The “Passeggiata del Pincio“, located between Piazza del Popolo, Villa Medici and the Muro Torto, with a direct connection to Villa Borghese through via delle Magnolie, was conceived by the Napoleonic administration, established in Rome in 1810, to meet many urban and social needs: on one hand the location of Piazza del Popolo as main entrance to Rome from the north, on the other the need to equip the “second city of the empire” of an urban space aimed at recreation and health of the people.
Completed between 1811 and 1823, the passeggiata was, until the middle of the twentieth century, a real city park, a urban promenade, a garden of the Roman people who could enjoy countless events and shows, from pyrotechnic pinwheels and from the concerts of the band of maestro Alessandro Vessella, at the turn of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, up to today’s musical events.
Even today it is a destination for walks and the Piazzale Napoleone, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo, is a favorite place for Romans and tourists.
In this area they had their horti some important families of ancient Rome: the Acili first and then the Anici and the Pincii, who gave the name to the whole hill. Particularly famous in this context were the horti of Lucullus.
In the second half of the fifteenth century, the acquisition of the area by the Augustinians of Santa Maria del Popolo gave new impetus to the area. At the beginning of the seventeenth century they built a large farmhouse, above the remains of a Roman cistern, for the use of the vineyard they had planted.
To get to the project of the Passeggiata del Pincio, however, it is necessary to go back to 1810 when the Napoleonic administration decided to create a public walk and Giuseppe Valadier presented a project in which Piazza del Popolo and the Pinciano hill were closely linked. But the central government did not approve the ideas conceived in Rome, preferring to send on the spot the architect Louis Martin Berthault, who reset the project by suggesting, among other things, the elliptical shape of the square. After 1814, after the Napoleonic era, the completion of the project and the construction of the work were entrusted again to Valadier, who brought them forward during the Restoration, until 1834.
With the creation of the modern Comune, in 1848, the Promenade was ceded to the Town Hall.
The following year the war events unleashed by the Roman Republic, during which the Pincio was fortified and militarized, produced huge devastation.
Once Mazzini parenthesis ended, the damage was repaired, the first 50 busts of illustrious men, commissioned by the Republican government, were placed, and the architect Poletti designed several pieces of furniture.
From 1853 the care of the gardens was entrusted to the municipal public service, whose director, Luigi Vescovali, took advantage of the experience of the Savoyard gardener and nurseryman Francesco Vachez, who, between 1861 and 1866, started a radical transformation of the Promenade, designing a new layout of the avenues and of the garden in the “English” style, eliminating the racecourse designed by Berthault on the side towards Villa Borghese and introducing new curvilinear pathways between irregular flowerbeds.
After the unification of Rome to the new Italian State and the establishment of the new unitary administration, the Town Hall entrusted the care of the Promenade to the V Edility Office, directed by Alessandro Viviani, who also brought together the Garden Service: the architect Gioacchino Ersoch was responsible for this. Between 1873 and 1880 he would perform numerous furnishing and maintenance interventions, including the sculpture of the hydrochronometer and the water tank in the “Swiss” style.
From the end of the nineteenth century the face of the Promenade will not change substantially, except for the inclusion of new furnishings, especially monuments, which accentuate the celebratory character, turning it into an open-air “pantheon” of Italian memory.
The last interventions will be the construction of the flyover on the avenue of the walls for the connection with Villa Borghese, which has become a public park; in 1925-26 the small building for the lift of the lift from the viale del Muro Torto, designed by the architect Galli; in 1936, finally, the realization of the fountain-exhibition of the new Virgin Water in the loggia of the last perspective on Piazza del Popolo, by another municipal architect, Raffaele de Vico, who took up an original idea of Valadier in 1815.
On the side of monumental furnishings, in the last decades of the nineteenth century were still raised monuments and decorative fountains: in 1883 was placed in the semicircular viewpoint on the avenue of Villa Medici the monument to Cairoli brothers of Ercole Rosa and in 1887, at the beginning of the same avenue , the column celebrating the imprisonment of Galileo in the Villa Medici, inflicted by the Inquisition; in 1911, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of Roma Capitale, the monument to the Free Municipalities of Italy and the battle of Legnano, executed by the sculptor Botti, was erected in a small garden of the third flight; in 1913 it was placed in the middle of a cliff-shaped fountain in the garden on the right of the Casina Valadier The Amphora of Amleto Cataldi, sculpted in 1912.
Finally, in 1922, the monument to Enrico Toti, a work by Arturo Dazzi, was erected.
After the great commissions of 1849 and 1871, new executions and placement of hermes of illustrious men, entrusted to more or less known sculptors, followed each other without interruption until the Second World War, until they reached the number of 229. All these works stand out today in the Passeggiata, together with the obelisk, the fountains, the already mentioned “classic” furniture (three female statues sitting and the Esculapio) arranged by Valadier, and the “monumentini” dedicated to the effigies of Valadier (bust of Luigi Majoli, 1873) and his father Angelo Secchi (bust of Giuseppe Prinzi, 1879), an important astronomer of the Vatican Specula, whose herm is laid on a base with a hole in the center that marks the passage at that point of the earth’s meridian.
Between 1815 and 1816 Valadier undertook to design the transformation of what was left of the farmhouse belonged to the Augustinian friars of Santa Maria del Popolo, built over an ancient Roman cistern, in a caffeaus.
The works, begun in 1816, continued until 1834, with the completion of the colonnade entrance portico and the pictorial decorations. However, just that year, when the building could be said to be over, the activity dealer returned the rooms to the Administration by closing the coffee. From that moment, until 1873, the building was used exclusively for the management of the public promenade.
After a period of problematic conductions, in which changes had been made to the interiors and the paintings had been renewed, on 27th August 1922, with great emphasis on the city, the Casina reopened as a restaurant.
The success found led the new managers to plan the widening of the western side, with a large terrace in place of the old external access stairway with belvedere functions. The “golden” period of the Casina Valadier ended with the Second World War: after the liberation of Rome in 1943 the Casina was requisitioned by the allied troops. From that moment, for almost twenty years, the restaurant declined, and only in 1964, with the interventions promoted by the new managers, resumed functioning.
In recent years, after several management steps, the Casina has undergone a progressive decline until a further abandonment in the early 90s. In 2004 it was reopened after a careful restoration and redevelopment operation, conducted under the supervision of the Municipal Superintendency, which attempted to restore the original appearance to the building, as far as possible, by integrating the various decorative and architectural parties accumulated in the 170 years of building history. Since 2004, the Casina Valadier has a restaurant and bar.
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