatric tests. Paterno was certified as sane and sentenced to life inmprisonment. He was pardoned and released in 1942. Her married and had a son. Vincenzo Paterno died in 1949.

This is evidence from the infamous Paterno Case. The Countess Giulia Trigona di Sant ‘Elia was murdered, aged 29, by her lover on the 2nd March 1912. After a passionate 2 year affair Giulia had decided to break off her relationship with Baron Vincenzo Paterno for the sake of her husband and two small daughters. Paterno asked to meet her one last time before he left to rejoin his cavalry regiment in Naples. They met at their habitual hotel at noon. Shortly afterwards a chambermaid heard screams from the room and peered through the keyhole to see Paterno stabbing Giulia with this hunting knife, then taking a revolver and shooting himself in the head. Paterno survived the bullet wound and was charged with 1st degree murder. He plead insanity and was sent for psychiatric tests. Paterno was certified as sane and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was pardoned and released in 1942. Her married and had a son. Vincenzo Paterno died in 1949.

I’ve got a late night planned so I head back towards the Vatican for a short siesta and camera battery charge in my hotel.

My route takes me back over Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II which has some gorgeous allegorical statues (as you’d expect from a bridge named after the first king of a unified Italy) and some fantastic views of the Castel Sant Angelo.

Castel Sant Angelo

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1 Comment

Filed under Travel Journals

One response to “Rome Travel Journal – Day Three Part One

  1. Great post, Stumbled across it while searching for an image of Pompey’s theatre then found i couldn’t stop reading. Partially for nostalgia reasons, as i used to live in Rome so know many (tho not all) of these places quite well- via Guila area, Palazzo Farenese, etc.( the Enoteca in Campo del Fiori was a regular haunt in my mid-20s!) Anyway, great read, very enjoyable. I’ve never been to that museum of Criminology, looks great fun! I run a little walking tour company myself these days- back in Dublin- called Dublin Decoded, which similar to yourself, I back up with writing a blog, Fb, Twitter etc. So I’ feel like I’ve met a kindred spirit! Anyway, super post. Keep up the good work.
    -Arran.

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