Tomorrow is the national holiday designating the birth of the Republic of Italy and commemorating 150 years of Italy as a united nation. This event marks the bringing together of separate territories of Italy which were at war politically and militarily, and eventually in 1870 ended rule by the papacy.
Some Italians could care less, but today I spoke with one who was very excited about it. He is the butcher I often go to in Monti on Via Panisperna, named Piero Sechiotti, who is a ’prodi Monticiani’ or a proud resident of the neighborhood of Monti. I asked him what he was going to do for the holiday and he said he is holding a party at the piazza of the neighborhood, Madonna dei Monti. He talked about growing up in the neighborhood and how his family has lived there since 1705, when they were servants of the Borgia family which had a nearby palace.
He also spoke of growing up in Monti, and what he and his friends did when they were kids. He was proud to declare that he grew up exactly where Julius Caesar lived and that he spent his childhood exploring the subterranean caverns underneath the streets and buildings of the quarter. He had true fear in his eyes when he told me of the two friends when he was a kid, 14 year olds, who disappeared in the caverns and never returned again. Lost in some sort of underworld even though they were sought by all the neighborhood.
Possibly a sculpture of the young Julius Caesar
The bodies of his friends were never found, but the quarter has yielded many amazing finds. He told me that Veltroni had a whole underground area in our neighborhood cleaned up and opened up to the public during a special event, and said that I cannot possibly imagine the miles of corridors and passageways under neath the city.
He also spoke of the fact that his father hid arms in those caverns from the Nazis, and that before that during the risorgimento his family fought for the unification of Italy and arms were hidden there as well. He said his father was saved from execution because the Nazis could not find the hidden cache of arms they knew he controlled, because it was so well hidden below the city, that only the residents of Monti knew about. He also spoke of the giant rats and wells filled with underground passageways of water, where he suspected his friends disappeared through. The local people of Monti are filled with so many interesting stories and the neighborhood full of many layers of history. The celebrations tomorrow mark just one of those layers and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
Piazza Madonna dei Monti and the Gruppo Storico Romano teaching about ancient Roman warfare
Via Leonina where my butcher grew up
Our courtyard with an ancient sarcophagus and other ‘spoglie’ found on site at one time or another
The Monti neighborhood lies behind the great fire wall which was the border between the living quarters and the Imperial Forum
An Imperial era butcher who would perform the sacrificial killings of animals from the Ara Pacis