Gianicolo Hill Facts & Legends

Located right above the borough of Trastevere, on the west-side of Tiber River, the Gianicolo Hill, which is sometimes refer to as Janiculum Hill, overlooks the city of Rome offering one of the most terrific views over the Eternal City. Starting from via Garibaldi you can reach the top of the Hill with a 20-minute walk across the Passeggiata del Gianicolo and reach the “Belvedere”, an impressive terrace located in Piazzale Garibaldi. It’s worth the climb!

Gianicolo Hill in Rome Overlooking Rome
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder
Location: in Trastevere Area
Tickets: Not Needed
Accessibility: Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

A gate to the outside world

According to legend, occupation of Gianicolo Hill began under the reign of King Anco Marcio who regarded it as a point of strategic importance for the protection of the city. The hill represented the natural bridgehead on the right bank of the Tiber.

The hill was then consecrated to God Giano, hence its name. Legend has it that Giano had built his city atop the hill and built as many altars as the months of the year.
According to Roman religion, Giano, the two-faced god of beginnings, transitions and ends, as well as the god of doorways, reigned over every passage (indeed Giano comes from the Latin word ianus, which means doorway in English). The Gianicolo Hill symbolically served as the gateway from the city of Rome to the outside world.

The Secret Door

Legends from the Middle Ages have it that under the Gianicolo there was a metal door which automatically opened every time a Roman province rebelled against the Empire. As soon as the Romans saw the door open they rushed to the Pantheon, where statues representing each province were located. The statue that was turned indicated which province has rebelled. Thus, Romans knew immediately where to send their Legions.

Statue of Garibaldi: Hero of Two Worlds

Garibaldi Statue on the Gianicolo Hill in Rome
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

The square at the top of the Gianicolo features an impressive statue dedicated to Garibaldi, designed by Emilio Gallori, in memory of the resistance against the French invasion of 1849. Garibaldi and his troops hold out against their enemies for weeks, before being defeated by the French army. The imposing equestrian statue, which has been referred by the title “the Hero of the Two Worlds”, is located at the highest point of the hill.

At the bottom of the statue you can read the following inscription:
“Roma, o morte”
“Rome or death”

Garibaldi Statue on the Gianicolo Hill in Rome
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

Not far from Garibaldi Square, there’s another Equestrian Statue dedicated to Anita, Garibaldi’s wife, depicted riding a horse, holding a pistol with one hand and her newborn son with the other.

The Canon of Gianicolo

According to tradition, midday is announced every day by a canon shot fired from the Terrace of the Gianicolo. This tradition goes back to the time of Pope Pius XI, and more specifically to 1st December 1847, in order to avoid the chaos provoked by the many clocks in the city signing different times. Today, we can still hear the cannon shooting blank at noon.