Architect and surveyor Giambattista Nolli (ca.1692-1756) documented Rome’s architectural and urban foundations in Nuova pianta di Roma--itself a monument of urban cartography. Prepared over a period of more than eight years, using modern surveying techniques, the pianta was at the time the largest planimetric representation—as if viewed directly from above—of a city ever produced. The map measured 176 x 208 cm. (69 x 82 in.) when its 12 sheets, each printed from a separate copper plate, were assembled. It was so accurate that it was still considered a reliable base for maps of the city in the 1970s.
This southeastern portion of the plan shows how much ancient Rome, including the vicinity of the Forum and Coliseum, had been abandoned in medieval times. The circuit of walls, built in the Third Century, C.E. in the time of Emperor Aurelian, clearly visible to the south and east on this portion of the map, mark the approximate maximum extent of the ancient city. In Nolli’s time the walls enclosed a few villas, orchards, and fields, as well as many ancient ruins beyond the built-up area of the current city. It may be discerned how the ancients gates (portes) of the city and the roads that ran through them had a lasting influence as chokepoints on pathways entering the early modern city. Nolli’s skillful use of shaded relief to show topographic features helps us see that many of the great monuments of the ancient city were perched on top of one of Rome’s famous hills, while the roads and major arteries mostly followed the contours of the lowlands between.
Ceen, Allan. Introductory essay in La Pianta Grande di Roma di Giambattista Nolli in Facsimile, ed. J.H. Aronson. Highmount, New York: J.H. Aronson, 1984.
Bevilacqua, Mario, and Marcello Fagiol. Piante di Roma dal Rinascimento ai catasti Rome: Artemide, 2012.
Galinsky, G. Karl, ed. Memoria Romana: Memory in Rome and Rome in Memory. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press for American Academy in Rome, 2014.
Micalizzi, Paolo, ed. Roma nel XVIII secolo. Rome: Edizioni Kappa, 2003.
The University of Oregon. “The Interactive Nolli Map of Rome Website.” http://nolli.uoregon.edu/
Giambattista Nolli, detail of southeastern Rome, from Nuova pianta di Roma (Rome: Nolli, 1748); reproduced with permission from a facsimile published by the University of Oregon Infographics Lab, 2006