Gianicolo: a little bit of history
The Gianicolo (Janiculum) is a hill in Rome. Although the second-tallest hill in the contemporary city of Rome, the Janiculum does not figure among the proverbial Seven Hills of Rome, being west of the Tiber and outside the boundaries of the ancient city.
The Janiculum was a center for the cult of the god Janus: its position overlooking the city made it a good place for augurs to observe the auspices.
In Roman mythology, Janiculum is the name of an ancient town founded by the god Janus (the two-faced god of beginnings). The Janiculum was incorporated into ancient Rome during the time of king Ancus Marcius to prevent an enemy from occupying it. It was fortified by a wall, and a bridge was built across the Tiber to join it to the rest of the city.
The Janiculum is the site of a battle in 1849 between the forces of Garibaldi, defending the revolutionary Roman Republic against French forces, who were fighting to restore the temporal power of the Pope over Rome. Several monuments to Garibaldi and to the fallen in the wars of Italian independence are on the Janiculum.
Daily at noon, a cannon fires once from the Janiculum in the direction of the Tiber as a time signal. This tradition goes back to December 1847, when the cannon of the Castel Sant’Angelo gave the sign to the surrounding bell towers to start ringing at midday. In 1904, the ritual was transferred to the Janiculum and continued until 1939. On 21 April 1959, popular appeal convinced the Commune of Rome to resume the tradition after a twenty-year interruption.
The hill is featured in the third section of Ottorino Respighi’s famous orchestral piece The Pines of Rome.
Today the Gianicolo is one of the best locations in Rome for a scenic view of central Rome with its domes and bell towers. Other sights on the Janiculum include the church of San Pietro in Montorio, on what was formerly thought to be the site of St Peter’s crucifixion; a small shrine known as the Tempietto, designed by Donato Bramante, marks the supposed site of Peter’s death. The Janiculum also houses a Baroque fountain built by Pope Paul V in the late 17th century, the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, and several foreign research institutions, including the American Academy in Rome and the Spanish Academy in Rome. The Hill is also the location of The American University of Rome, Pontifical Urban University, and Pontifical North American College, as well as the Orto Botanico dell’Università di Roma “La Sapienza” and the Palazzo Montorio, residence of the Ambassadors of Spain.
When to go
Since this is mainly a place where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful view of Rome, my suggestion is to come here at sunset, because, trust me, you can see the entire Rome with a stunning red and orange light, and it’s something you will never forget.
What and where to eat in the Gianicolo area
The two best restaurants of this area are: Carpe Diem (Via di San Pancrazio 3/5), a small restaurant with an amazing terrace, where you can enjoy both lunch and dinner in a lovely atmosphere, with typical Italian and Roman food; Antico Arco (Piazzale Aurelio, 7), an elegant restaurant with a wide selection of wines and creative and innovative recipes.
If you want to have a coffee while you walk around the Janiculum, the best place where you can go is the Bar Gianicolo (Piazzale Aurelio, 5), where they have and amazing coffe, but you can even enjoy a very good aperitivo from 6 pm with a funny and simple atmosphere.
My last advice is for a gelateria. Of course, if you’re coming to Rome in summer, you can’t miss our gelaterie, and if you’re going around in this area and there are 40°C (104°F), the best place where you can find some rest (and a wonderful gelato) is the Gelateria San Pancrazio (Piazza San Pancrazio 17/20), a very simple and not too fancy place, but trust me, the gelato is amazing (try the zabaione)!
How to reach it
The Janiculum is always opened, so you can come here anytime and enjoy the amazing view.
The buses that arrive here are: 34, 46, 46b, 64, 98, 881, 982, e 916 ( piazza della Rovere), 23 , 280 e 116 (Lungotevere Gianicolense), 870 ( piazzale Garibaldi).