The Aventine and the Orange Garden

The Orange Garden is the scene of one of the most beautiful scenes, certainly the most fairytale, of Paolo Sorrentino’s movie The Great Beauty. In Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, approaching the keyhole of the door of the Priory you can see the dome of San Pietro. The trees of the Orange Garden have been specially cut to show the dome. Also some scenes of The Young Pope have been shot at the Aventine. In the interior of the Church of Sant’Anselmo, scenes of the confessional were filmed.

The Aventine is one of the seven hills on which Rome was founded, the most to the south. It is a hill of more or less trapezoidal shape, with steep slopes, which touches the Tiber. Among the seven hills was the most isolated and most difficult access. To the east, through a saddle, it is connected to another small hill, called “Little Aventine“. Its maximum height is 46.6 m s.l.m. (in front of the church of Saints Bonifacio and Alessio).



The Aventine (mons Aventinus)

Archaic period

In the myths related to the foundation of Rome is linked to the legend of Hercules and Caco and the figure of Remus, who chose it as a place from which to spot the birds in flight in the dispute with his brother Romulus for the choice of place of foundation.

The hill was then placed in the city at the time of Anco Marzio, who would have populated with refugees from the cities he conquered (Ficana, Medullia, Tellenae and Politorium) and received a first independent fortification, to be more defensible from the attacks of enemies . The hill is described as low and wide at the 18-storied perimeter, covered by a thick forest of various species of trees, among which those of Lauro stood out.

Later it was inside the first wall of the sixth century and later the Republican Servian walls, while remaining outside the pomerio until the age of Claudius. Thanks to its particular position near the river port (Emporium), the Aventine became the seat of a large merchant colony of foreigners.

Roman era

Uncertain is the etymology of the name, which may derive from that of one of the kings of Albalonga, son of Hercules, or from the phrases ab adventu hominum which was the name of a temple dedicated to Diana, or from ab advectu, that is transported on water because of the marshes that surrounded it, or again, according to Nevio, from ab avibus for the birds that came from the Tiber to provide good wishes to Remus, or finally to the oats that were cultivated and traded in the underlying valley market.

The area was divided into a real “Aventino”, between the river Tiber and the valley where the Circus Maximus and “Aventino minore” (currently “San Saba”) were built. In the Republican period both sectors within the Servian Walls seem to have been included in the denomination “Aventine”, but with the Augustan subdivision of the city in 14 regions were divided between the XIII (later Aventinus) and XII (Piscina Publica) regions.

Republican era

It was traditionally the seat of the plebeians, opposed to the Palatine seat of the patriciate: with the Lex Icilia de Aventino publishing, of 456 BC. the area of ​​the hill was distributed among the plebeians to build houses, remedying a previous occupation of land owned by the patricians, which had triggered protests and revolts.

The hill therefore had the character of a popular and mercantile quarter (also because of its position near the ancient river port of the Emporium). Because of its plebeian character, the hill was also the seat of the extreme defense of the tribune of the plebs Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 BC.

In the Republican period the poets Ennio and Nevio lived in the neighborhood.

The economic life of the city in the meantime had moved from the ancient but small Foro Boario to the plain south of the Aventine, where from the beginning of the II century BC. the new river port (Emporium), the enormous Porticus Aemilia and the department stores and warehouses of the Horrea Galbana, Lolliana, Aniciana, Seiana and Fabaria were built, as well as the bread market (Forum Pistorium). The Via Marmorata traces one of the most important products that passed through here after landing: marble.

Behind these buildings was the Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill 30 meters high, born from the accumulation of the jars of the amphorae brought to Rome as tributes paid by all the provinces of the Empire.



Imperial era

In the imperial age the character of the hill changed and became the seat of numerous aristocratic residences, among which the private houses of Traiano and Adriano before they became emperors (private Traiani and private Hadriani) and Lucio Licinio Sura, a friend of Traiano. The emperor Vitellio and the praefectus urbis Lucio Fabio Cilone lived there, at the time of Septimius Severus.

This new character of the aristocratic district was probably the cause of its total destruction during the sack of Rome by Alaric I in 410. Some letters of Sofronio Eusebio Girolamo also speak of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the poorer population had moved further south, to the plains near the Emporium and the other bank of the Tiber.

Viability Ancient

The Vicus Piscinae Publicae (today Aventine avenue) marked the border between the two august Regioe of the hill. Its extension beyond the Servian walls was called Vicus Portae Raudusculanae (today Viale del Piramide Cestia).

The first road that allowed the salita on the hill was the Clivus Publicius (Clivo dei Publici), which rose from the Forum Boario and continued along the current route of Santa Prisca up to the Vicus Piscinae Publicae.

From it another old road came off, probably called Vicus Armilustri (current via di Santa Sabina), which went south to Porta Lavernalis in the walls.

Moreover, another ancient street emerged from the Porta Trigemina along a narrow road between Aventino and Tiber, to then follow the path of the current Via Marmorata and finally give rise to the Via Ostiense.



Ancient buildings

There were the barracks (statio) of the IV cohort of the firemen and the thermal baths of the thermae Suranae, of the Trajan era, and of the thermae Decianae (first half of the III century). The Baths of Caracalla, from the lower and vulgar clientele, rose on its slopes towards the Appian Way.

It was the seat of the temple of the Moon; for its position outside the official limits of the city the Aventine was often chosen for places of worship of foreign deities, beginning with the temple of Diana, a federal sanctuary erected by Servius Tullius. Next to it was the temple of Minerva.

It also housed the cults of the main city deity transferred to Rome from the cities conquered and destroyed with the rite of the evocatio (ie the transfer to Rome of the defending deity of the defeated city), such as the temple of Juno Queen (da Veio) and the of uncertain localization of Vertumno (from Volsinii, today Bolsena). Other sanctuaries were those of Iuppiter Liber and Libertas.

On the slopes towards the Circus Maximus it was built in 495 BC. a temple of Mercury and in 493 BC, by the dictator Aulo Postumio, following the response of the Sibillini Books, was built the sanctuary dedicated to Ceres, Libero and Libera (corresponding to Demeter, Dionysus and Kore). On its slopes, not far from the Porta Trigemina, there was an altar dedicated to the semi-god Evandro.

Later there are documented sanctuaries of oriental deities, such as the one dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus, of the 138; an Iseum (sanctuary of the Egyptian goddess Isis Athenodoria) stood in correspondence of the current basilica of Santa Sabina and mitrei in correspondence of the churches of Santa Prisca and Santa Balbina (miter of Santa Prisca and miter of Santa Balbina). On the “Little Aventine” there was the temple of the Bona Dea, also known as the Bona Dea Subsaxana. The history of the titulus of Santa Prisca suggests an early Christian presence in the area.

Basilica of Santa Sabina

Among the many domus of the district, in addition to those of imperial rank already mentioned, others were excavated under Santa Sabina and Santa Prisca. In the area called”Little Aventine” we know the Domus Cilonis, home of Lucio Fabio Cilone, praefectus urbi in 203 and consul in 204, who had received it as a gift from Septimius Severus and which was identified under the church of Santa Balbina.

In 1958 under the villa of the Beauty family (in Largo Arrigo VII, not far from the mithraeum of S. Prisca) a domus of the late Republican era was found.

The excavated part of the domus, sometimes called “Picta” and 12 meters deep, is made up of two rooms (that of the Ionic columns and the one with the yellow frescos) and a cryptoporticus. The frescoes are generally of the IV style, the floors – usually well preserved – are generally on the bottom of “cocciopesto”.

Among the houses demolished to make room for the Baths of Caracalla there was one excavated in 1858 under the Guidi vineyard, which presented numerous rooms full of mosaics, paintings and sculptures: during a subsequent essay (1970) the well-preserved remains were found and reconstructed from a painted ceiling and we were able to date the complex at 130-138 BC



Medieval and modern era

In 537 it was the shelter of Pope Silverio, accused by Justinian to plot with the Goths of Vitige. In the Middle Ages, the churches of Santa Sabina, of the Saints Bonifacio and Alessio, and of Santa Prisca were built. On the “Little Aventine” there are the churches of San Saba and Santa Balbina.

Where now is the Garden of the Oranges stood the fortress of the Savelli family in which Pope Honorius IV also lived built in the 80s of the thirteenth century perhaps on a pre-existing fortification of the Crescenzi dating back to the tenth century.

Giovan Battista Piranesi installed the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta in 1765, which takes its name from the Villa of the Priory of Malta, seat of the Priory of the Order of the Knights of Malta, also transforming the church of Santa Maria del Priorato, adjacent to the palace. where he is buried himself.

Contemporary period

The Roman hill is now an elegant residential area with a vast wealth of architectural interest. The steep side of the Tiber continues to be part of the historic district of Ripa. In 1921 from Ripa the minor hill (the little Aventine), destined for public housing, was spun off, creating the XXI rione, San Saba.



The Orange Garden

In Rome there is a special garden that overlooks the Tiber and offers a wonderful and romantic view of the city. The Orange Garden is the name known in Rome for the Parco Savello, on the Aventine hill.

The Orange Garden is a small park overlooking the Tiber made famous by a scene of The Great Beauty of Sorrentino.

Looking from the keyhole in the garden you can see the Dome gathered in the middle of a lush outline. It is known as one of the most romantic corners of Rome, although this remains to be considered one of the secret and most unusual places of the capital: we see, in a green multitude, the dome, majestic presence of symbolic power.

The terrace has a symmetrical appearance and is decorated with bitter orange trees (hence the name) that celebrate the plant under which, according to Christian tradition, St. Dominic prayed. The plants were cut so as to allow that poetic and unexpected view of the dome from a keyhole that reminds us of remote times and of a different Rome, which however still exists.

The Orange Garden is the name given to the Savello park, a 7,800 m² park in Rome, located on the Aventine hill, in the Ripa district, which offers an excellent view of the city.


The garden, whose name derives from the characteristic presence of numerous bitter orange trees, extends into the area of ​​the ancient fortress built by the Savelli family (hence the name “Parco Savello”) between 1285 and 1287 near the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine, on a pre-existing castle built by the Crescenzi family in the 10th century.

The garden, as it is presently presented, was built in 1932 by architect Raffaele De Vico, after which, with the new urban definition of the Aventine, in the area that the Dominican fathers of the nearby church kept as a vegetable garden, it was planned to allocate a public park, in order to offer free access to the view from that side of the hill, creating a new Roman belvedere, to be added to those already existing in the Pincio and Gianicolo.

The garden has an extremely symmetrical layout, with a median avenue in line with the belvedere, which was named after Nino Manfredi after the death of the actor, castrese of origin but Roman by adoption.

This avenue opens into two openings: in the right one was originally placed, from the thirties of the twentieth century, the fountain created by Giacomo della Porta for the Piazza Montanara, and, since 1973, finally transferred to Piazza San Simeone ai Coronari, entrance to the park itself, leaning against a wall niche.

The central square takes its name from another symbolic Roman actor, Fiorenzo Fiorentini, who for many years led one of his summer theatrical seasons to the park.

The fountain in Piazza Pietro d’Illiria

The current fountain is composed of two pieces of bare: a Roman thermal bath and the monumental marble mask sculpted to decorate a fountain built in 1593 in Campo Vaccino.

The old granite basin, adorned with low-relief handles, is placed in the middle of a rectangular basin slightly recessed from the street level, bordered by a travertine strip. Above it, resting on a parallelepiped, is the monumental marble mask with frowning eyelashes and thick mustache, gathered in a large shell.

The mask has a long history: after the disassembly in 1816 of the fountain of Giacomo della Porta, it was recovered and, starting from 1827, it was again used to decorate a fountain erected on the right bank of the Tiber, near the port of Leonino.

Also demolished this fountain around 1890, the sculpture was hospitalized at the municipal depots, where it remained for some decades, up to the current location.



The Orange Garden today

Currently, the park has three entrances: the main one, in Piazza Pietro d’Illiria, was enriched in 1937 by the portal coming from Villa Balestra, one in Via di Santa Sabina and the third one on the Clive of Rocca Savella. In 2005 a vegetational restoration was carried out.

How to get there


The orange garden is easily reachable from the Circo Massimo metro stop (Line B).