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A Rione (pl. Rioni) is a traditional administrative division of the city of Rome. The term was born in Rome, originating from the administrative divisions of the city.
Rione is an Italian term used since the 14th Century to name a district of a town. Currently, all the Rioni are located in Municipio I of Rome.
According to tradition, Servius Tullius, 6th King of Rome, originally divided the city into 4 Regiones. During administrative reorganization after the Roman Republic collapsed, the original Emperor Augustus created the 14 Regiones of Rome that were to remain in effect throughout the Roman Empire.
The regions were Porta Capena, Caelimontium, Isis et Serapis, Templum Pacis, Esquiliae, Alta Semita, Via Lata, Forum Romanum, Circus Flaminius, Palatium, Circus Maximus, Piscina Publica, Aventinus, and Transtiberim.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the decline of Rome, the population decreased and the division into Regiones was lost. During the 12th Century a division in 12 parts started being used, though not officially, but simply by the common use of the people.
Even if the areas were different from the ancient ones, they still used the same name Regio in Latin and Rione in the vulgar language.
The limits of the Rioni became more definitive and official in the 13th Century. Their number increased to 13 and it remained the same until the 16th Century.
In this period the limits were quite uncertain and the Rione was not a political entity, but only an administrative one. The Chief of a Rione was the Caporione.
During the Renaissance there was a deep reorganization and expansion of the city. Due to this, it became necessary to delimit the Rioni exactly.
In 1586 Sixtus V added to the 13 Rioni another one: Borgo, which before had been administered separately from the city. This situation, thanks to the low population increase, did not change until the 19th Century.
In 1744 Pope Benedict XIV, because of frequent misunderstanding, decided to replan the administrative division of Rome, giving the responsibility of it to Count Bernardini. The marble plates defining the borders of each Rione, many of which still exist, were installed in that year on the facades of houses lying at each Rione‘s border.
In 1798, during the 18th Century Roman Republic, there was a rationalization of the administrative division of the city creating 12 Rioni (with the modern Rione in parentheses): Terme (part of Monti); Suburra (part of Monti); Quirinale (Trevi); Pincio (Colonna); Marte (Campo Marzio); Bruto (Ponte); Pompeo (Regola and Parione); Flaminio (Sant’Eustachio); Pantheon (Pigna and Sant’Angelo); Campidoglio (Campitelli e Ripa); Gianicolo (Trastevere); and Vaticano (Borgo).
Soon after, during the domination of Napoleon, Rome was split up in 8 parts. Now called Giustizie (meaning “justices” in Italian) there were: Monti; Trevi; Colonna e Campo Marzio; Ponte e Borgo; Parione e Regola; Sant’Eustachio e Pigna; Campitelli, Sant’Angelo e Ripa; and Trastevere.
So the smaller Rioni were united to the large ones. At this time the French affixed in each street a plate with its name and the areas it belonged to.
After Napoleon lost his power there were no significant changes in the organization of the city until Rome became the capital of the newborn Italy. The needs of the new capital caused a great urbanization and an increase of the population, both within the Aurelian Walls and outside them.
In 1874 the Rioni became 15, with the addition of Esquilino, created by taking a portion from Monti. At the beginning of the 20th Century some Rioni started being split up and the first parts outside the Aurelian Walls started being considered part of the city.
The latest reform, which is still mostly valid, was made in 1972: Rome was divided into 20 Circoscrizioni (later renamed Municipi, one of which became later the independent municipality of Fiumicino) and 20 Rioni (which together form the Centro Storico) constituted the first one, Municipio I.
The complete list of the modern Rioni, in order of number, is the following: 1 – Monti, with the Hills of Quirinal and Viminal; 2 – Trevi; 3 – Colonna; 4 – Campo Marzio; 5 – Ponte; 6 – Parione; 7 – Regola; 8 – Sant’Eustachio; 9 – Pigna; 10 – Campitelli, with the Hills of Capitol and Palatine; 11 – Sant’Angelo; 12 – Ripa, with the Hill of Aventine; 13 – Trastevere, with the so-called “8th Roman Hill” of the Gianicolo; 14 – Borgo, bordering Vatican City; 15 – Esquilino; 16 – Ludovisi; 17 – Sallustiano; 18 – Castro Pretorio; 19 – Celio; 20 – Testaccio; 21 – San Saba; and 22 – Prati.
We hope you enjoyed today’s journey through Rome’s Administrative Districts throughout the years. Thanks for stopping by today and hope to see you back soon.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Castagnoli, Ferdinando; Cecchelli, Carlo; Giovannoni, Gustavo; Zocca, Mario. Topografia e urbanistica di Roma (in Italian). Bologna: Cappelli, 1958.
“Rione”. il Sabatini Coletti. Dizionario della Lingua Italiana. corriere.it.