On board the tram 19, you will now experience the contrast between the bourgie and popular districts, following myths and real life
Once you get off the tram you will see a majestic arch, and passing through it, a magic and surreal world will open up before your eyes: it is the Coppedè neighborhood, named after the Italian architect who designed it during the years of the Great War. Over time this adorned building complex has become the bourgie neighborhood par excellence, and its architecture, caught between Liberty and Art Deco, Gothic and Baroque, Greek and Medieval, has no equal anywhere around the world. The theme chosen by Coppedè was ancient Rome: many symbolic references are spread throughout the buildings surrounding Piazza Mincio. Don’t miss a peek at the Villino delle Fate, the Palazzo del Ragno and the Fontana delle Rane. The Beatles took a bath, right in this fountain, with their clothes on after a concert in Rome, after they came out of the nearby infamous Piper club.
This stop is worthy for several reasons: the Verano is the main and monumental cemetery of Rome, and like the one in Milan, houses the graves of illustrious people and many works of sacred art. These include people such as the actors Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi, the poet Trilussa and the politician Palmiro Togliatti. The cemetery grew in size next to one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, the Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, one of the oldest in the city which houses the tombs of the martyr Saint Lawrence and of five popes. The Basilica was damaged and then rebuilt after an Allied bombing in 1943. The namesake neighborhood next to the Basilica is the historical heart of part of the Roman working class and the university students. In fact, here there is one of the oldest university in the world, La Sapienza of Rome, founded in 1303 by pope Boniface VIII. From this spot the people on board the tram change, from suit, tie and briefcases to colored sweaters and bags.
Piazza di Porta Maggiore
This ancient large gate is going to impress you, built with white travertine by the emperor Claudius in 52 AD. Porta Maggiore was located in the place where eight aqueducts of ancient Rome converged, supplying water to the city. Two of them can be seen through this monumental gate, which was later included in the Aurelian walls. Near the gate there are some amazing archaeological remains: an underground accidentally-discovered (in 1917) basilica, and the tomb of Eurysaces the baker (yes, probably an enriched freed-slave who made the best bread in ancient Rome!) with its trapezoidal structure looking like containers in which the flour was mixed. The mystical basilica was probably the meeting place of the neo-Pythagoreans. Town legend says it is haunted! You can only visit it by appointment. Within easy reach there is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, housing some relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Not far from there, in Via Principe Eugenio, lies one of the oldest and elegant gelaterias in Italy, established in 1880 by the Fassi family.
Tram 19 leads us along the ancient Roman road Via Prenestina, which connected Rome with the city of Praeneste, later called Palestrina. The 19 is now heading towards the periphery and you will get into a multiethnic spirit on board, due to many migrant workers populating this side of the Italian capital city. Get off at the Palestrina/Olevano Romano stop and on either side of the busy road you will see the beautiful archeological park of Villa Gordiani. This area was the property of the imperial Gordian family in the 3rd century and their majestic villa stood here. The best preserved sights in the park are the round Mausoleum, known as Tor de’ Schiavi, which had to look like a small Pantheon, the ruins of a Paleochristian basilica Constantinian, and the Octagonal Court, a pointy structure that was probably a nymph or a thermal hall.
The other terminal of tram 19 is located in the heart of the Centocelle neighborhood, in the eastern suburbs of Rome. Centocelle, like few other neighborhoods in Rome, will make you feel like you are inside a city inside another city. Indeed, this neighborhood has preserved its features and popular atmosphere over the years, also becoming a multiethnic area: many migrants made it their home and have started a lot of businesses. You must know that Centocelle holds a record: it had the first airport opened in Italy in April 1909. Wilbur Wright chose this area to show some demonstrations of the “Flyer” airplane created with his brother, launching a flight school. The airport was then intended for military use before it was converted into an archaeological park. Centocelle can also offer tourists great restaurants and — in the daytime — two local markets with delicious, cheap food, in Viale della Primavera and Piazza delle Iris.
Our journey on board the tram 19 ends here. We went through a variety of worlds within the same city, through stories, myths and real life, often unknown for the tourism “touch and go”. This tram is part of Rome and a part of Rome can be seen by simply boarding the tram!