Gianicolo Hill is one of the sights that every John Cabot University student has heard of, and probably regularly visited. With the Gianicolo Residence directly below the majestic hill, and both the Guarini and Tiber campuses a short walk away, this panoramic landmark is a staple of the Trastevere area and even acts as a sort of backdrop to the JCU “campus.” I’m sure most JCU students have warm sentiments about the hill, and may have even shared wonderful memories atop of it – but there may be a lot more to this famous spot than you realized!
Here are seven facts you should know about the Gianicolo Hill:
The Eighth Hill of Rome
When most people think of Rome, they remember that it is the “city of seven hills.” It makes sense that Gianicolo Hill – or the Janiculum – would be one of those seven, right? Actually, the seven hills refer only to the ones within the walls of the ancient city, to the east of the Tiber river. Gianicolo is located west of the Tiber, meaning that it lies outside the ancient walls and is not counted among the famous seven.
Ancient God Janus
The Latin name for the beloved hill is the Ianiculum. The name derived from Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted with two faces because he looks into the future and the past simultaneously. According to Roman mythology, the Gianicolo was a center for the cult of Janus because of its viewpoint over the entire city, a perfect spot for augurs to make predictions based on the flight of birds.
Open Air Theater
The beautiful panoramic view is not the only attraction that inspires tourists to climb up the Gianicolo. There is also an open-air theater that is perfect for families with children. The Teatrino di Pulcinella al Gianicolo puts on kid-friendly puppet shows that have become a tradition for Roman families. The theater has been open since 1959.
Cannon at Noon
This particular fact is probably one that every John Cabot student–especially those residing in the Gianicolo Residence–knows by now. Every day at precisely 12:00 noon, a cannon fires–a tradition since 1847. Pope Pius IX wanted to impose a standard on the church bells of Rome because until then, they all sounded at slightly different times, often creating confusion. Although the cannon was not always located on Gianicolo Hill, it moved there in 1904 and has remained there ever since. The tradition of firing the cannon (it fires blanks, by the way!) was only interrupted a few times due to war. The cannon can be heard throughout the surrounding area and if it is a quiet day, can reach as far as Piazza Navona and the Esquilino Hill.
The Battle of Gianicolo
The Gianicolo Hill was the site of an important battle in 1849, during the Siege of Rome. Garibaldi and his forces defended the Roman Republic against the French, who wished to reinstate papal authority over the city. The battle is commemorated with a monument to Garibaldi on horseback on the Gianicolo Hill.
La Grande Bellezza
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty, in English) is a 2013 film directed by Paolo Sorrentino, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film that year. The film is dramatic and chaotic, yet beautiful, and depicts the Rome that many of us have come to know. The opening scene is set on the Gianicolo Hill, first with the firing of the cannon, then at the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, the enormous fountain partway up the Gianicolo Hill that every JCU student will recognize.
Statues and Monuments
Besides the equestrian statue of Garibaldi with its inscription “Roma o Morte” (“Rome or Death”), there are a total of 84 marble busts located on the hill. These busts were commissioned to commemorate Italian patriots and foreigners who fought for the unification of Italy, as well as other historically significant Italians.
Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria