Pincian Hill (Pincio)
The Pincian Hill, one of the most romantic and picturesque places in the Capital, is a Roman hill (although not one of the Seven Hills) offering a breathtaking view of the Piazza del Popolo and the city. It is part of the Villa Borghese and is within the Aurelian Walls. The balcony overlooks the Piazza del Popolo and the Villa Medici.
The site was coveted by ancient Romans, who built villas and gardens (horti) here.
The name “Pincian” comes from one of the families that settled here: the Pincii. The present “Muro torto” (“Twisted Wall”) is part of the foundations of their villa.
The aristocrat Lucullus, famous for his wealth and banquets, also had holdings in this area. The so-called “horti luculliani” (Lucullus Gardens) eventually merged with the horti sallustiani (Sallust Gardens), owned by the Latin historian Sallust. It is no coincidence that the Pincian Hill has been called “the Hill of Gardens.”
In ancient times, the slopes of the hills were also used as a burial ground. The ashes of Emperor Nero were kept here in Domitius' tomb.
The current neo-classical layout was commissioned by Napoleon. It is the work of architect Giuseppe Valadier, who in 1816 also created the majestic Piazza del Popolo.
The architect wanted to connect the Piazza to the hillside, so he carefully planned the route of the two curves that lead up the hill and meet at the scenic balcony. He also planned the most suitable type of vegetation, creating a splendid setting with palms and evergreen trees. Valadier was able to blend the urban elements – the piazza – with the natural elements of the Pincian Hill gardens.
It was the first public garden in Rome, and today it is one of the most popular sites, as well as being one of the most visited historic walkways by the Romans themselves.
It is no coincidence that Valadier chose the Pincian Hill, the highest point of the city, to build his private residence; the Casina Valadier is also neo-classical. However, the architect died before getting a chance to live there, and the building was converted into an historic café, where the view out over the city can still be enjoyed to this day.
In the early 1900s, the Italian government purchased the Villa Borghese. The busts of famous men (but only three women) in Italian history have been placed on the Pincian Hill. Over time, the number of sculptures has grown exponentially.
Noteworthy is that among the busts on Pincian Hill, the one that stands precisely at the point where the Rome Meridian crosses is – not by chance – that of the former director of the Astronomy Observatory, Angelo Secchi.