The Castrense Amphitheater

October 29, 2007 / Art & Archaeology
Emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled Rome between 193 and 221 A. D., built his residence in what is now the San Giovanni neighborhood, with a private “theater-in-the-round”. . . of imperial proportions! Little is left of the imperial residence, but Rome’s only other amphitheater (besides the Colosseum) still stands . . with a few centuries of worthy additions to it.

The Castrense Amphitheater seems flawlessly camouflaged into the Aurelian Wall. Its arches have been filled, its height reduced and it is only accessible through a small gate. Once inside though, it is a marvel. Just recently meticulously restored as an orto medico, a medicinal plant garden, this medieval monastic garden is curated by the Cistercian monks who sell its harvest abundance on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings out front during the growing season. Greens and herbs of every kind are always available, although lucky (and early) shoppers also know it for its passionfruit, pizzutella grapes, and seasonal citrus.

This garden renovation was underwritten by the “Adopt a Garden” campaign of the Association of the Friends of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Hopefully, more of Rome’s historic gardens will benefit from citizens’ interest in preserving them. The Church and amphitheater/garden are located at Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome.

Lisa Finnerty

by Lisa Finnerty

Founder of Secret Gardens Italy,, a tour company of the grand and historic Italian gardens, and, a social network for gardeners.

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