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Borgo Pio: a vibrant district on the outskirts bordering the “foreign” areas

Established by Pope Sixtus V, Borgo Pio became the 14th district of Rome, once part of ancient Rome’s 14th Regio Transtiberim, known as Ager Vaticanus.

In the vicinity of the Vatican City, one can experience an international Roman atmosphere.

The main street, also named Borgo Pio, connects Via di Porta Castello to Via di Porta Angelica. Adjacent to the Vatican, it maintains a historical umbilical cord, primarily characterized by various artisan shops that have served the popes over the centuries.

Not to mention the religious from all orders passing through, along with streams of pilgrims visiting their ultimate spiritual reference. Faith and commerce blend in a unique atmosphere among souvenir shops of the Holy Church and taverns, now modernized into various forms of dining.

Every area of Rome has its original traits; here, life stages an ancient story daily, despite millennia passing by.

Misery and Splendor in the Shadow of the Vatican

The mentioned Ager Vaticanus, located beyond the Pomerium, the boundary of Ancient Rome, served as the city’s burial ground due to its location outside the walls. However, the martyrdom of Saint Peter at the foot of the Vatican Hill in 67 AD turned it into a pilgrimage site for early Christians.

During the imperial era, the area flourished with villas, gardens, leisure spots, and bridges over the Tiber, such as the Pons Aelius (now Ponte Sant’Angelo). Although during the Middle Ages, many bridges fell into ruin, and Borgo Pio fell prey to barbarians.

In 852, Pope Leo IV erected new walls, establishing the “Leonine City,” which thrived in splendor and wealth. In 1936, the fascist regime demolished the buildings of the “Borgo Spina, revealing the grandeur of St. Peter’s suddenly.

The charm of surprise for passersby transitioning from a maze of streets to the vast square with the colonnade was forever destroyed. Since then, large white office buildings line the current Via della Conciliazione.

Great history is made of events, everyday history is made of people

If ‘getting lost in Rome’ is the best way to experience the city, then getting lost in Borgo Pio is like discovering a unique kaleidoscope filled with faces. Of course, gone are the executioners who once resided here during the temporal power of the Church. Gone are the street courtesans who, thanks to legal loopholes, could ply their trade nearby.

Gone are the barbarians who sacked Rome; perhaps their distant descendants wander here now, even in winter wearing Bermuda shorts

Yet, what remains are the religious, representing all faiths beyond just the Holy Roman Church, the innkeepers (under different names, of course), and street musicians. There are tourists lined up behind guides, clutching their little flags to follow.

The rich, the poor, Westerners, Easterners, Swiss Guards, plainclothes police officers, and street vendors populate the scene. And then, there’s the Pope, present in people’s conversations, in storefront photos, and in the chalk drawings of street artists on the ground.

After the Unification of Italy, Borgo Pio became Italian; however, deep down, it has never fully embraced that bureaucratic boundary.

With the Blog of Rome and Latium Region Around Rome guides you to discover places and territories for the pleasure of satisfying curiosity and putting culture at the service of people and businesses.

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Edited by il NETWORK | text Andrea Franchini | photo  Ezio Bocci

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