THE RIONI
Rome's Historical Districts




INTRODUCTION


a typical district plaque
Since its earliest days, Rome has always been divided into administrative districts, which in time led to a carachterization of each of them, particularly from a social point of view, but also historically and culturally.
The following pages are an attempt to describe the oldest and more central fourteen districts by sketching their historical notes and their main features, with plenty of curiosities, legends, and other unusual information.
They should not be read as a guidebook, since the city's most renowned highlights have been barely mentioned, and to include every single detail worthy of being described would have made these pages too bulky. However, not the famous buildings, churches and monuments are the real subject of these pages, but the districts they belong to, as a whole, with the peculiar atmosphere that each of them boasts.
The location of the main features described within each ditrict is shown by means of schematic plans of the area obtained from satellite maps.
In order to easily locate each site, the name of the street or square where the feature is located will appear by running the mouse's cursor over the relevant picture.

For a general introduction to Rome's districts, keep scrolling down this page below the index, or click here.

Lastly, a brief note about the background texture chosen for these pages. It features Rome's typical cobblestones, vaguely reminiscent of the larger and more irregular ones used in ancient times. Still nowadays, these heavy blocks of basalt are the most common form of paving found all over the city. They measure 12 × 12 cm (4¾ × 4¾ in) and sink into the ground for 17 cm (6 inches), laid one by one as in a mosaic.

sampietrino cobblestone
They are locally known as sampietrini because they were first adopted in the mid 16th century for St.Peter's Square (although the earliest ones were about half the size of the stones found today), and then they were gradually used all over the city. They used to be hand-made by a team of stone-masons known as squarcioni (i.e. "smashers"), who break the large blocks of basalt, scoccioni ("chippers"), who give the stones a prysmatic shape, and posatori ("layers") also called battiserci ("stone hammerers"), who do the last part of the job.
In recent years, though, the large demand of sampietrini and the high costs of their making according to the traditional technique led the City Council to have some of them made and imported from... Taiwan!



DISTRICT INDEX
(clickable map)

12th CENTURY

I - Monti
II - Trevi
III - Colonna
IV - Campo Marzio
V - Ponte
VI - Parione
VII - Regola
VIII - Sant'Eustachio
IX - Pigna
X - Campitelli
XI - Sant'Angelo
XII - Ripa
14th CENTURY

XIII - Trastevere
16th CENTURY

XIV - Borgo

modern rioni
19th CENTURY

XV - Esquilino
XVI - Ludovisi
XVII - Sallustiano
XVIII - Castro Pretorio
20th CENTURY

XIX - Celio
XX - Testaccio
XXI - San Saba
XXII - Prati
click here for an ENLARGEMENT of the map, which shows
the location of some among Rome's main sites of interest



For the sake of completeness, the following map shows the full extension of Rome's municipality; the table lists the quarters (districts immediately outside the city's historical nucleus) and suburbs (districts further off the center). The outer parts are divided into zones.

QUARTIERI
I · Flaminio
II · Parioli
III · Pinciano
IV · Salario
V · Nomentano
VI · Tiburtino
VII · Prenestino-Labicano
VIII · Tuscolano
IX · Appio Latino
X · Ostiense
XI · Portuense
XII · Gianicolense
XIII · Aurelio
XIV · Trionfale
XV · Della Vittoria
XVI · Monte Sacro
XVII · Trieste
XVIII · Tor di Quinto
XIX · Prenestino-Centocelle
XX · Ardeatino
XXI · Pietralata
XXII · Collatino
XXIII · Alessandrino
XXIV · Don Bosco
XXV · Appio Claudio
XXVI · Appio Pignatelli
XXVII · Primavalle
XXVIII · Monte Sacro Alto
XXIX · Ponte Mammolo
XXX · San Basilio
XXXI · Giuliano-Dalmata
XXXII · Europa (EUR)
XXXIII · Lido di Ostia Ponente
XXXIV · Lido di Ostia Levante
XXXV · Lido di Castel Fusano

SUBURBI
TQ · Tor di Quinto
DV · Della Vittoria
T · Trionfale
A · Aurelio
G · Gianicolense
P · Portuense


ZONE
I - Val Melaina
II - Castel Giubileo
III - Marcigliana
IV - Casal Boccone
V - Tor San Giovanni
VI - Settecamini
VII - Tor Cervara
VIII - Tor Sapienza
IX - Acqua Vergine
X - Lunghezza
XI - San Vittorino
XII - Torre Spaccata
XIII - Torre Angela
XIV - Borghesiana
XV - Torre Maura
XVI - Torrenova
XVII - Torre Gaia
XVIII - Capannelle
XIX - Casal Morena
XX - Aeroporto di Ciampino
XXI - Torricola
XXII - Cecchignola
XXIII - Castel di Leva
XXIV - Fonte Ostiense
XXV - Vallerano
XXVI - Castel di Decima
XXVII - Torrino
XXVIII - Tor de' Cenci
XXIX - Castelporziano
XXX - Castelfusano
XXXI - Mezzocamino
XXXII - Acilia Nord
XXXIII - Acilia Sud
XXXIV - Casalpalocco
XXXV - Ostia Antica
XXXVI* - Isola Sacra
XXXVII* - Fiumicino
XXXVIII* - Fregene
XXXIX - Tor di Valle
XL - Magliana Vecchia
XLI - Ponte Galeria
XLII* - Maccarese Sud
XLIII* - Maccarese Nord
XLIV - La Pisana
XLV - Castel di Guido
XLVI* - Torrimpietra
XLVII* - Palidoro
XLVIII - Casalotti
XLIX - Santa Maria di Galeria
L - Ottavia
LI - La Storta
LII - Cesano
LIII - Tomba di Nerone
LIV - La Giustiniana
LV - Isola Farnese
LVI - Grottarossa
LVII - Labaro
LVIII - Prima Porta
LIX - Polline Martignano
* off the map, now belonging to Fiumicino




HISTORICAL AND GENERAL NOTES ABOUT THE RIONI

Rome's historical nucleus is divided into 22 districts called rioni. The name is a corruption of the Latin word regiones, i.e. the subdivisions first decreed by king Servius Tullius, around the 6th century BC, into which the city had been arranged. They were originally four:
DISTRICT  NAME / REFERENCE 

Regio ISuburana Subura district (from sub urbs = "city fringes", including the Caelian Hill)
Regio IIEsquilina Esquiline district (ex quiliae = "out of the built-up area")
Regio IIICollina Hill district (comprising two hills, namely the Quirinal and the Viminal)
Regio IVPalatina Palatine district (comprising the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum)
All four regions were included in the pomerium, the city's sacred boundary that the same king had marked by means of large stones (blue dots in the map, see The City Walls for more details).
The Capitolium Hill (C in the map) was likely considered a sacred area of its own, as the main Temple of Jupiter and other temples stood there, thus despite not being counted among the regiones, it was enclosed within the pomerium all the same. When the first set of city walls (the so-called Servian walls) was built around the mid 4th century BC, during the Republican age, Rome has already stretched well beyond the sacred boundary.


the first four Regiones of king Servius Tullius
██ Republican Rome (Servian walls) ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ the pomerium

the fourteen Regiones of Octavian Augustus
██ Imperial Rome (Aurelian's walls) ██ Republican Rome

At the beginning of the Imperial age, since the city kept growing, Octavian Augustus, (27 BC-14 AD), raised the number of regiones to fourteen by including among them the areas that meanwhile had been populated outside the extant Servian walls. However, the making of a new set of walls took place no sooner than almost three centuries later, under Aurelianus. The names of the regiones were referred to the main features of each district, although also their number was commonly used:

DISTRICT  NAME / REFERENCE FEATURE 

Regio IPorta CapenaCapena Gate (the southernmost gate of the Servian Wall)
Regio IICaelemontiumthe Caelian Hills (the Coelian and its minor reliefs)
Regio IIIIsis et Serapis(Egyptian gods to whom a famous temple was dedicated)
Regio IVTemplum PacisTemple of Peace
Regio VEsquiliaeOut of the Built-up Area
Regio VIAlta SemitaHigh Semitic district
Regio VIIVia Lata(the old name of via Flaminia within Rome's boundary)
Regio VIIIForum Romanum vel Magnumthe Roman Forum (or Great Forum)
Regio IXCircus FlaminiusFlaminius' Circus
Regio XPalatiumthe Palace
Regio XICircus Maximusthe Greatest Circus
Regio XIIPiscina PublicaPublic Pool
Regio XIIIAventinusAventine Hill
Regio XIVTranstiberimBeyond the Tiber (the river's western bank)

The great fire of year AD 64, and a following one in AD 80, almost as devastating as the first one, destroyed several regiones, and a large part of the city was rebuilt. But the so-called Chronography of 354 (a calendar and almanac, compiled and illustrated by the calligrapher Filocalus for an aristocrat named Valentinus) still bears the same subdivision, which evidently was still extant the late Imperial Age.
Further destructions and alterations were suffered by Rome over the early Middle Ages, with the Gothic Wars and the barbaric invasions. As the Roman Empire crumbled, also Rome's administration gradually lost power. An unofficial subdivision of the urban territory based on religious jurisdiction (i.e. parts of the city, also called Regiones, which referred to the main local churches that acted as parishes) began to come into practical use, as early as the 4th century. It comprised the following seven districts:

DISTRICT  NAME / REFERENCE FEATURE 

Regio IAventinensis vel Horreaof the Aventine or the Wheat Deposits
Regio IIiuxta IV Coronatorum...by [the church of] the four Crowned [Saints]...
Regio IIIiuxta porta Maioreby Porta Maggiore (a.k.a. Porta Praenestina)
Regio IVqui appellatur Campum Sanctae Agathaewhich is called Field of St.Agate
Regio Viuxta arco marmoreoby the marble arch (no longer extant, along via Lata, now via del Corso)
Regio VIad Sancta Maria in Sinikeoby St.Mary in Sinikeo's
Regio VIIad Sanctum Petrumby St.Peter's (corresponding to the old Regio XIV, Transtiberim)

Despite the new religious arrangement, for several centuries the original Regiones established by Octavian Augustus were not officially discontinued; but the more time elapsed, the more things got mixed up.

A document issued by pope Leo VIII (963-964) mentions the representatives of fifteen Regiones, whose names appear to be a blend of the old administrative and religious ones described so far. They were likely used unofficially, i.e. not for administrative nor for religious purposes, but only to indicate a district after its main landmark. Only three of such names mention the Regio's ordering number, while for all the others this remains unclear.

NAME / REFERENCE FEATURE 

Regio prima Aventinifirst District, of the Aventine
Regio secunda Mamertinisecond District, of the Mamertine [1]
Regio optava sub Capitolioeighth District, below the Capitolium (the Roman Forum area)
Regio de Vico PatriciiDistrict of Patricii Lane (unidentified location)
Regio Caput tauriBull's head District (Tiburtina Gate)
Regio clivi argentariiDistrict of the Silversmiths' Ramp
Regio ad duos (amantes) District by the two lovers (unidentified location)
Regio liberaticaLiberatica District [2]
Regio SisiniiDistrict of Sisinius (unidentified location)
Regio via LataDistrict of Lata Street
Regio Coelio MonteCaelian Hill District
Regio urbis RavenneDistrict of the city of Ravenna (Trastevere) [3]
Regio ad gallinas albasDistrict by the white hens [4]
Regio horreaDistrict of the wheat deposits (Aventine Hill)
Regio secus porta MetroniiDistrict along Metronia Gate
  notes
1. - After the Mamertine Prison, by the northern end of the Roman Forum, where according to a legend St.Peter had been held.
2. - A corruption of 'Biberatica', the name of an old Roman street that crossed Trajan's Markets, also used as a district landmark in the 14th century (see further).
3. - In Trastevere, the military corps from Ravenna had a camp.
4. - After the name of an old church, St.Sixtus ad gallinas albas, corresponding to the present via Panisperna.

In 1144, the Senators, who by that time ruled the city, decided to rearrange Rome's inhabited territory (much smaller than in ancient times) into twelve districts, still called regiones in official documents, though no longer including the Tiber Island nor any area on the western side of the river. In fact, Trastevere - "beyond the Tiber" - entered again the official list of districts only in the early 14th century.
No trace of this new arrangement is found yet in the early editions of the Mirabilia Urbis Romae ("wonders of the city of Rome"), a famous list and guide of the city's main features, written in Latin around the mid 12th century for the benefit of the many pilgrims who came to Rome, to visit St.Peter's tomb.


← a section of the map of Rome by Friar Paolino (c.1340), pointing to the east, which shows the southern districts of the city: in the centre run the arches of the aqueduct branch built by Nero, starting by the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme; below the latter is the Lateran area with St.John's basilica, and the mounted statue of Marcus Aurelius and the fragments (head, hand) of the huge statue of Constantine, now both held in the Capitoline Museums; further down is the dark shape of the Caelian hill; on the far right run Aurelian's city walls; top left is the Esquiline hill with St.Mary the Major's; finally, bottom left stands the Colosseum with a curious dome, likely an attempt to depict the velarium

Instead Le miracole de Roma ("Rome's wonders"), which is basically a translation of the aforesaid Mirabilia guide into archaic Italian, with some new parts added, roughly dating to the 13th century, mentions a division into twelve districts:

ORDERING OF THE DISTRICTS ACCORDING TO LE MIRACOLE DE ROMA (13th CENTURY)

  • Regio Prima: Porta Capena, la dov'č
    la casa de lo Honore et de la Virtute, ....
  • First District: Capena Gate, where
    the house of Honour and Virtue stands...
  • Regio Secunda: Celio monte, lā dove era
    lo Macello de Claudio et lo maiure vordello de Roma, ....
  • Second District: Caelian hill, where Claudius'
    Slaughterhouse and Rome's main brothel stood...
  • Regio Terza, lā dove era
    lo Palazo de Yside et de Serapis, ....
  • Third District, where
    the Palace of Isis and Serapis stood...
  • Regio Quarta, la dove era templum Pacis ....
  • Fourth District, where
    the temple of Peace stood...
  • Regio Quinta, la dove era
    lo Pozo de Orpheo et lo Macello de Laviano ....
  • Fifth District, where Orpheus' Well
    and Lavianus' Slaughterhouse stood...
  • Regio Sexta: Alta Via, la dove era
    lo Templo de Salustio et de Serapis ....
  • Sixth District: High Road, where
    the Temple of Sallust and Serapis stood...
  • Regio Septima: Via Lata,
    lo quale avea lo Pozo de Ganimede ....
  • Seventh District: Lata Street, which had
    Ganymede's Well...
  • Regio Octava: lo Mercato Maiure de Roma ....
  • Eighth District: Rome's Main Market...
  • Regio Nona: Palatio Maiure,
    et avea la Casa de Romulo ....
  • Ninth District: the Great Palace,
    and it had Romulus' House...
  • Regio Decima avea Templum Solis et Lune,
    et Templum Mercurii ....
  • the Tenth District had the Temple of the Sun and the Moon,
    and the Temple of Mercury...
  • Regio Undecima: Piscina Publica ....
  • Eleventh District: Public Pool...
  • Regio Duodecima: Aventino ....
  • Twelfth District: Aventine...
  • Regio Tertiadecima čne Trastebere ....
  • the Thirteenth District is Trastevere...

    The list clearly shows how the ancient arrangement by Augustus, looked at as the 'classic' one by scholars, was still used for cultural purposes, despite having lost administrative and bureaucratic effectiveness.

    another part of the map by Friar Paolino, featuring →
    the Vatican, with St.Peter's (bottom) and the obelisk
    on its right side; in the top left corner is the Castle,
    the dark shape on the right is the Janiculum Hill


    In a late edition of the Mirabilia guide, dating from 1220-26, found in an Austrian library, a rather complex arrangement into 26 districts is mentioned.

    ORDERING OF THE DISTRICTS ACCORDING TO MIRABILIA URBIS ROMAE (LATE EDITION, 13th CENTURY) 

    Prima regio dicitur porticus Sancti Petri, The first district is called St.Peter's porch  [1]
    secunda pons Sancti Petri, the second (is called) St.Peter's bridge
    III scorteclari the 3rd, the skinners
    IV parrio the 4th, Parione  [2]
    V Sanctus Laurentius in Damaso the 5th, St.Laurence in Damaso
    VI campus Martis, the 6th, the Field of Mars
    septima Sanctus Laurentius in Lucina, the seventh, St.Laurence in Lucina
    octava columpna Antonini coclidis, the eighth, the spiral column of Antoninus
    IX Sancta Maria in Aquiro, the 9th, St.Mary in Aquiro
    X Sanctus Eustachius, the 10th, St.Eustachius
    XI vinea Tedemari, the 11th, Tedemarius' vineyard
    XII Areola, the 12th, Small Area (unidentified location)
    XIII Caoccavaia, the 13th, Caoccavaia (unidentified location)
    XIV S.Angelus piscivendoli, the 14th, St.Angel of the fishmongers'
    Quintadecima Pinea, the fifteenth, Pine-cone
    Sextadecima S.Marcus, the sixteenth, St.Mark
    VIIdecima Trivium, the 7teenth, Three-way Junction
    Octadecima Violata, the eighteenth, Violata  [3]
    Nonadecima Campitellus, the nineteenth, Campitelli
    Vicesima S.Adrianus, the twentieth, St.Hadrian
    Vicesima I Biberatica, the twenty-1st, Biberatica  [4]
    Vicesima II Montes vel Lateranum, the twenty-2nd, the Hills or the Lateran
    Vicesima III Ripa, the twenty-3rd, River Bank
    Vicesima IV Marmorata, the twenty-4th, Marmorata
    Vicesima V Insula, the twenty-5th, the Island
    Vicesima VI Transtyberim, the twenty-6th, Beyond the Tiber
      notes
    1. - In the Middle Ages, a long porch stretched all the way from the castle built over Hadrian's tomb to St.Peter's basilica.
    2. - Parione means "large wall", referring to the scanty remains of the Stadium of Domitian (presently, piazza Navona).
    3. - Likely, a misspelling of 'Via Lata', i.e. the name of the urban stretch of the Flaminian Way, since the Middle Ages
    4. - Via Biberatica, also mentioned in the next list, was an ancient Roman street that ran by Trajan's Market.

    Interestingly, two among the aforesaid landmarks, namely the first and the second ones in the list, were located by the Vatican Hill, despite in the 1200s this area was not yet officially part of Rome's urban area.

    A catalogue of Rome's churches compiled in early Italian one and a half centuries later, in the late 1300s, mentions again the names of the districts, reveals that an evident change had occurred by that time, as shown in the table below.

    map of Rome's highlights dated 1472, looking southwards;
    Leo's City (bottom right corner) was still a separated citadel
    This text (featured in the next table) starts with the following lines:
    In the city are thirteen districts which, using a corrupted and popular term, are referred to as 'Rioni'. The first one of them is the district of the Hills and Biberatica (Street).
    Second. district of the three-way crossing and Lata street.
    Third. district of the column and St.Mary in Aquiro....
    and so on.
    Therefore, despite the ordering had changed, the use of mentioning an outstanding local feature or landmark besides the name of the district, was still maintained for some time. Such additional reference often was the district's main church.

    This arrangement is not only the one in which the word Rioni is first mentioned, but also the one whose names are basically the same ones presently in use, although their boundaries partly mismatched. The following table compares their names and their ordering.

    14th CENTURY ORDERING ORDERING
     OF THE DISTRICTS 
    MODERN NAMES AND ORDERING
     OF THE SAME THIRTEEN DISTRICTS 

    In urbe sunt Tredecim Regiones. Que corrupto et vulgari
    vocabulo dicuntur Rioni.
    Quarum Prima est Regio Montium et Biberate.
     The first of which is the district of the Hills and Biberatica (Street).
    I. Monti  (matching)
    Secunda. Regio Trivi et Vielate.
     Second. District of the Three-way Crossing and Lata street.
    II. Trevi  (matching)
    Tertia. Regio Colupne et sancte Marie in Aquiro.
     Third. District of the Column and St.Mary in Aquiro's.
    III. Colonna  (matching)
    Quarta. Regio Posterule et sancti Laurentii in Lucina.
     Fourth. District of the Small Gate and St.Laurence in Lucina's.
    IV. Campo Marzio
    Quinta. Regio Pontis et Scortichiariorum.
     Fifth. District of the Bridge and the Skinners.
    V. Ponte  (matching)
    Sexta. Regio sancti Eustachii et vinee Tedemarii.
     Sixth. District of St.Eustachius' and Tedemario's wineyard
    VI. Parione
    Septima. Regio Arenule et Chacabariorum.
     Seventh. District of Arenula and the Pot-makers
    VII. Arenula  (matching)
    Octava. Regio Parionis et sancti Laurentii in Damaso.
     Eighth. District of Parione and St.Laurence in Damaso's
    VIII. Parione
    Nona. Regio Pinee et sancti Marci.
     Ninth. District of the Pine-cone and St.Mark's
    IX. Pigna  (matching)
    Decima. Regio Sancti Angeli in foro piscium.
     Tenth. District of the Holy Angel in the fish-market
    X. Campitelli
    Undecima. Regio Ripe et Marmorate.
     Eleventh. District of the River Bank and Marmorata
    XI. Sant'Angelo
    Duodecima. Regio Campitelli in sancti Adriani.
     Twelfth. District of Campitelli by St.Hadrian's
    XII. Ripa
    Tertiodecima. Regio Transtiberim.
     Thirteenth. District beyond the Tiber
    XIII. Trastevere  (matching)

    Among the present districts, seven have a matching name and ordering, and five of them have a matching name but their sequence is different; only one (Campo Marzio) has a different name. These names also show that the ones found in the long 26-entry list of the late Mirabilia edition hel in Austria, previously described, might have been based on a misinterpretation, i.e. by splitting the same twelve double names into twenty-four separate entries.

    Likely during the late Middle Ages, the coats of arms representing the districts developed their shapes, which have remained unchanged.

    ← description of the coats of arms of the districts, in a pubblication dated 1545;
    the rioni are not listed according to their number, and Borgo is still missing


    By the late 16th century, also Leo's City (i.e. the Vatican area), which up to those days had been a suburban enclave, yet already surrounded by a set of walls since the time of pope Leo IV (847-855), was officially included by Sixtus V (1585-90) within Rome's urban territory, thus becoming the fourteenth rione.

    In 1743, pope Benedict XIV reorganized the fourteen rioni; in the following year the districts were marked by means of 220 marble plaques, hung along the streets where their new boundaries ran.

    Half a century later, when Rome was first occupied by Napoleon's army, an ordinance was issued by means of which the city's administrative areas were renamed Sezioni ("sections"); their names changed, and some of them were merged together, while others were split, according to the following table.

    the ordinance issued the 16th of Ventôse (March 6th according to →
    the French Republican Calendar), 1798; click on the image to enlarge it

    ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION OF ROME UNDER THE FRENCH OCCUPATION

    I. Rione Monti  (split into two parts)
      "   "
    II. Rione Trevi
    III. Rione Colonna
    IV. Rione Campo Marzio
    V. Rione Ponte
    VI. Rione Parione  plus  VII. Rione Regola
    VIII. Rione Sant'Eustachio
    IX. Rione Pigna  plus  XI. Rione Sant'Angelo 
    X. Rione Campitelli  plus  XII. Rione Ripa
    XIII. Rione Trastevere
    XIV. Rione Borgo














    Sezione delle Terme
    Sezione della Suburra
    Sezione del Quirinale
    Sezione del Pincio
    Sezione di Marte
    Sezione di Bruto
    Sezione di Pompeo
    Sezione di Flaminio
    Sezione del Pantheon
    Sezione del Campidoglio
    Sezione del Gianicolo
    Sezione del Vaticano

    Section of the Baths
    Section of the Suburra
    Section of the Quirinal Hill
    Section of the Pincio Hill
    Section of Mars
    Section of Brutus
    Section of Pompeus
    Section of Flaminius
    Section of the Pantheon
    Section of the Capitolium Hill
    Section of the Janiculum Hill
    Section of the Vatican Hill

    The French admnistration also removed all the extant district plaques.
    Once the occupation was over, in 1814, the old division in fourteen Rioni was restored, as well as their original boundaries, which ever since never changed. The plaques were placed again along the streets, and most of them can still be seen on many old buildings; some of them have been cleaned and restored, while others show heavy signs of ageing.
    Shortly after the fall of the Papal State (1870), Rome's administrators grouped them into larger administrative districts, for which the old term Regioni (i.e. Italian for Latin Regiones) was retrieved:

    CLUSTER  DISTRICTS COMPRISED 

    Regione I, Campidoglio

    I. Monti  plus  X. Campitelli
    Regione II, Pantheon II. Trevi  plus  VI. Parione  plus  VIII Sant'Eustachio  plus  IX. Pigna
    Regione III, Campo Marzio III. Colonna  plus  IV. Campo Marzio
    Regione IV, Adriana V. Ponte  plus  VII. Regola  plus  IV. Borgo
    Regione V, Tiberina XI. Sant'Angelo  plus  XII. Ripa  plus  XIII. Trastevere

    This arrangement though did not last very long, and was discontinued before the turn of the century; the Rioni soon turned again into fourteen individual administrative units.


    (↑) curious mixture of old and new in Regola district
    and another plaque in Sant'Eustachio district (→)
    next to a 'no dumping' ban (18th century)


    In 1874, the largest district, Monti (I), was split into two halves: the central part kept its name, while the eastern part, which was being repopulated, became the rione Esquilino (XV).
    By the end of the 1800s, also Trevi (II) and Colonna (III) were split, and their outer halves, whose building expansion was in progress, were declared autonomous rioni: respectively, Sallustiano (XVII) and Ludovisi (XVI).
    In 1921 also Castro Pretorio (XVIII) became autonomous; in the same year, in the southern part of Rome, the rione Celio (XIX) was born from the shortening of Campitelli (X), while the outermost parts of Ripa (XII) turned into rioni Testaccio (XX) and San Saba (XXI). Lastly, in 1921, also the urban extension built on the western bank of the Tiber, between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, was declared a rione, called Prati (XII), after the old name prati di Castello ("Castle fields") once given to the vast cultivated grounds beyond Sant'Angelo Castle; this is the only rione located outside the ancient Aurelian's Walls. The neighbouring Borgo (XIV), instead, lost half of its land when in 1929 the Lateran Treaty was signed, and its western hilly part turned into the Vatican City, an independent country.

    the birth of the new rioni: the striped areas indicate
    the parts that subsequently split to become autonomous


    Curiously, in this administrative subdivision, the many roman bridges (today no less than fourteen of them span the Tiber in the city's historical centre enclosed by the ancient set of Aurelian's walls) represent 'free zones', as well as the course of the river, officially not belonging to any of the rioni, since the boundaries always run along the streets that follow the Tiber banks (lungoteveri), on the relevant side of the district. For historical reasons, Sant'Angelo Bridge represents an exception; despite Ponte district took its name from this bridge, as of the late 1500s it actually belongs to Borgo.



    In spite of Rome's continuous expansion - since the 1920s the size of the city has more than tripled - no further district was given the qualification of rione: the modern urban areas were divided into quartieri (quarters), whose number reached 35, suburbi (suburbs), presently 6, and 51 zone, larger areas in the city outskirts, in constant expansion (see again the map).


    In the past, the sense of belonging to one's own rione was strongly felt by the local inhabitants. The district used to be the context where the common people spent most of their life.

    In each rione a certain hierarchy existed, at the top of which stood the caporione ("district master"); he was chosen by the noble families and, as of the second half of the 18th century, directly by the pope. Since Monti was considered the most important among the rioni, its own caporione had the privilege of being a member of the Magistrates, thus of the ruling establishment.
    In the 19th century the "district master" charge was turned into "president of the district".
    The caporione often called on the rione's young men, either individually or in gangs, as a 'district army': their service enhanced their social prestige and respect among the local people.
    In fact, while neighbor comradeship was common within the boundaries of a given district, a certain rivalry sometimes existed among the inhabitants of different rioni, especially larger and popular ones, such as Monti and Trastevere.

    Offenses to the local code of honour, known in dialect as sgarri ("breaches"), could easily trigger blood-shedding fights between the gangs of the two sides.

    Each rione was proud of its own squares, buildings and monuments. Especially churches were cared for, as well as other minor religious establishments, such as street chapels and the hundreds of small shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary, popularly called madonnelle ("small Madonnas"), hanging from the corners of many buildings, whose mantainance was payed for by the district inhabitants with spontaneous offerings.

    17th century madonnella by Palazzo Ricci

    Although nowadays very few traces of such neighborhood feelings are left, less than one century ago they were still alive: in 1927 Rome's governor gave architect Pietro Lombardi the commission for the making of a number of small 'district fountains', built for the benefit of the local people, whose shape was inspired by the typical features of the relevant district.

    fountain for Monti and Esquilino districts
    The picture on the right shows the Fountain of the Cannon-balls, for Borgo district, next to Sant'Angelo Castle, while the shape of the one on the left recalls Monti's three hills. Others are described among the pages of this section.
    the small Fountain of the Cannon-balls






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