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Our story, between Prati and Testaccio

 

Prati is the 22nd district of Rome, its distinctive symbol is the profile of the Adrian's mausoleum, in light blue colour on silver background. During the Roman era, the area corresponding to Prati district was cultivated with vineyards and canebrakes; these lands (Horti Domitii) belonged to Domitia, Domitian's wife and were later re-named Prata Neronis, after Nero. In the Middle Ages, the area was then called Prati di San Pietro (St. Peter's meadows). Until 1870, themlands were covered in meadows, marshes, patches and vineyards and occupied by huts, a few farmers' and wine-makers' farmhouses, together with some villas, like the Altoviti villa by the river or the Strozzi houses under Monte Mario hill, and some hunter's taverns. The area was known as Pianella di Prati or Pianella d’Oltretevere, or even Prati di Castello, being in the proximity of Castel S. Angelo. At that time, the river Tiber could be crossed with a few ferry-boats. After 1870, the first building and urbanization works were realized, as already designed by the papal government in the previous centuries. The area was first destined to military training and a portion of it was named Piazza d'Armi (parade ground), accordingly. Under Giolitti's prolonged government (1893-1921), with Nathan as city mayor, the first urbanization works were carried out, in order to confront the issues arising from Rome's exceptional urban expansion. Nathan encouraged the creation of districts as the city was growing more and more, in independent urban units, separated by green areas. In 1873, the town plan included a 65-hectare district in the area of Prati di Castello; later in 1921 it was then named Rione Prati, the youngest among Rome's districts, a neighbourhood apt to host both the administration offices of the Kingdom of Italy and the officials' houses. The road system was designed so as all the new streets would look at St. Peter's dome as a landmark, as a sign of the relationships between the new Italian state and the Vatican, in the years preceding the Lateran Pacts. Consequently, the roads were named after the historical figures of the Republican and Imperial Rome, military leaders and literate of the latin and pagan classicity and the heroes of the Risorgimento age, to whom the main square is entitled. The main street is dedicated to the Roman tribune and senator Cola di Rienzo, a nobleman who, back in the 16th century, tried to re-establish the Roman Republic, contrasting the papacy. The Teatro Adriano was inaugurated in 1898 and the Palace of Justice, also called "Palazzaccio” by the romans, was completed in 1911, in "neobaroque style". Both are located in Piazza Cavour. The Army and Carabinieri buildings and the Civil Court were erected in the area between viale delle Milizie and viale Giulio Cesare. The rione Prati was completed around the first half of the 20th century, although some modern building were added later, after demolishing some pre-existing detached houses. Rione Prati is characterized by wide roads, within a regular geometrical system, with elegant buildings in "Umbertino style" and Art Deco villas.

 

Testaccio is the ancient heart of Rome; bordering to Ostiense, it is nowadays a vibrant district, featuring an active nightlife in locations built inside the typical tuff rooms. The fascinating hill, with the same name as the neighbourhood, also called "Crocks hill", is 154 mt a.s.l. and totally realized with the remainings of earthenwares of ancient roman amphoras and containers, in a typical terrace-structure. The origins of the hill are still being discussed: some consider it an old brick warehouse, some others the area used to stack the waste material after the great fire of Rome caused by Nero, or even the collection place for the funeral objects which were dismissed in the nearby necropolis in Ostiense. According to the historical official version, the hill finds its origins in a warehouse for oil amphoras, coming from Africa: however, researchers do not agree about the function of the amphoras. Either they could be part of those downloaded to the Tiber's harbour and then sold in markets, or they belonged to the group of amphoras coming from the Imperial provinces, as a payment tribute to the Roman aerarium. The "landfill" of the Emporium river harbour, was later exploited in the late republican age, in the 3rd century. During the following centuries, some caves were excavated on the hill sides, to be used as cellars and stables (grottinos); the little houses built on top of them currently house restaurants and pubs, and represent the evolution of the ancient roman taverns. Carnival was used to be celebrated here in the Middle Ages, with cruel and brutal games that the Romans enjoyed so much: they set up tauromachias and the popular "ruzzica de li porci" (run with the pigs): pigs were hearded to a cliff-like area, inside carts which would be tossed down the hill. At the bottom, the spectators would be waiting to hunt and collect the pigs. Starting form the 15th century, Paul II ordered that the Carnival be moved to Via Lata and the hill became the final station of the Via Crucis on Good Fridays, thus becoming a proper Mount Golgotha, as the cross standing at the top indicates. Then it became the place to celebrate the Ottobrate (Roman Octobers), typical roman parades where the women working in the vineyards to collect grapes would go to the taverns on carts, for singing, dancing, poetry, games and chatting, to relax after work and most of all to taste the "Castelli Romani" wine, preserved in the hillside cellars.

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