Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prati: The Other Rome

Prati map wiki (in Italian)

Prati is a modern district built outside the Aurelian walls on the right side of the Tiber surrounding Castel Sant’Angelo. It is the 22nd Rione of the city of Rome which was incorporated into the city of Rome in the 20th century. Prati differs from the other Rioni of Rome by its architecture and Urban layout. But more importantly, it is symbolic of a turning point in the history of Rome.

Image: Location of Prati in the city of Rome (link to original page)

Significance of Prati to the City of Rome Back to Top
In the 20th century, the expansion of Rome as a city called for the development of new areas. At that time, the political situation in Rome was unstable: the power was shifting from the church to the state. The political tensions created as a result of this shift became reflected in the culture of Rome. And because the architecture of the city was so closely linked to the political and cultural context, it too became reflective of this shift.

As a new district emerging at that point in history, Prati became symbolic of the new government. In its architecture and urban layout, this Rione is the anti-thesis of the catholic state and bears witness to the dwindling power of the church. Prati’s importance is in that it is symbolic of the development of the city into a modern, 20th century metropolis, a new Rome independent of the religious state.

History of Prati Back to Top

  • 1870: cardinal Francesco Saverio de Merode in partnership with some businessmen buys real estate around Castel Sant’Angelo
  • February 3 1871: Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy
  • 1871 – 1872: Displacement of the court, parliament and the accompanying administration to a new location.
  • 1873: the proposal for the construction of a new bridge which would create a direct link between Prati and the center of Rome pressures the Municipality to include Prati in the city plan
  • 1882: the government commissions the construction of barracks, the Palazzo di Giustizia and the creation of a piazza d'Armi
  • 1886-1891: the cardinal and his partners build Ponte Regina Margherita to create easy access from Prati to the center of Rome
  • 1888: Major construction begins in the Rione of Prati
  • 1888-1911: Construction of the Palazzo di Giustizia
  • August 20 1921: Prati is officially named the 22nd Rione of Rome
  • 1929: Signing of the Lateran Treaty puts an end to the battle between church and state

Prati in 1870 and Prati after its development (link)

Architecture of Prati Top

The construction of the Prati district ended in the first half of the 20th century. The most important modification to the architecture of the time was the disappearance of the monument in favor of many monumental buildings. The loss of architectural hierarchy achieved through the unification of scales speaks at one scale to the split between the church and Kingdom of Italy.

Eclecticism, that is to say the combination of different styles, is highly present in the architecture of Prati. Although the Rione is mostly known for its large and elegant palazzi in the Umbertine and Art Nouveau styles, buildings in different styles also appear on the streets of Prati. Among other architectural styles, two buildings designed in the Gothic and Florentine style line the streets of the Rione. These are embodied respectively in the façade of the church of the Sacro Cuore del Suffragio and of the Palazzo Odescalchi.

Palazzo Odescalchi and Sacro Cuore del Suffragio (link)

The Palazzo di Giustizia is another example of the diverse architecture of Prati. This monumental building designed by Guglielmo Calderini had the ambition of competing with the monuments of the past. Its design embodies an assemblage of elements from the Renaissance and Neoclassicism styles with Baroque decoration and statues along its façade.

Palazzo di Giustizia (link)

In the second part of the 20th century, newer and more modern buildings were built in Prati at the expense of pre-existing structures. Some earlier buildings were destroyed while others suffered as a result of expansions and increased heights.

Urban Layout Top

The district was designed on the master plan of the “European city”; a “modern” design that included boulevards and large piazze. In the spirit of a modern design, it was also decided that from no point in the district would the dome of St Peters be visible to the pedestrian.

But the desire to build a modern district was not the only reason for the disregard for the basilica of St Peters. Whilst developing Prati, a conflict emerged between the Italian ruling class and the Pope. As a consequence, Prati was designed as a symbolic counter to the religious state and was laid out with its back to the symbol of the catholic government of Rome. Translated urbanistically, this meant that from inside the Rione itself, the street layout would not allow for a view of the dome of St Peters in the background.

In a further attempt to turn its back to the religious state, Prati’s urban design scheme was designed to follow a regular and unifying grid with wide streets as opposed to the narrow and winding streets of the old Rome. This grid also symbolized the disappearance of the monument by prohibiting emphasis of one building over another by way of a centralized layout. The double advantage of these wide streets was that it allowed for strategical military operations (conquests and defense of Rome) put in place by the new regime.

Urban layout of Prati

In an effort to re-emphasize the political position of the new state against the church, the street names in Prati also differ from the ones in old Rome. In contrast to the streets across the Tiber, many streets in Prati were named after the “heroes” who fought in Italy against the power of the pope. Other streets in the district were named after historical figures of Republican and Imperial Rome, Latin and Pagan leaders and writers of the classical era, and after the heroes of the Risorgimento, to whom was dedicated to the main square of the Rione.

The main street of the neighborhood was dedicated in 1911 to a Roman senator named Nicola Gabrini son of Lorenzo, also known as Cola di Rienzo. He was a Roman nobleman who in the 14th century, attempted to restore the republic in Rome to replace the papal power.

Modern Day Prati Top
Today, Prati is one of the more elegant districts of Rome with many shops, restaurants and hotels. Its proximity to the Vatican has made it an ideal tourist destination.

According to a suffrage taken in 2001 the district remains a highly residential area with a population density of 11,566.58 people per square kilometer1. The study also showed that about 86% of the population living in the district was comprised of adults with approximately 60% of the population living and working in the area. For that reason, Prati developed as an area with many law firms, offices, banks and retail stores.

Piazza Risorgimento (link)

Key Sights in Prati Top

Palazzo de la Giustizia

Piazza Cavour

Piazza Cola di Rienzo – wiki link (Italian)

Piazza dei Quiriti

Sacro Cuore del Suffragio

Teatro Adriano

Click on any image to go to the original page.

Sources Top

"Prati (rione di Roma)." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2009. Web.10 May 2009. <>.

"Rioni dei Prati." Roma Segreta. 11 May 2009. 12 May 2009 < >.

"A New Rione." Rome Art Lover. 12 May 2009 <>.

Martino, Domenico. "Il Rione Prati a Roma: Un disegno urbanistico volto a sbeffeggiare il Papa." Europa Oggi. 15/12/2008. 12 May 2009 <>.

Allan Ceen and Jim Tice. "Rioni: The Districts of Rome." 25/09/2006. University of Oregon. 11 May 2009 <>.

Pendall, Rolf . Analysis of the 2001 Italian Sensus (Lecture)

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