Esquilino District Rome (R. XV)

Temple Of Minerva Medica

The Esquilino district is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Rome, even though it is not considered to be part of the historical center. It is a neighborhood with many tourist attractions and, especially in the area south of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, outdoor cafes and eateries. Thanks to the presence of the main railway station there also is an abundance of affordable accommodation options.

Esquilino District Rome

Description

Piazza Vittorio Emanuel II, Esquilino district Rome
The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the only porticoed square in Rome.

Nowadays Esquilino, and especially the area directly around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, is an immigrant district, with several streets completely taken up by shops selling cheap Chinese clothing and trinkets. In the streets directly adjacent to Termini, you will find many cheap Rome b&b’s and hostels.

The central square of the area, and biggest one of the entire city, is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It is also unique, since it is the only square in Rome that is (almost) completely surrounded by porticoes.

Roma Termini
Roma Termini

The building that decides the character of the Esquilino neighborhood is the main railway station Roma Termini. Especially the area between Piazza Vittorio and the station is teeming with cheap B&B’s, hostels and other accommodation options. Unfortunately, the fast food restaurants and souvenir shops have replaced most of the small family-run trattorie in this part of the district.

Tourist attractions

Saint Mary Major Basilica Rome
Saint Mary Major Basilica

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the most important tourist attraction of the area. Thanks to its high position on top of the Cispius hill it also very visible. It is one of the four patriarchal basilicas and the favorite church of the Pope himself.

The main churches of the district are Santa Bibiana and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Other Esquilino tourist attractions are the aquaducts at the Porta Maggiore.

Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Take the Via Giolitti exit from Roma Termini and walk along this street till you come to the second tunnel under the railway tracks. The small church before the tunnel is the Santa Bibiana, the facade of which was designed by a 26 year old Bernini, who also contributed to its interior design. Walking further down the Via Giolitti you will come to the Temple of Minerva Medica on your left, and finally to the enormous Porta Maggiore city gate. It is here that most of Rome’s aqueducts used to enter the city.

Eating and sleeping

Esquilino is bordered by the Via Marsala in the north, the Via Cavour and the Monti neighborhood in the east, the university district San Lorenzo in the south and the Prenestino-Labicano district in the west. Since both the university district and Monti are popular night life districts, it is very easy to find good restaurants, bars and pubs nearby. Lately, the area around Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II has become a bit of a hot spot in itself.

The part of the neighborhood around the railway area is characterized by many cheaper hotels and other accommodation options.

Public transportation

The presence of the main railway station also assures easy access to public transportation. From Termini, bus lines travel in all directions, and there are several metro stops (Termini, Vittorio Emanuele and San Giovanni) in the area. The buses to the airports of Ciampino and Fiumicino also leave from Termini.

History

Esquilino used to be situated outside the Servian Wall, the first defensive walls that were built around Rome, but within the more recently built Aurelian Walls.

The Latin meaning of the word esquiliae is “suburbs”.

The rione consists of three hills, the Cispius, the Oppius and the Fagutalis and was one of the first inhabited parts of the city. The first time Rome was divided into districts, in the times of Emperor Augustus, the neighborhood now called Monti was also part of Esquilino.

In those days, part of the area was used as a garbage dump and a burial place for slaves and poor people. However, when August became Emperor he had 10 meters of earth poured onto this dirty and unhealthy area.

Mecenate had his gardens built here, but unfortunately there is hardly anything left of these. When the population started growing and more housing was needed, the gardens were destroyed. In 1874 the Auditorium was discovered.

Gaio Cilnio Mecenate (68BC-8AD) had his gardens built in the area near the present Via Merulana, but unfortunately hardly anything is left of these. When the population started growing and more housing was needed, the gardens were destroyed. In 1874 the Auditorium was discovered.

Also after Augustus‘ reign, the rione was mostly used by the wealthier Romans in order to have their villas constructed. The north-eastern part of the district was later taken up by the Horti Liciniani, built around the luxurious residence of the mid-30th century emperor Licinius Ignatius Gallienus, which was known as the Palatium Licinianum.

In later years many churches were built in the direct vicinity of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. This church was originally part of the rione Monti, but came to be within the borders of the rione Esquilino in the year 1921.

The district is characterized by late 19th and early 20th century so-called Umbertine buildings. The name is a reference to Umberto I of Savoy, who was King of Italy from 1878 t0 1900. The buildings were meant to house the many government workers that came to live in the area after the construction of the railway station.

Esquilino District Rome

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