Piazza di Termini: A Timeline of Urban Development: Until a century ago, the vast public space in Rome that was enclosed on two sides by the ancient Baths (Terme) of Diocletian was known as the "Piazza di Termini," a toponym derived from the massive Roman ruins. Today, this single name has been replaced by a series of commemorative place names: Piazza dei Cinquecento, Piazza della Repubblica, Viale L. Einaudi, Viale E. De Nicola, Via V. E. Orlando, Via delle Terme di Diocleziano, Largo di Villa Peretti, etc. Together, all these names record the long history of events, architectural programs, and development projects that successively converged upon and transformed this area of Rome.

298-305: The emperor Diocletian constructed the monumental bath complex that bears his name -- the largest in antiquity, capacity 3000 -- in part over earlier structures. Particularly striking was the great semicircular exedra on the west side of the enclosure wall. This hemicycle served as a place for recreational sport and exercise. Its remains, surrounded by gardens, were still visible until the end of the 19th century.

1561-66: Pope Pius IV, at the behest of Father Antonio del Duca, restored the central section of the Baths, the ancient tepidarium, and transformed it into the Church of S. Maria degli Angeli. The project, originally conceived by Michelangelo, was carried out with the assistance of Jacoppo del Duca, nephew of the priest, and therefore became the foremost example of "Michelangelism" in Roman architecture of the late 16th century.

1576-88: The architect Domenico Fontana erected the magnificent villa that became the prototype for the famous villas of Baroque Rome for Cardinal Felice Peretti di Montalto. The first phase (1576-80) was enlarged after Peretti became Pope Sixtus V (1585); the four streets that were opened by this pope in 1585-86 set its final dimensions. The villa contained two residential buildings, the Palazzo Sistino or "di Termini" and the Palazzetto Montalto e Felice.   [For more on the Palazzo and its successor, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, see http://www.mmdtkw.org/VMassimoTerme.html]

1860-64: The decision to build the central pontifical railroad station in the area of the Villa Peretti Montalto (subsequently owned by Negroni and, finally, Massimo) marked the beginning of its destruction. The station was constructed between 1869 and 1874 based on 1867plans by Salvatore Bianchi.

1864-70: Monsignor Francesco Saverio de Merode, defense minister of Pope Pius IX, acquired the Villa Strozzi (in the area of the present Teatro dell'Opera) and initiated urban development in the adjacent area. This project created a new axis between Termini and the residential center. This thoroughfare was imposed upon-and interrupted-the axis of the exedra of the Baths and the facade of S. Maria degli Angeli (the Via Nuova Pia, today the Via Nazionale), and included three transverse arteries (the modern Via Torino, Via Firenze, and Via Napoli) and one parallel street (the Via Modena). The project was taken over by the Comune and completed in 1871 with the creation of the first "quarter" of "Third Rome".

1872: The Comune di Roma (City Hall) approved a proposed architectural complex for the Piazza dell'Esedra, which had assumed the role of official entrance to the city, via the Via Nazionale, for tourists and illustrious visitors who arrived in Rome by train. Many years elapsed, however, before this plan was put into effect.

1878: For the return to Rome of the new sovereigns Umberto and Margherita (November 24), a temporary scenographic backdrop, designed by Settimio Giampietri, was erected at the exedra. It created a concave "theater," which followed the lines of the imperial structure

1880-81: In the first competition for a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the location of which was not specified, many submissions, including the winning design by the French architect Henri-Paul Nenot, expressed a quite opportune preference for the area of the exedra. In the second competition (1882), however, the site chosen was between the Piazza di Venezia and the Capitoline, at the end of the Corso.

1883-87: The Jesuit Massimiliano Massimo, a member of the last family to own the Villa Peretti, erected a building designed by the architect Camillo Pistrucci to house the college named after him and to replace the Palazzo "di Termini," which was subsequently demolished

1885: The Giunta Comunale debated appropriating for public use the private area adjacent to the exedra and sponsoring a competition to select an architectural plan appropriate to the importance of the place. The Comune and the property owners agreed on designs of Gaetano Koch, one of the premier exponents of Roman eclecticism at the end of the 19th century. This design balanced the demand for monumentality with the profit motive. Koch proposed two porticoed "palazzi," which would be used for commercial, residential, and official purposes. At the end of the year, an agreement between the Comune and the private property owners was drawn up: the Comune was responsible for the systematization of the public spaces, the pavement of the porticoes, and construction of the stairs and streetlights.

1886: Construction of the Koch edifices began in a block of the south sector. According to the agreement, it was to be completed in four years. But due to the great crisis of 1887, which paralyzed construction activity in Rome for a decade, realization took much longer.

1887:  An obelisk of rare red granite, newly excavated from the site of the Temple of Isis near the Pantheon, was raised in front of the railroad station on June 5 in memory of the "500", a column of Italian troops almost completely wiped out in the Dogali Hills in Ethiopia in January of the same year.  The name of the part of the Piazza in front of the station was changed to Piazza Cinquecento (=500).  (In 1927, when the station was rebuilt, the obelisk was moved to its present location across from Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.)  [See http://www.mmdtkw.org/VCinquecento.html for more on the Dogali monument.]

1888: The new "mostra" (fountain) for the Aqua Marcia, designed by Alessandro Guerriri, was dedicated in the center of the exedra.   [See more below and at http://www.mmdtkw.org/VFrittoMisto.html.]   The Palazzo "di Termini" and the ex-Villa Peretti were demolished. When the German Kaiser Wilhelm II arrived in Rome (October 11), the first block of the south sector of the exedra had risen to the penultimate story; it was completed in the 1890s.

1889: The Museo Nazionale Romano, the archaeological collection of "Third Rome," was inaugurated in the great galleries of the Baths of Diocletian next to S. Maria degli Angeli and in the rooms of the ex-Certosa.

1896: The wedding of the Prince of Naples (the future Vittorio Emanuele III) and Elena Petrovich of Montenegro (October 24) was held in the Church of S. Maria degli Angeli. The northern sector of the exedra was still undeveloped.

1897: An agreement to construct the "north quarter" of the exedra was struck between the Comune and the Banca d'Italia, the Banca Tiberiana, and the Compagnia Fondiara Italiana; the project was to be completed by 1903.

1900: On August 9 the funeral of Umberto I, who had been assassinated at Monza on July 29, was held in Rome. The half of the north building of the exedra that faces the Via Nazionale was under construction.

1900-1901: During the last phase of the construction of the Koch buildings, in the area of the north block, numerous fragments of sculpture that belonged to an unknown monument of the Flavian period were discovered and clandestinely sold on the art market. The fragments were reunited more than 90 years later. (See the Flavian link below.)

1901: The unveiling on February 10 of the "Naiads" of Mario Rutelli, a controversial new sculptural decoration for the fountain of the Aqua Marcia, touched off a public furor.   [For more on the fountain, see http://www.mmdtkw.org/VFrittoMisto.html.]     (Rutelli also did the Anita Garibaldi statue on the Janiculim hill and was the grandfather of Francesco Rutelli, the former Mayor of Rome and the unsuccessful candidate for President in 2001.) The construction of the first half of the north building was almost complete, while the section facing the Grand Hotel was just underway.

1960: The "Massimiliano Massimo" College was transferred to a new home in EUR. Its former home in the Baths of Diocletian then suffered a long period of abandonment, during which the roof of one wing of the courtyard collapsed (1975).

1981: The State acquired the Palazzo Massimo at the Baths (alle Terme) and designated it part of the Museo Nazionale Romano. Its prolonged reconstruction started in 1983 and was finished in 1992. (Installation of exhibits took six more years.)

1988: The north building of the exedra received a complete cleaning and successful "facelift." Its southern "twin" is still in need of analogous and identical conservation.

1991: The rotunda of the Baths of Diocletian, known as the "Sala della Minerva," had, since 1928, served successively as a planetarium and a cinematography studio. After a challenging campaign of restoration, it was refitted as a gallery for Museo Nazionale

Romano sculptures found in the Baths and reopened to the public.

1998: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme opens, after 15 years of restoration and preparation, as the seat of the Roman National Museum.

1998: Renovation and cleaning of the two Koch buildings and the fountain Piazza della Republica begins. Fountain unveiled in 1999. Exterior cleaning of Koch exedra buildings completed in 2000. Renovation of the interior of the southern building is still in progress in 2001.

Internet links:

This and linked pages is the source of most of what appears above: http://www.umich.edu/~kelseydb/Exhibits/Empire/views/v17b.html

The Flavian artifacts reunited and exhibited: http://www.umich.edu/~kelseydb/Exhibits/Empire/

From Romeartlover:
Piazza Termini -- http://www.romeartlover.it/Vasi35.htm and,
Casino della Villa Peretti -- http://www.romeartlover.it/Vasi194.htm

Baths of Diocletian:
An earlier piece by me -- http://www.mmdtkw.org/GARBathsDioc.html and,
The Platner and Ashby Topo Dictionary entry -- http://www.ukans.edu/history/index/europe/ancient_rome/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/.Texts/PLATOP*/Thermae_Diocletiani.html