The Pincio, with its panoramic terrace overlooking Piazza del Popolo, was laid out as a park by the Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839) between 1809-14.
Dotted about the park, with its broad, tree-lined avenues, are numerous busts of famous Italians. I should say famous Italian men, for only 3 of the 228 busts depict famous Italian women, namely St Catherine of Siena, Vittoria Colonna (16th century Roman poet and noblewoman) and Grazia Deledda (winner of the Noble prize for literature in 1926).
The Viale dell' Obelisco is named after the obelisk, which was placed here in 1822, at the behest of Pope Pius VII (r. 1800-23). The obelisk may have been erected by the emperor Hadrian (r. 117-38) on the tomb of his young lover Antinous, who drowned in the Nile in 130, aged only nineteen.
The gardens are home to a hydrochronometer, one of only two water-clocks in Rome. It was created in 1873, based on a design by Fra Giovan Battista Embriaco, O.P. (1829-1903).
The Pincio soon became the most fashionable place for the Roman passeggiata (a leisurely walk or stroll), with people coming to admire the views from the terrace and to hear the band play. Many arrived in carriages. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) wrote: 'Here, in the sunny afternoon roll and rumble all kinds of carriages, from the cardinal's old-fashioned and gorgeous purple carriage to the gay barouche of modern date.'
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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