An Igorot’s Search for the Seven Hills of Rome

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9th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation
Rome, Italy
April 28 – May 1, 2017 

An Igorot’s Search for the Seven Hills of Rome

By Yvonne Belen

Introduction

Call it fascination with the seven hills of Rome or desire to know more about them or wish to walk on these hills. Whichever, searching for the seven hills of Rome is my goal when I go to Rome in 2014 and 2017. As one of the Filipinos in diaspora and like many of them, I want to visit places I have read only in books or heard about during my childhood in the Philippines. This article includes not only my experiences as I strive to achieve my goal, but also my research on the subject.

June 2014

As part of the 2nd Grand Kanyaw in Rome on the 1st of June 2014, the organizers, ULNOS di Mountain Province - Rome Italy and former United Cordillera Workers Rome Italy (UCWRI) now Cordillerans in Rome, plan a one day tour of the city. It would be on Saturday, the 31st of May. However, they say one day might not be enough. True indeed. You need more than a day if you want to see the sights of Rome, which confirms the phrase: “Roma, non basta una vita.” (Rome, a lifetime is not enough.)  So, I decide to go to Rome four days before the Kanyaw. Michelle Budaden from Sweden says she will join me.

Around two weeks before the event, Amorsola “Lagun” Gayuchan, formerly a resident of Como, Italy, volunteers to be our tour guide. Several exchanges would follow among us: Lagun, Michelle, Rosmar Smith (who is my contact person) and me.

Lagun writes, “What places will we visit on May 31?”

My reply, “One thing I would like to see is the ruins of a ‘Roman bath.’ I don’t know if there is another one that we can see aside from the Baths of Caracalla. How about the seven hills of Rome? Can we step on these hills in a day?”

Lagun says, “I asked my compatriots about the Baths of Caracalla and they said it’s near the Colosseum including the 7 hills. I think we can go to the hills in a day but they’re already covered with buildings.”

My reply, “So, let’s go to the Baths of Caracalla. Yes, even if they are covered with buildings now as long as they are the seven hills of Rome before.”

And I add, “I have been to Rome some 20 years ago and we went to this place and that place. As they say, ‘strike anywhere.’ We’ll ask the tourist information office if they have a map of those places.”

Rosmar says, “I have a map where the seven hills are (where government buildings and/or museums are this time)… ... I myself have not been there… (The Baths of Caracalla are ruins now…)”

Michelle writes, “Thank you in advance for doing all the arranging and planning, etc. What a luxury for me, I just arrive there and everything is ready. Whatever you plan is just okey with me.”

Looking back to a trip in Rome in 1993, I visit Fontana di Trevi (Trevi) and throw a coin across my shoulder. I am happy to have visited the fountain I only saw in the movie, Three Coins in a Fountain. As many know a Roman tradition, when you throw a coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome. And so I return in 2014, even if it is many years later.

During the first day that I am with Michelle, we go to Trevi. At another time, I go there again with some Igorot Cordillera compatriots in the evening. On both occasions, the place is filled with people. Although most are seated beside the fountain and on the steps, I am still able to throw a coin.

End of April and early May 2017

Fast forward to 2017 during the 9th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation or conference sponsored by Cordillerans in Rome and held in Rome on April 28th through May 1st. The participants have a one day historical and cultural tour of Rome. To each his own during this day and we visit the places we like. With Jane Klee Morgens of Germany, Leticia “Tizya” de Jong of MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands and Conchita Pooten of Igorot UK, we try to look for the seven hills of Rome. Aside from walking on the hills, we only see some.    

Before I say more about the seven hills of Rome, I would like to mention that Jane, Tizya and I go to St. Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon of the tour. Magnificent! We would have wanted to go inside the basilica however, there is a long queue so we decide to stay at St. Peter’s square and take pictures.  

On our way back to Termini, we meet Mrs. Helen Ringor-Banban. She is with her children and grandchildren, and they are also on their way to the basilica. Alan and Marjorie Akistoy and their two boys are also with Mrs. Banban’s family. Alan takes some pictures of our group. Afterwards, we go our separate ways. Jane, Tizya and I take a bus for Termini. While looking for a seat at the end of the bus, we see Jade Dalis and Rick Kilongan.

We ask, “Where are you going?”

“To the Colosseum,” Rick replies.  

“How about you?”

“We’re going to Trevi fountain.”

“Then we will go with you,” says Rick.

From the Termini, the five of us get on a bus that passes through the street going to Trevi. When we get off, we see an arrow that points to the fountain. We enter the street at the same side where we get off. Along the way, we see an ice cream parlor, Blue Ice. We stop and each of us buys two scoops of our favorite flavor. I choose pistachio and strawberry. Delicious, as Italian ice cream always is. We continue walking while licking our ice cream. The fountain is nowhere to be found. Instead, we reach the top of the Spanish steps. Wow! So many people standing on the square viewing some parts of Rome and more people seated on the steps. We also join those standing on the square and slowly go down the steps, being careful not to bump into persons seated there. After taking some pictures at the bottom of the steps, we return to the main road.

We are still looking for Trevi. We see another arrow and follow the street where it points. We finally reach the fountain and become part of the throng of visitors. Most are standing on the road while many are seated beside the fountain and on the steps. The place is twice as crowded as in 2014. We look for a place where we can throw a coin and leave. One word of caution when at the fountain or at places where there are lots of people---watch your bag at all times. One ICBE conference participant became a victim when the wallet in her bag was snatched within the vicinity of Trevi.   

Back to the Seven Hills of Rome

Alphabetically, the seven hills are: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal. How do we remember them? During Victorian times, the boys were made to learn a mnemonic: “Can Queen Victoria Eat Cold Apple Pie?” The first letter of each word stands for: Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, Aventine, Palatine.

While these hills may sound strange to many of us, we might have unknowingly walked on them or seen them. Just like during my visits in Rome---I have walked on, rode through or seen the seven hills of Rome.

Arriving at the Rome train station, I have stepped on the Viminal; having a picture taken with other Filipinas at Rome’s city hall in 1993, I have seen a section of the Capitoline; treading on the open-air museum of Palatine-Roman Forum with Michelle and Lagun, I have observed the Palatine; riding in a bus going to Trevi with other Igorot Cordillerans, I have gone through the Quirinal; gazing at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore on the way to Trevi, I have glimpsed at the Esquiline; studying ruins at the Baths of Caracalla with Jane, Tizya and Conchita, I have ambled on a part of the Caelian; and walking along Viale Aventino with a view of Circus Maximus, I have been on the Aventine.  

The Seven Hills of Rome in a Nutshell

The Viminal was a small and unimportant hill. During the reign of Diocletian in ancient Rome, large Roman baths were built on this hill. Presently, one can see ruins of the Diocletian baths. The Viminal has become the hub of Rome’s transportation system with the Termini Railway Station (Termini) located there. The Opera Theater and national museum of Rome are also found on this hill.  

There are several attractions of Rome and the most famous is the Colosseum. It was also called Flavian Amphitheater since it was built during the Flavian dynasty. In ancient Rome, the finished building was in a wide valley straddling the Esquiline, Palatine and Caelian. The amphitheater we see now is one third of the original that was built before. In Christopher Woodward’s, In Ruins, he gives more insight on the Colosseum:  

It is oval in plan, 617 feet in length and 513 feet in width and 187 feet high… It contained fifty thousand spectators. For naval battles the arena was flooded, and when gladiators fought lions, panthers, elephants and ostriches it was redecorated as a jungle or a rocky desert. Christians were fed to the lions from the earliest days of the arena, and it was they who banned the gladiatorial games in AD 404…

…The Colosseum showed the Romans at their mightiest but also at their cruellest…  

Taking a bus to the Colosseum, one passes by the front section of the Capitoline. In ancient Rome, the temple of Jupiter---the largest and most important temple of Rome---was located on this hill. During the 16th century, Michelangelo Buonarroti landscaped the hill with designs on the pavement and a grand staircase. Presently, Rome’s city hall is located on the Capitoline.

Near the Colosseum is the Palatine, where one can overlook the Roman Forum. In ancient Rome and according to legend, it was on the Palatine where Romulus founded Rome. It was also the location of the first Roman settlement and where the Roman emperors: Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian, constructed their palaces. The word “palace” comes from the word, Palatine. Today, the Palatine is an open-air museum and includes ruins of past emperors’ palaces, a hippodrome and gardens.

The Caelian is in the middle of the Esquiline, Palatine and Aventine. In ancient Rome, rich families built their villas with gardens on this hill. South of it, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, also known as Emperor Caracalla, built the Baths of Caracalla (Baths). It was a thermal complex with baths, gardens, a library and temple. The floors and walls of the baths were heated and slaves were used to put wood in the ovens. The Baths were destroyed by barbarians and an earthquake. Presently, one can still see the ground floor as well as some walls. Going to the Baths provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of nearby places like the Colosseum and Roman Forum. The Basilica of Saint John in Lateran is also located on this hill. 

Adjacent to the Caelian and Palatine is the Aventine. In ancient Rome, Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, chose to live on the Aventine. While the nobility inhabited the Palatine, common people or plebeians lived on the Aventine. Presently, the hill is a residential area and location of the Priory of the Knights of Malta. The priory has a keyhole, which enables one to see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Another famous attraction is the Trevi. From the Termini to the fountain, the bus passes through the Quirinal. In ancient Rome, the upper class built their houses on this hill. A palace with a garden was also constructed on this hill and was occupied earlier by the Pope. Presently, the Quirinal Palace is the residence of Italy’s president.   

The bus going to Trevi also passes through the Esquiline, where one can have a glance at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of the Virgin Mary.) The Esquiline was huge and covered 70 acres rising from the Colosseum and continuing to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary’s present location. In ancient Rome, Nero built his Domus Aurea or “Golden Palace” on this hill. Presently, one of the four basilicas of Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore, is located on top of the Esquiline.

Conclusion

And so ends my search for the seven hills of Rome. I am glad I have not only seen, but also walked on them. When there will be another Grand Kanyaw in Rome, I have a reason to go to the eternal city. Aside from attending the event, it will be an occasion to visit the ruins, museum, town squares, parks, gardens, monuments, palaces and basilicas located on the hills. I hear echoes of the phrase, “Roma, non basta una vita.” (Rome, a lifetime is not enough.) ©2017YvonneBelen.

References

Martin Hughes and Sally Webb, Best of Rome. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications. 2004.

Woodward, Christopher, In Ruins. London: Chatto & Windus. 2001.

Basic Rome City Topography,

http://www.mmdtkw.org/ALRItkwRom101BasicTopo.html, Retrieved 15 July 2017.

Baths of Caracalla, https://www.rome.net/baths-caracalla, Retrieved 24 July 2017.

Colosseum by Mark Cartwright, http://www.ancient.eu/Colosseum/, Retrieved 19 July 2017.

Colosseum, http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/colosseum, Retrieved 19 July 2017.

Of Early Rome, http://www.musesrealm.net/rome/sevenhills.html, Retrieved 15 July 2017.

Rome - Quirinal hill area, http://www.mariamilani.com/rome_italy/rome_quirinal.html Retrieved 15 July 2017.

The Seven Hills of Rome, http://www.welcometorome.net/en/about-rome/history/seven-hills, Retrieved 16 July 2017.

The Seven Hills of Rome, A Geological Tour of the Eternal City by Grant Heiken, http://muse.jhu.edu/book/30693, Retrieved 15 July 2017.

THE 7 HILLS OF ROME by N.S. Gill, https://www.thoughtco.com/hills-of-rome-117759, Retrieved 19 July 2017.

What Are The Seven Hills Of Rome? by Livia Hengel,

https://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/what-are-the-seven-hills-of-rome/, Retrieved 14 July 2017.

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