Rione I: Monti Art & Culture

1/1/2008 by Friendsinrome Italy

Monti is the name of one of the twelve Rioni of Rome, rione I; the name literally means mountains in Italian. The name comes from the fact that the Esquiline and the Viminal Hills, and parts of the Quirinal and the Caelian Hills belong to this rione. On its logo there are three green mountains with three tops on a silver background.
Nowadays the districts Esquilino, Castro Pretorio and Celio do not belong to that anymore, but it has kept its former name. In ancient times the rione was densely populated: in Monti there were the Forum Romanum and the so called Suburra (meaning suburbs in Latin): this was the place poor people lived, full of disreputable locals and brothels. In the Middle Ages the situation was completely different: the Roman aqueducts were damaged, and it was very difficult to bring water to Monti, since it was on the hills. That is why lots of inhabitants moved to Campus Martius, a lower level part, where they used to drink the water from the river Tiber, that was drinkable.
From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 1800s, the rione remained an area full of vineyards and market gardens. Monti was not very populated because of the lack of water and because it was quite far from the Vatican, that was the center of the Christian culture. The area did not become abandoned thanks to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano and the huge number of pilgrims coming continuously. Still in the Middle Ages the inhabitants of Monti, called monticiani, developed a strong identity: in fact their Roman dialect was different from that spoken in the other rioni. Their main enemies were the people from the other rione with a strong identity, Trastevere, and they often used to fight one against the other.
Then, in the increase of urbanization at the end of the nineteenth century after Rome had became the capital of a united Italy, the great changes of the Fascist period changed completely the appearance of the rione. In particular, between 1924 and 1936 a big part of the rione, made of small streets and popular houses, was destroyed to built via dei Fori Imperiali (the street artificially dividing the Roman Forum and most of the Imperial forums) and the archaeological buildings of the forum Romanum were dug out from under the ground.

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