Rome is made of voices, bones and memories. Early photographs and old books like Augustus Hare’s Walks in Rome enable the curious and informed seeker to visit what seems like a different city.

But who can analyze even the simplest Roman impression? It is compounded of so many things, it says so much, it suggests so much, it so quickens the intellect and so flatters the heart, that before we are fairly conscious of it the imagination has marked it for her own and exposed us to a perilous likelihood of talking nonsense about it …

Henry James – May 1873

Via Bonella runs through the invisible city. This street existed in the rione Monti from the sixteenth century until the 1930s. It ran from the Forum Romanum to the fire wall built to shield the Forum of Augustus from the neighborhood beyond. This lost street began at the Arco dei Pantani, which cut through that wall. Via Bonella was a continuation, set at an oblique angle, of via Baccina, with is still there to find and walk upon.

The red line indicates the course of Via Bonella on the map of Rome created by Giovanni Battista Nolli in 1748.

The street and the neighborhood that surrounded it–Quartiere Alessandrino–were erased from the landscape to permit excavation of the imperial fora and to create what today is called the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The displaced inhabitants of the area were settled in the peripheral areas of the city. In Monteverde Nuovo, some of their children became Pasolini’s ragazzi di vita.

These photographs are three views of a secret. This image of street life on the Via Bonella was taken in 1910. The ruins belong to the Forum of Augustus. Above the photo of the Arco dei Pantani and the Via Bonella beyond was taken in 1907. The cover image of Via Bonella was taken through the Arco dei Pantani in 1870. The view is toward the Forum Romanum.

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