The Janiculum Hill
Want to escape the hubbub of the city, enjoy a stunning view, and witness one of Rome’s most surprising daily traditions? Look no further than the Gianicolo, or Janiculum Hill. Rising out of the bustling neighborhood of Trastevere, Gianicolo is one of the highest hills in Rome but, ironically, not one of its fabled 7 hills. It sits to the west of the Tiber and was therefore outside the boundaries of the early city. This hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the most beloved local sites for Romans out for a passeggiate. Despite being in the heart of present-day Rome, it’s an oasis of calm and offers an incredible, panoramic view of the city when you reach the top. As for that surprising tradition? You’ll just have to read on if you want to find out what it is.
Visiting the Gianicolo: What to See
The view from the Janiculum Hill encompasses all of the historic center of Rome and includes the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral, the gardens of the Villa Borghese, the enormous but not-particularly-well-liked Altare della Patria monument to Vittorio Emanuelle, and more churches than we can easily name in this space. It’s the closest you can get to seeing something akin to the “skyline” of Rome and it will take your breath away.
The War Monuments
The Janiculum Hill is something of an unofficial monument to Italian Unification, known in Italy as the Risorgimento. Busts of various heroes line the paths that crisscross the hill and the top is crowned with a large statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi. One of the most colorful personalities to come out of the pan-European nationality movements in the late 19th century, Garibaldi is one of the few Italian public figures whose reputation has actually kept improving since his death. A prolific and apparently tireless general who also fought in liberation movements in Brazil and Uruguay, he often commanded non-professional troops in guerrilla campaigns that saw him triumph over typically uneven odds. The Gianicolo was the site of his famous defense of the short-lived Roman Republic against invading French forces.
A Very Special Timepiece
In a tradition that traces its roots back to the late 19th century, a cannon on the top of the Janiculum Hill is fired every day (without the ball, naturally) at noon in order to mark the hour. In 1939 the daily event was stopped indefinitely, presumably because enough mortar rounds were being fired in Europe without adding another to the list. It was reinstated by popular demand in 1959 and has been a daily occurrence ever since.
Tips for Seeing the Janiculum Hill
The Janiculum Hill is a residential area and therefore can be visited 24 hours a day
As a public space, the Gianicolo has no special restrictions. Like any public space in Rome, it’s only as clean as the people who visit it so be sure not to drop any trash.
You don’t need tickets to visit the Janiculum Hill
The Best Time to Visit the Gianicolo
There are two ways to optimize your visit to the Janiculum Hill. The first is to plan it according to the view of the city, which is typically best at sunset or sunrise, but also gorgeous at night, when some of the larger church domes are lit up. The second is to base your visit around the cannon firing. This happens at 12:00pm sharp every day so if you’re even a minute late you’ll have to wait another 24 hours.
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