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A Roman temple & Al Vicolo: a story of layers

Published on February 23, 2019 by C. P.

Roman Temple Vicolo Orbitelli Rome

That Rome is a city built in layers is a fact known to everyone, whether they’ve never visited or they’re seasoned travelers who have experienced the Capitale throughout different stays.

A few areas of the city show this peculiarity in a very obvious way – walk on Via delle Botteghe Oscure, by the Crypta Balbi, and you’ll just be reminded of how much by taking a peek through the windows of the museum by the same name. Peek out of a bus window by Largo di Torre Argentina and you’ll marvel at how you’re standing directly above the Republican-era alleys and temples. Other areas sometimes take a bit more work to reveal themselves: there’s a hint in the name of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (as in, the church!): just follow it! Alternatively, no one would guess what lies beneath Basilica di San Clemente were it not for some extensive word of mouth!

Layers are hardly visible in our daily lives as locals: it’s strange to admit that most Romans get used to them. Not us!

When you visit, be it your first, fourth or fifteenth visit, do yourself a favor: ask questions! Why is the apartment you’re staying at built there? Or, what was it used for? At From Home to Rome we’re proud to offer you accommodations that come with a baggage of trivia and stories, and we’ll be happy to share them with you!

The story of Al Vicolo

For instance… did you know that our managed Al Vicolo apartment, right on Vicolo Orbitelli, is built by using the same stones as a long-lost Roman temple?

Visitors choosing this accommodation might miss two wide slabs of Roman travertino used as cornerstones right at the end of the block which hosts this 1-bedroom, remodeled flat. Their inscriptions, upside down to the passerby, are in Greek and Latin and what’s more surprising is that they do not belong in the area.

Vicolo Orbitelli rental apartment From Home to Rome

Bricklayers working on the original mansion, a one-time property of the noble Orbitelli family, went as far as the Capitoline Hill to retrieve them.

It was a common occurrence – throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque era, Roman ruins were repurposed as building materials. The Colosseum itself has been used again and again as a quarry of sorts. At Vicolo Orbitelli, instead, anonymous workers used a part of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the most important shrine on the Capitolium. Sad but true – unfortunately we only have developed a sensibility towards ancient history in more recent times!

Today, remains of the temple are visible when you visit the Capitoline Museums, its stones used to build all the buildings in the square on top of the hill. While it’s not surprising that stones and columns were used elsewhere, it’s surprising to find remains so far away from the original site – back then, it must not have been easy to transport this all the way towards the river! When you watch the inscriptions, reading them is particularly hard, but know that it was a praise to Jupiter by some traders from Asia Minor who were thankful to the powerful god for having survived the crossing of the Mediterranean sea.

If you look around the apartment, there are more and more stories to be told – from Borromini’s old house to the fate of one partisan executed by the Nazis… ask us about it all, or book a Premium Check-In, a service offered by our partners at Joy of Rome.

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