Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Parkful of busts

Let’s return to Gianicolo, the Janiculum hill where I took you to admire the glorious sunset views of Rome last week (here).

There is a lovely avenue there, Passeggiata di Gianicolo, lined on both sides with huge plane trees – and bust statues of revolutionary war heroes. In fact, the long flat hilltop is a large Parco degli Eroi, Park of Heroes, dedicated to the most acclaimed fighters of the Risorgimento, the Italian unification. 

Most of the marble statues were commissioned in the late 19th century but a few additions have been made later. I just learned that one of the four foreign partisans included in the park is a Finnish fighter Herman Liikanen whose merits were recognized with a statue as late as in the 1960s. I must search his bust from among the 84 next time. I have a pretty good idea where to find it…

The statues were renovated and the park was reorganized in 2011 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification. A new monument containing the text of the constitution of the Roman Republic was also unveiled then. It is a terracotta wall at the popular lookout by Villa Lante al Gianicolo.

Villa Lante is one of the best-preserved Roman Renaissance villas, “a valuable example of Raphael’s school in Rome and of the ‘golden age’ of the Medici popes”. Out of happy coincidences and thanks to the wealthy Finnish patron Amos Anderson, it has been owned by the Republic of Finland since 1950 and houses the Finnish Roman Institute, Institutum Romanum Finlandiae. I bet Mr Liikanen’s bust is somewhere very close by.

Villa Lante in April, 2009.

View from the top of Castel'Sant Angelo in September 2011. Villa Lante on the top right corner.

The location of Villa Lante above a garden on top of the Janiculum hill overlooking Rome is totally divine. In the early 16th century, i.e. at around the time the construction of the present St Peter’s Basilica was started, Baldassarre Turini, the datarius of Pope Leo X, wanted to have a summer residence away from the heat of the town. He bought a piece of land on the hill and had the villa built among the gardens and vineyards there. It later went to the Lante family, which explains the current name. We once visited the villa and saw the beautiful Renaissance interior. Visitors could even shoot Rome from the fabulous loggia. Unfortunately, the photos from that trip are among those we later lost (more about that here).

Any Italian demonstration of war heroes would be unthinkable without General Giuseppe Garibaldi. It is obvious that he should be granted the focal point in the Janiculum Park of Heroes: a majestic equestrian statue surrounded by a piazza carrying his name. Together with Camillo Cavour, Victor Emmanuel II and Giuseppe Mazzini, Garibaldi is considered one of Italy’s ‘fathers of the fatherland’. You will bump into these men as statues or street names all over the country.

Prior to fighting for the Risorgimento, Giuseppe Garibaldi had already built quite a reputation with his military campaigns in Brazil and Uruguay. He married a skilled Brazilian horsewoman who fought by his side on both continents. Anita Ribeiro di Garibaldi has been acknowledged with an equestrian statue just opposite Villa Lante. I suppose none less than a famed revolutionary leader could have tamed this wild one.

The lighthouse-shaped monument facing Rome is another memorial you can’t miss if you ever climb the Janiculum hill. It is called Faro al Gianicolo, Faro di Roma, Faro della Libertà and even Faro degli Italiani d’Argentina. It was a gift by the Italians in Argentina to Rome on the 50th anniversary of the unified Italy in 1911. Also the faro was restored for the celebrations in 2011. Its site is another belvedere offering magnificent panoramas over the city.

Finally, some views from the Janiculum hill towards Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. Rather a nice vista to that direction as well.


  1. Those are such lovely pictures and many are not the usual pictures you see of Rome. The avenue of trees is amazing as well as the views across the city. The busts are unusual too,
    Sarah x

    1. I was thinking the Janiculum hill would be a hidden treasure for many, not to mention the Finnish connection.

    2. I took a picture of Herman last year and will send it to you so you can come to Spain instead.

    3. That won't do, I mean a photo is not enough. As for a trip to Spain, that's not a problem.