NAME
Ponte ("bridge") refers to Sant'angelo Bridge, the ancient Pons Aelius, which emperor Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus Traianus) had built in AD 134 in order to access his own monumental tomb, whose making was in progress by that time. Over the centuries, the tomb was turned into Sant'Angelo Castle, which today stands just beyond Ponte's boundary, in Borgo district.
Pons Aelius is the only ancien Roman bridge that in almost 2,000 years never collapsed under the pressure of the frequent floods (see Curious and Unusual), despite being located just before a sharp bend of the river's course.


view of Sant'Angelo Bridge, and one of the ten statues of angels that decorate it

Only about 50 m (or yds) south of Pons Aelius, another ancient bridge spanned the river, Pons Triumphalis, also known as the Bridge of Nero, which led to the Gardens of Agrippina, a public area that stretched more or less across the present Vatican. There stood a stadium for chariot races, known as the Circus of Gaius and Nero. It collapsed over the following centuries (exactly when this happened remains obscure); today scanty remains of its pillars emerge when the level of the Tiber is low.
The medieval name of the district, Regio Pontis et Scortichiariorum, referred to Sant'Angelo Bridge and to the workshops where animal skins were processed and tanned (scortichiarii) before being used, an activity that was rather popular also in the nearby Regola district.

← Sant'Angelo Bridge (from Ponte district)
with Sant'Angelo Castle in the background

COAT OF ARMS
A bridge, featured in two versions: a late medieval one, with three arches and a stout tower at its wastern end, and a Renaissance version, with the statues of St.Peter and St.Paul, although instead of being both set at the southern end of the bridge (as they actually are), they are featured one at each end.

BOUNDARY
Lungotevere Marzio; lungotevere Tor di Nona; piazza Ponte Sant'Angelo; lungotevere degli Altoviti; piazza Paoli; lungotevere dei Fiorentini; lungotevere di Sangallo; vicolo della Scimia; via dei Banchi Vecchi; via delle Carceri; vicolo Cellini; via dei Filippini; piazza dell'Orologio; via del Governo Vecchio; via del Corallo; piazza del Fico; via della Pace; via di Tor Millina; via di Santa Maria dell'Anima; via di Tor Sanguigna; piazza di Tor Sanguigna; piazza di Sant'Apollinare; via di Sant'Agostino; piazza di Sant'Agostino; via dei Pianellari; via dei Portoghesi; via del Cancello.


MAIN FEATURES
(the black numbers in brackets refer to the map on the left)
Ponte's history is closely related to that of Sant'Angelo Bridge, or Pons Aelius [1].
In ancient Roman times this area belonged to the Campus Martius (see Campo Marzio for further details), in whose westernmost part was the approach to Pons Aelius.
The bridge started having a great strategic importance when in c.400 emperor Honorius turned Hadrian's tomb into a stronghold, by means of which the city walls built by aurelian in 275, that ran along the eastern bank of the river, could be kept under guard. Its importance grew even greater when the nearby Pons Triumphalis (whose remains are marked ▪ ▪ ▪ in the district map) collapsed, and Pons Aelius remained the only approach that from the western bank of the Tiber led into the northern half of city.

view of Pons Aelius (A) during the Imperial Age, with the tomb of Augustus (B)
and Pons Triumphalis (C); the city boundary (i.e. Aurelian's walls) ran
along the left bank of the Tiber, surrounding the Campus Martius

The importance of Pons Aelius was also due to the fact that, after the fall of Pons Triumphalis, it was the only way for pilgrims coming from the city to cross the river and visit the tomb of apostle Peter, whose site was still located outside Rome. For this reason, inside the city, in the streets by the bridge flourished business connected to pilgrimage, with taverns, inns, shops and sellers of all kinds of goods, especially religious objects and fake relics, which gradually turned into a rather crowded district.

Sant'Angelo Bridge in 1493: note the two small chapels at the end
Up to the mid XV century the bridge maintained its original Roman structure, with three central arches, while at each end a ramp was supported by a smaller arch. Arond 1450, pope Nicholas V had two small chapels built at the easten end, to remember an accident that occurred in the same year; the Jubilee Year was in progress, and beacuse of the crowd on the bridge, one of its sides broke, and 147 pilgrims fell into the river and drowned.
In 1527, during the sack of Rome, the two chapels were used by the lansquenets as a cover, while they sieged Sant'Angelo Castle, where the pope had sought for shelter. So Clement VII, once the siege was over, had them taken down and replaced with the first two statues, those of the city's saint patrons, Peter and Paul.

The statue of St.Paul was already available: as remembered by Vasari, it had been carved by Paolo Taccone around 1460, and stood inside St.Peter's; so Lorenzetto was given the commission to carve one of St.Peter, of similar size.
One and a half more centuries elapsed before the ten famous angels appeared on the bridge, when in 1668 Clement IX gave Gianlorenzo Bernini and his workshop the commission for the making of statues featuring the symbols of Christ's passion. The two carved personally by Bernini were soon replaced by copies, and are now kept in the church of Sant'Andrea, in Colonna district.
Finally, when in 1892 the large walls along the Tiber banks were set into place, the river bed was widened and, at both ends of the bridge, the ramps were removed and replaced with an arch similar to the central ones; so now the bridge has five, all together.

works for the lengthening of Sant'Angelo bridge (1892)


piazza di Ponte (G. Vasi, c.1750): the Chapel of Consolations is highlighted
in yellow; in the background stands the no longer extant Palazzo Altoviti
Sant'Angelo bridge is also remembered for being one of the sites where the pope's executioner performed his work (on this topic, see also the section Curious and Unusual); in particular, over the 1500s it was a custom to hang the severed heads of the executed convicts along both sides of the bridge, as an admonishment for the population. Once the terrible custom came to an end, though, the square from which the southern end of the bridge starts kept being one of the main places where executions were publicly held up to 1870. For this purpose, on the right stood the small Chapel of Consolations, where the last sacraments were administered to those who were sentenced to death. The latter was taken down by the late 1800s on the occasion of the aforesaid works along the Tiber bnks, which caused other more serious losses, such as the large Palazzo Altoviti (see picture on the left) and the Apollo Theatre (see further).

Presently, besides Sant'Angelo Bridge, three more bridges are accessed from Ponte district, namely Umberto I Bridge, Vittorio Emanuele II Bridge (which virtually overlaps the direction of the ancient Pons Triumphalis) and Principe Amedeo Bridge.

vicolo del Leuto
Ponte district does not include very famous sites, although its boundary runs past some very important ones. Nevertheless, it is very pleasant to wander and often lose oneself in the maze of narrow lanes and alleys, where the old houses left standing over the ages today provide several charming views. Among the local street names, the word arco ("arch") is very common: Arco dei Banchi, Arco della Fontanella, Arco della Pace, Arco di Parma, Arco degli Acquasparta, and there is even via dei Tre Archi (Three Arches Street, on the right), which testify the medieval origin of the district, still partly preserved; the arches acted as props between adjoining houses and, in some cases, extra rooms could be built above them.
vicolo di San Trifone by the crossing
with via dei Tre Archi

Ponte is crossed by two long and straight Renaissance streets, via dei Coronari, which cuts the district horizontally into two halves, and via Giulia, whose southern half enters Regola district.
Via dei Coronari [2] follows the direction of an ancient Roman street that led towards Pons Triumphalis, being in axis with such bridge. The street was opened and straightened again in 1475, and named via Recta, i.e. "straight street", so that pilgrims could reach St.Peter's along a much easier approach than the crooked maze of narrow lanes that had risen during the Middle Ages.

via dei Coronari, once a street followed by pilgrims
In time, it was given its present name after the sellers of rosaries (coronari) that crowded this street up to the 19th century, while now it is renowned for its exclusive antique dealers. Both sides are still lined with several houses of the 16th and 17th centuries. The narrow one at no.148, built in 1516 for Prospero Mochi, commissioner general of the city's fortifications, has Latin mottoes on its three stringcourses ("consider yours what you do by yourself", "not everybody can do everything", "keep your promises").

Midway along via dei Coronari, at the bottom of a small lane without a name, a flight of steps leads to a small theatre. Here the ground level rises rather abruptly, forming a small mound, described further in the page.

The oldest building of the street is found at no.157, the so-called House of Fiammetta, which dates to the second half of the 1400s; here lived the young courtesan Fiammetta De Michaelis; she became the mistress of an elderly cardinal, who soon died, bequeathing her four houses, and then of Cesare Borgia, the son of pope Alexander VI.

the House of Fiammetta in via dei Coronari
Another House of Fiammetta can be reached at the end of the remarkably narrow via di San Trifone (featured in a previous picture). A third house is no longer standing; the last one, instead, was located in Borgo district, very close to St.Peter's basilica.
The large building at the back of the second house of Fiammetta is Palazzo Gaddi Cesi [3], built in the early 1500s for the Tuscan Gaddi family, who had recently moved to Rome; in 1567 they handed down the property to the Cesi. One of the members of the latter family, Federico Cesi, was a natural historian and a botanist who, together with other three fellow scholars, in 1603 founded in this palace one of the earliest scientific circles, the Accademia dei Lincei (Academy of the Lynxes, after the animal whose sharp vision epytomizes scientific observation). Its garden became, in fact, Rome's first botanic garden.
Cesi Salviati coat of arms
(Isabella Salviati was Cesi's second wife)
Only a few years later the academy was joined also by Galileo Galilei, who several times visited Cesi in this building. In times of Counter-Reformation, though, scientific research was strongly opposed by the church, and the Linxes operated as a semi-clandestine organisation, its few members communicating merely by letter. The academy extinguished in 1651, not long after Cesi's death.
But in 1801 it was founded again, changing name several times over the years, to become the National Academy (1939), and finally the National Academy of the Lynxes (1986), presently Italy's most important scholarly institution, whose fields of interest, besides science, now include also classical subjects; its seat is in Villa Farnesina, in Trastevere district.
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The Cesi family owned the building up to the late 1700s; the property was then handed down several times, until the 1940s, when it became the main seat of the military courts.

At the opposite end of via della Maschera d'Oro, whose northern side is entirely occupied by the aforesaid Palazzo Gaddi Cesi, stand other remarkable buildings of the early 16th century. In particular, the one at no.7, Palazzo Milesi [4], was once decorated with stunning frescoes by Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino da Firenze, inspired by Roman and Greek mythology, which have almost completely vanished (but were already in bad condition in the mid 1500s); a curious theme painted on the front was a golden mask, added in 1576, whence the alternative name of the building, Golden Mask Palace, after which also the street was named.

the front of Palazzo Milesi, also known as the Golden Mask Palace →

Also the side of Palazzo Gaddi Cesi once featured similar paintings, by the same artists, but today no trace of the original decoration is left.
The front of the building next to Palazzo Milesi, of similar age, is decorated with monochrome graffiti by Jacopo Ripanda, executed directly on the fresh plaster, and has an ancient spiral column inserted in the corner. The two adjoining buildings now belong to the Lancellotti family, whose large family mansion is the nearby Palazzo Lancellotti, in Baroque style, standing on the corner between via dei Coronari and piazza San Simeone (not to be confused with another Palazzo Lancellotti, by the northern end of piazza Navona, in Parione district).

the plaque that remembers the Apollo Theatre
The area between via dei Coronari and the river used to be called Tor di Nona, a corruption of Torre dell'Annona (Food Provision Tower), after a surviving tower once belonging to the set of walls built by emperor Aurelian along the river (see the relevant section). During the Middle Ages, it belonged to the fortified house of the Orsini family (see further), and since 1408 it acted as a prison, a purpose for which it was enlarged in 1490. It ill-famed cells of Tor di Nona jail were of various sizes and degree of comfort, according to whether the convicts could afford paying for being treated better; the one for the poorest convicts was an underground dungeon, a sort of dark pit. Another cell was used for women and children, one for members of the clergy and a further one for temporary prisoners, who had been sentenced to row aboard the Papal State's galleys, and were waiting to be taken to sea. The prison was looked after by a warden (called the soldano), helped by a captain of justice. Then in 1568 the pope had the management of the jail handed over to the Confraternity of Charity, a religious institution whose occupation was to care for the convicts, among whose members was also St.Philip Neri, Very soon also an infirmary and a pharmacy were set up by Tor di Nona, which served also another nearby prison, Corte Savella.

In 1658, when the New Prison in via Giulia came into use (see Regola district), Tor di Nona's jail was completely refurbished into a theatre. It was opened in 1670, but due to the great success, on the following year it had to be enlarged up to the river bank. By the end of the century, pope Innocent XII had it taken down (amidst the people's complaints), but it was entirely rebuilt in 1733 by the will of Clement XII, and then once again in 1795, after a fire had burnt it to the ground. On this occasion its name changed into Apollo Theatre, but Romans kept using its old name, Tor di Nona. In 1829 it was renewed for the third time by architect Giuseppe Valadier, and had great success over the 19th century. It definitively vanished in 1888, during the works for the making of the walls along the river banks. The theater is now remembered by a large plaque, with a small fountain at its base.

the Tor di Nona Theatre (later called Apollo) once was in lungotevere Tor di Nona,
formerly strada dell'Orso: it is featured in G.B. Nolli's map (1748) as no.536, highlighted
in yellow; also the Chapel of Consolations (no.539) and Palazzo Altoviti (no.540) vanished;
with the lengthening of Sant'Angelo Bridge (✶), the size of the local square shrank

The street named after the tower, via Tor di Nona [5], is still extant and recalls more memories of the Borgia family; here, by the late 1400s, the courtesan Vannozza dei Cattanei, who was the mistress of cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the future pope Alexander VI), owned three inns, called of the Snake, of the Small Lion, and of the Big Lion. Vannozza farmed out these inns to the keepers of the aforesaid prison, where the meals for the convicts were prepared.

the winged donkey graffiti in via Tor di Nona
How much the street level was raised for the making of the river walls can be told by the considerable difference in height between the modern lungotevere Tor di Nona, that follows the river bank, and the old via Tor di Nona, which runs parallel, but about four metres (13 ft) below.
The house at nos.28-29 features a curious wall painting of a winged donkey. In the 1970s, many old houses along the street had fallen into a state of abandonment; as a form of protest against the lack of care by the municipality, in 1976 the local dwellers, helped by the students of the faculty of Architecture, started decorating the street with colourful and eye-catching graffiti, that featured shops at ground level and fantastic subjects on the rest of the fronts. All of them went lost in time, except the donkey, which was preserved, in spite of the long-awaited refurbishment.

At one end of via dell'Orso stands a rather interesting building, known as the Albergo dell'Orso (Bear's Inn), or Hostaria dell'Orso [6]. It is a rare specimen of a late medieval establishment, dating to the late 1400s, once common all over the district, where the many pilgrims heading to St. Peter's could spend the night.
Today, despite having been turned into a posh restaurant and disco, its typical early Renaissance architecture has been preserved, after a careful restoration (below right).

Also Palazzo Primoli, the building that stands nearby, is full of history. Its original nucleus dates back to the 17th century, but during the first decade of the 1900s, when the walls along the Tiber banks were set, it underwent a radical refurbishment; it was enlarged, and a new entrance was built on the corner with via Zanardelli, with balconies on the two upper floors. Its last owner, Giuseppe Primoli, who bequeathed it to the Italian government, was the son of Charlotte Bonaparte, the grandniece of Napoleon I. So the building now hosts the Napoleonic Museum, where several memories related to the Bonaparte family are on display, and also the Mario Praz Museum, formerly the house of the distinguished Anglicist and essayist, that was turned into a museum in 1995, where his collection of European antiquities dating from the late 1700s to the first half of the 1800s is kept.

Palazzo Primoli

Following via dell'Orso, at its opposite end, is a very typical corner, a three way junction on the district boundary with Campo Marzio and Parione districts, where a 16th century house called Palazzo Scapucci [7] is overlooked by a tower that once belonged to the Frangipane family, built in the late 11th century. It is also known as the Tower of the Monkey because, according to a popular legend, once a baby was abducted by a monkey and carried all the way to the top of the tall building (see There once was in Rome... for details).

← Frangipane Tower, or Tower of the Monkey

the Albergo dell'Orso

One of the four branches of the National Roman Museum is housed in Palazzo Altemps [8], a mansion built in the late 1400s and drawn by Melozzo da Forlì, first dwelt by Girolamo Riario, a nephew of pope Sixtus IV.

the Great Ludovisi sarcophagus, c.AD 250, in Palazzo Altemps
In the early 1500s the property was handed down to cardinal Soderini, who had it enlarged by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder and Baldassarre Peruzzi; then in 1568 it was purchased by cardinal Altemps from Austria, a nephew of pope Pius IV, who had the mansion refurbished into its present shape by Martino Longhi the Elder.
the Altemps coat of arms
Besides a rich collection of exhibits, among which several ancient Roman marbles, once belonging to the Ludovisi family, the mansion itself features interesting halls, including a large private chapel entirely painted by Pomarancio (c.1620), which holds the remains of a pope of the mid 2nd century, Anicetus, given to the Altemps family by pope Clement VIII in 1604, as a curious token of friendship.
Not all pontiffs were in good relation with this family, though; Roberto Altemps, the natural son of the cardinal, had married a member of the Orsini family, who were bitter enemies to pope Sixtus V; in 1586 the young man was charged with having raped a girl, therefore having committed adultery, and sentenced to death. In the aforesaid chapel, the beheading of the aristocrat is remembered in a large fresco, commissioned by his son.

Near the eastern end of via dei Coronari, the small church of St.Mary of Peace [9] stands by another narrow three-way junction, on the boundary with Parione district. Its story goes back in time to the second half of the 1400s. On this site once stood an earlier church, called St.Andrew of the Watersellers; according to tradition, one day a gambler, out of rage after having lost a sum of money, threw a stone at an image of the Virgin Mary hanging below the porch of the church, and the image prodigiously bled.
In those days pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) was in conflict with the lord of Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent: the Pazzi, rich florentine bankers, backed by the pope, had conspired against Lorenzo, and almost killed him, but he had survived the plot, in which instead his brother had died. This made the pope fear that Lorenzo de' Medici may move to war against him.

Santa Maria della Pace
When he heard the news of the prodigy, Sixtus IV was impressed, and made a vow to build a new church if peace with Florence was restored. Eventually, the clash was avoided, so the old church was actually rebuilt , and its title changed into St.Mary of Peace. The ancient image that had allegedly bled now hangs over the high altar. In c.1500, Donato Bramante added to the church a beautiful cloister (this was his very first work in Rome), while around 1660 Pietro da Cortona built a new facade, with an elegant semicircular porch.
St.Mary of Peace, the Ponzetti Chapel (1516)

It is a real shame that the church is very often closed, because inside it boasts fresco paintings by Baldassarre Peruzzi (above right) and by Raphael, of very high quality.


the spire of the belltower of
St.Mary of Soul
In a narrow parallel alley, vicolo degli Osti, the old houses have a small hanging cabinet that projects towards the street: these are, in fact, toilets. Once ordinary houses did not include such 'facility', yet some people had it added to their house.

Instead, on the opposite side of St.Mary of Peace stands St.Mary of Soul [10], the catholic church of the Teutonic (German-speaking) community; when it was built, in the 1520s, the Kingdom of Germany included also the present Austria, the Netherlands and Flanders. Its belltower ends with a conic spire covered with yellow, green and white tiles, an element typical of German architecture, but most unusual for central Italy. The entrance is on via Santa Maria dell'Anima, overlooked by the large front by Andrea Sansovino (finished by Giuliano Sangallo).

old houses in vicolo degli Osti
Also the inside was inspired by northern European churches, much more than by local ones. It holds the tomb of the only Dutch pope in history, Hadrian VI (1522-23), drawn by Baldassarre Peruzzi; it also features an altarpiece by Giulio Romano, and a copy of the famous Pity by Michelangelo, carved by Lorenzetto (Lorenzo Lotti), who was Romano's brother-in-law.

The mound on the southern side of via dei Coronari, previously mentioned, is entirely occupied by the large Taverna Palace [11]. On its site once stood a medieval fortress that belonged to the Orsini, in those days one of the most powerful families in Rome. The mound was then named Giordano Hill after one of the members of the clan, cardinal Giordano, who was the owner of the fortress between the late 1300s and the early 1400s. About one century later, the fortress was completely refurbished and turned into a complex of individual houses, for the several branches of the family. By the late 1600s, the property was sold to the Gabrielli family, who had connection wings built from one house to the other, actually reunifying the disjoined mansion.

the theater of via dei Coronari
Two centuries later, when this family too became extinct, the Taverna family from Milan became the new owners of the property, and they still are.
Giordano Hill is mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy, yet very briefly, in describing the crowd of pilgrims during the Jubilee Year of 1300, ...that on one side / all front toward the castle, and approach / Saint Peter's fane, on th' other towards the mount (Inferno, XVIII, 30-33). The main entrance to the present building in on the side opposite via dei Coronari, i.e. in via di Monte Giordano, and in its courtyard stands a large fountain of the 17th century. Unfortunately, being the property still private, it is not accessible to the public.
At the back of the complex stands the small theatre of via dei Coronari.

the entrance of Taverna Palace

Not far from the western end of via dei Coronari runs via del Banco di Santo Spirito, in line with Sant'Angelo Bridge. The word banchi ("stalls"), also found in the name of other nearby streets, remembers the earliest form of bank; the moneychangers, who in the 16th century exchanged the currencies of many foreign tradesmen into Rome's own coinage, had set their stalls in the neighborhood. Many houses along these streets still date back to those years.
Below a dark and narrow passage that connects via del Banco di Santo Spirito with via dell'Arco dei Banchi hangs Rome's earliest plaque that remembers a river flood, dated 1277 [12] (see Curious and Unusual for details). By the corner with via del Banchi Nuovi, instead, stands the small building known as Palazzetto del Banco di Santo Spirito. Pope Julius II had it built as a coin mint, on the occasion of a monetary reform, in the very early years of the 1500s, but it remained unfinished until 1524, when Antonio da Sangallo the Young built its front. About twenty years later the mint was moved elsewhere, and the building (referred to as the Old Mint), was left unused for a long time. In 1605 it was acquired by the Santo Spirito Bank, which set here its head office. The bank had just been established by the will of Paul V, with assets guaranteed by the numerous properties of the nearby Arch-hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia (see Borgo district and Curious and Unusual).



Beyond the thoroughfare corso Vittorio Emanuele II, opened in the late 1800s, Ponte maintains a Renaissance atmosphere: here starts the first stretch of via Giulia [13], opened in the early years of the 1500s; pope Julius II (1503-1513), after whom it was named, wanted this street to become Rome's new administrative and economic centre. Donato Bramante drew its shape, long and straight, taking down rather abruptly (as he usually did) anything that happened to be along the way.

the dome of St.John of the Florentine
The church of St.John of the Florentine [14] belonged to the Roman community of immigrants from Florence, which in those days was considerably large, mostly consisting of businessmen and artists who lived in the surrounding streets. It replaced an older and smaller church, San Pantaleone juxta flumen. For its making, important architects such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Baldassarre Peruzzi submitted their projects, but the one by Jacopo Sansovino was chosen, because less expensive that others. The works started in 1519 and lasted almost one whole century, during which the workshop was led by several other architects, namely Sangallo the Young, Giacomo Della Porta and finally Carlo Maderno, the author of the dome, with a rather elongated shape, due to which the Roman people nicknamed it the sucked sweet. The inside is sober, yet with a beautiful main altar, a work by Pietro da Cortona. On the floor of the left aisle lie two rather simple tombstones that bear the names of great architects: the aforesaid Carlo Maderno (d.1629), and Francesco Borromini (d.1667, who was Maderno's pupil, and one of his distant relatives, as well, see Legendary Rome).

Among the many Florentine craftsmen who lived in via Giulia was Benvenuto Cellini, a renowned goldsmith of the mid 16th century, to whom works were often commissioned by the high aristocracy, and even by the ruling dynasties of other countries. The story of his adventurous life - he stabbed and killed several people, was imprisoned in Sant'Angelo Castle, managed to escape, and was captured again - is told in his autobiography. The lane that bears his name marks a short stretch of Ponte district's boundary.
Also the famous painter Raphael dwelt for some time in one of the houses along this stretch of the street.

Another old project should have been accomplished along via Giulia, but remained largely unfinished. A huge law court (Palazzo dei Tribunali) [15] had been drawn by Donato Bramante; but its making was stopped very soon by the lack of funds. Its scanty traces can be seen along two blocks, in the shape of a base in ashlar work, which in some parts also has stone seats, an architecture element very often found in buildings of the early 1500s, which provided passers-by with a sitting facility; they were therefore nicknamed the sofas of via Giulia.

one part of the unfinished law court with its sofas

At the very end of Parione, a building with windows closed by thick bars used to be Rome's juvenile prison, built in 1825-27 by Giuseppe Valadier; it now houses the small but interesting Criminology Museum [16]. It is followed by a similar but even larger building, standing just beyond the district boundary, which is dealt with in Regola district.

Parallel to via Giulia runs via dei Banchi Vecchi, where at no.23 stands the curious house that goldsmith Pietro Crivelli from Milan had built in 1538-39; it is known as Palace of the Puppets [17], as its front is completely covered with suits of armour, lion's heads, cherubs and other reliefs, with the owners name (Petrus Cribellus) carved in Latin on the string course. Among those who dwelt in the house during the second half of the century, was cardinal Felice Peretti, the future pope Sixtus V.

← one of the windows of the Palace of the Puppets

On the opposite side of the street, almost in front of the previous building, around 1460 another cardinal, the aforementioned Rodrigo Borgia, had a large mansion built for himself [18], by enlarging the old papal coin mint; in those days, the building was also known as the Chancellery, as cardinal Borgia had been appointed vice-chancellor by his uncle, pope Callixtus III. The property changed owner when he was, in turn, elected pope (1492) and a cardinal from the Sforza family became the new vice-chancellor, taking posession of the mansion, which today is actually called Palazzo Sforza Cesarini.
By the late 1500s, the side of the mansion along via dei Banchi Vecchi either collapsed, or was taken down, being rebuilt in the late 1700s. One century later, in the late 1800s, during the refurbishments for the making of corso Vittorio Emanuele II, also the opposite side of the building, where now the entrance is, was completely rebuilt, yet in a style consistent with the original architecture.

the courtyard of Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini: the original side

Shortly after Rodrigo Borgia had taken possession of the mansion, also his mistress, Vannozza dei Cattanei, moved into a house located just round the corner, in the present piazza Sforza Cesarini (in those days called piazza Pizzomerlo). Before being elected pope, from 1474 to 1481 the cardinal had with the lady four children: Juan (Giovanni), Cesare, the famous Lucrezia and Goffredo (Jofré).