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Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II Has Mystic Treasures And Movies

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the largest porticoed square in Rome built after the unification of Italy and a true hidden gem that even offers mystical doors.


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - Basketball Hoop

Half Court Basketball Hoop


During the excavations that were carried out for the construction of the square, large burial pits were found with the so-called “common field” or “villainous” because it was the burial site of slaves, criminals and murderers. 


The Less Famous Piazza In Rome

The square was created by the architect Gaetano Koch and it is named after the first king of Italy, which you can ready more about in a previous article: “Does Italy Have A King?”. The buildings that surround it, with the 280 columns of the arcades or porticoes, were built as luxury residences with the apartments being as large as palaces. The main feature at the center of this piazza are the Nicola Calipari Gardens.

The Nicola Calipari Gardens

The Nicola Calipari Gardens were a masterpiece of landscape architecture with a ring of tall plane trees, cedars of Lebanon, magnolias and palm trees coming directly from Bordighera, a coastal town near the border of France. They were a gift from Queen Margherita and they contributed to making the place a beautiful hidden gem of greenery in Rome. 

Recovering This Rome Square

After decades of decay and neglect, the park has regained the beauty worthy of its history with a restoration project completed in 2020. Thanks to this effort, they were able to preserve the exotic character of the gardens, with its numerous varieties from many different countries of the world, by planting another 42 trees, 17 palms, 450 decorative plants and 250 flowering shrubs. The rose garden was also rearranged and the irrigation system put back into operation.


On November 30, 2020, the Nicola Calipari Gardens were reopened to the public. Today two new play areas have been created for children, an equipped and safe dog area, play areas for playing table tennis, chess, foosball, basketball and soccer (calcio).


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - Mixed Fry Fountain

Mixed Fry Fountain


The Gardens In Piazza Vittorio

In the center of the Nicola Calipari Gardens is a fountain containing a marine group of a dolphin, three tritons and a large octopus that was made around 1910 by the Sicilian sculptor Mario Rutelli. It was originally intended for the Piazza della Repubblica (a.k.a. Piazza Esedra), but it was little appreciated by the citizens, who immediately ironically renamed them the “mixed fry” (Fritto Misto) and the statues were soon replaced. This rejected fountain was then placed in the gardens of Piazza Vittorio, in the center of a modest pool, not far from the mighty remains of the ancient Acqua Giulia exhibition better known as Mario’s Trophies.

Hidden Treasure Of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele In Rome

Nymphaeum Of Alexander Severus


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - Mario's Trophies

Mario’s Trophies


In a corner of the garden there are the remains of a pre-existing archaeological site and monuments of historical importance. Specifically the Nymphaeum of Alexander Severus, known as the Trophies of Marius, a monumental fountain and water distribution tower. Substantial remains of the brick-faced concrete water fountain, built by Alexander Severus, can be seen in the gardens of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.  The ruins of the fountain maintained the name ‘Mario’s Trophies‘ and today they act as a shelter for one of Rome’s several colonies of stray cats.


Magic Or Alchemic Door

Adjacent to the Nymphaeum of Alexander Severus is the mysterious Alchemic Door, also known at the Magic Portal, from the seventeenth-century Villa Palombara. The door is flanked by two monstrous Roman age figures depicting the Egyptian divinity Bes.


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - The Alchemic Door

The Magic Door in The Garden


The drawings and engravings around the Magic Door include two overlapping triangles with a Latin inscription that copies the titles page from the alchemical book Aureum Saeculum Redivivum from 1621. Around the door are numerous other symbols used in alchemy including:

  • Around the triangles: “The center is in the triangle of the center.” Also: “There are three marvels: God and man, mother and virgin, triune and one.”

  • The Hebrew inscription, Ruach Elohim, means “Spirit of God.” Beneath it: “The Hesperius dragon guards the entrance of the magic garden, and, without Alcides, Jason would not have tasted the delights of Colchis.”

  • Saturn/Lead: “When in your house black crows give birth to white doves, then you will be called wise.”

  • Jupiter/Tin: “The diameter of the sphere, the tau of the circle, the cross of the globe do not benefit the blind.”

  • Mars/Iron: “He who can burn with water and wash with fire, makes heaven from earth and precious earth from heaven.”

  • Venus/Bronze: “If you will make the earth fly upon your head, you will convert the waters of torrents to stone by its feathers.”

  • Mercury: “Azoth and Fire: by whitening Latona, Diana will come without dress.”

  • Antimony: “Our son lives dead, the king returns from the fire, and enjoys the occult conjunction.”

  • On the base, Vitriol: “It is occult work of true wise to open the earth, so as he may germinate health/safety for people.”

The Cinema Nights In Piazza Vittorio


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - The Cinema Nights

The Cinema Nights in Piazza Vittorio


Near the northwest corner of the park, during the summer months the garden turns into a theater with classic and current films, both Italian and international, available with the purchase of a ticket. The Cinema nights in Piazza Vittorio, now in its twenty-first season, includes a rich and varied calendar of shows including:

  • The daily screening of films in the open-air space that can have up to 600 seats

  • National premieres

  • From Monographs to Literary meetings 

  • Many other cultural, sport and entertainment activities.

Other Park Amenities In Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II - Foosball Tables

Foosball (calciobalilla) Tables


The Nicola Calipari Gardens also have some great amenities for residents that truly help to make the city even more livable. When you walk around the park you will see a range of entertainment that includes:

  • A couple half-courts for playing basketball

  • Permanently mounted chess boards in one corner of the park

  • An enclosed area for your dogs that is maintained and stocked with bags

  • Playground equipment for children

  • Foosball (calciobalilla) tables, which are the only ones I’ve yet seen in Italy.

Where Is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II?

Not far from Termini Station is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It is in Esquilino and not far from the market.  If you want to find it on a map, please take a look here:


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If you love discovering hidden gems in Rome like the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and are looking to get off the well beaten path, these are some other posts that might interest you:

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