Rome 1870 What happened in the city

This year Florence is still Italy’s capital, but Rome will take over that role after its liberation from papal dominion on 20 September. The law formalising the transfer came into force on 3 February 1871. The year 1870 may well be called very eventful. On some of its thirty-two days, the future of the country was decided. Below is the overview ‘Rome 1870 what happened in the city’.

In spring, the architect Antonio Manno renovates the façade of the basilica Santa Pudenziana. In October, a wall is built around the cemetery for non-Catholics, also known as the Protestant cemetery.

6 January

  • In St Peter’s, the second session of the First Vatican Council opens. The Consilia began on 8 September 1869 and would last until 20 September 1870.

17 February 

  • Pope Pius IX opens the Exhibition of art works executed in all artistic forms inspired by and dedicated to Catholic faith. The exhibition was held in the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

9 March

  • The Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando IV (1835-1908) arrived for his visit to the city.

21 April

  • The third session of the First Vatican Council opens in St Peter’s.

Rome 1870 what happened in the city

6 May

  • At Villa Barberini in Monte Mario, the Trigonometric sign was inaugurated to measure the arc of the European meridian. See more about it here.

14 June

  • Pope Pius IX unveiled in the Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le mura (Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls) the monument to the soldiers who fell during the battle for the defence of the Ecclesiastical State in the autumn of 1867.

18 July

  • The First Dogmatic Constitution “Pastor Aeternus” was issued this day. It  affirms papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The proclamation takes place during the First Vatican Council. See above 6 January.

7 September

  • King Vittorio Emanuele Il sends a letter to all political powers. In it, he announces the intention to move his government from Florence to Rome. In the document he also sets out what measures will guarantee the pope and his independence.

9 September

  • Count Gustavo Ponza of San Martino (1810-76) arrives in Rome. He is the extraordinary ambassador of King Vittorio Emanuele Il. He is the author of the king’s letter to Secretary of State Giacomo Antonelli. The letter contains “the guarantees necessary for the spiritual independence of the Holy See, which are also the basis for future negotiations between Italy and the interested powers”.
  • The count hands the pope a letter from the king “with love of a son, with the faith of a catholic, with the loyalty of a king and with the spirit of an Italian.” The king further declares that he is “moving his troops to Rome to prevent the violence of the revolutionaries”.

10 September

  • Pius IX inaugurates the Fontanone deL’Acqua Marcia. The fountain is located in front of the buildings of the Termini granaries.
  • In a letter to the king, Pius IX expresses his sorrow at what was communicated to him.

12 September

  • Italian troops, led by General Raffaele Cadorna (1815-1897), enter the region of Latium.
  • The general of the papal army Hermann Kanzler (1822-1891) addresses the Romans to let them know that Italian troops will take Lazio.

18 September

  • Italian troops take possession of Tivoli and Monterotondo and advance towards Rome along the Via Nomentana.

19 September

  • General Cadorna orders to attack Rome near Porta Pia.

20 September

  • At 5.15 am, artillery opens fire on the Aurelian wall not far from Porta Pia. Italian troops move into the city through the breach in the wall at 9.45 am. At 10.00 am, Pope’s troops surrender. The signing of the capitulation takes place at 2 pm at villa Albani Torlonia. The signatories of the act are generals Cadorna and Kanzler.

21 September

  • The newspaper La Capitale, The Capital, begins to appear. Its editor-in-chief is Raffaele Sonzogno (1836-1922).

22 September

  • The first issue of the La Gazzetta del Popolo, The People’s Gazetteer, is published. Its editor-in-chief is Edoardo Arbib (1840-1906).

Rome 1870 What happened in the city

23 September

  • General Cadorna appoints an Administration of Rome. Michelangelo Caetani (1804-1882) becomes its president.

2 October

  • On this Sunday a referendum is held in Rome and the provinces of Latium. The only question is whether residents want to belong to the Italian kingdom.

9 October

  • The results of the plebiscite are presented to King Vittorio Emanuele Il who resides in Florence. After all, the city is where the government sits. By decree, the king adds the city of Rome and its provinces to the kingdom. Parliament subsequently enables the royal decree into a law.
Rome 1870 What happened in the city
Oil panting by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919)

11 October

  • The king appoints general Alfonso La Marmora (1804-1878) as commander-in-chief of Italy.

15 October

  • Commander La Marmora appoints a new City Council chaired by Francesco Pallavicini Rospigliosi (1810-1878).

20 October

  • Pius IX suspends the First Vatican Council. He declares that “the participants of the Council lack the necessary freedom, security and tranquillity”.

1 November

  • Pope Pius IX publishes the encyclical Respicientes EA in which he defines the “occupation” of Rome as “unjust, violent, void and invalid”. See the Italian text here.

9 November

  • The Quirinale Palace is occupied. Reconstruction begins under the direction of architect Antonio Cipolla (1822-1874).

13 November

  • Rome’s first elections are held.

20 November

  • The first national elections in the kingdom of Italy after the Capture of Rome are held.

29 November

  • The new City Council is installed. Giuseppe Lunati is its president. He exercises the office of mayor.

2 December

  • The Bank of the Ecclesiastical State is henceforth called Banca Romana.
  • The new State of Italy acquires the Farnese Gardens, the Orti Farnesiani, on the Palatine hill.

15 December

  • Alderman Filippo Andrea Doria Pamphilj (1813-1876) takes over as mayor.

16 December

  • The City Council of Rome organizes the first two public schools for primary education. One for boys in Via dei Fienilie and the other for girls in the Tor de’ Specchi neighbourhood.

28 December

  • Major flooding in the city. The districts Borgo, Campo Marzio, Colonna and Sant’Eustachio flood. The ghetto almost disappeared under the waters of the Tiber. After this day’s floods, a commission was set up to draw up the plan for the construction of the quay walls along the Tiber. The walls would protect the city from the water but at the same time give it a completely different look.
Rome 1870 wat gebeurde er in de stad
A picture of the river without the walls we know today.

31 December

  • King Victor Emmanuel Il arrives in Rome to bring comfort to flood victims. At the Campidoglio he is welcomed by the people of Rome with cheers.

Go to 1871
To all calender years

Notes on Rome 1870 What happened in the city

  • See this article on the Capture of Rome.
  • For the outcome of the elections, see here.



Roman Censuses since 1871

When Italy was unified in 1861, the most important city was missing: Rome. It was the seat of the Ecclesiastical State, which in that year also included large parts of the region of Lazio. On 20 September 1870, the Italian royal army took the city in spectacular fashion (read the story here), putting an end to the Pope’s worldly power. The kingdom of Italy had achieved unification on this day. With the Vatican, the pope was given his own territory. Rome became the formally the capital of Italy in February 1871. The consequences were very far-reaching: the court and the government apparatus moved from Florence to Rome. The city’s new political status promised economic growth. This double perspective led countless job seekers to migrate to Rome. This created a sustained population growth that was measured by the Roman censuses since 1871.

The tables

The data below come from two sources. Sanfilippo in the third column stands for the historian Mario Sanfilippo, while the abbreviation ISTAT refers to the National Institute of Statistics in Rome. The table gives the Roman Censuses of Population since 1871 up to 1951. Only the Istat also gives a percentage for growth plus the date of the census.


Jaar Datum Sanfilippo ISTAT %
1871 31/12 244.844 209.222
1881 31/12 300.467 269.813 29.0 %
1891 386.626
1901 10/02 462.783 416.028 52.2 %
1911 10/06 542.123 511.076 22.8 %
1921 01/12 691.661 650.258 27.2 %
1931 21/04 1.008.083 916.858 41.0 %
1941 1.403.307
1945 1.500.513
1951 04/11 1.626.793 43.6 %


Sanfilippo mentions that the years 1881, 1941 and 1945 he gives are not based on censuses. He calculated the numbers based on data in the Municipal Archives. Compared to the Istat censuses, the numbers he provides are considerably higher. He offers no explanation for it.

The censuses from 1871 onwards were based on the concept of the family. Only in 1901 did each member of the family have to fill in their own form.


Notes on Roman Censuses since 1871

  • Mario Sanfilippo, Le tre città di Roma. Lo sviluppo urbano dalle origini a oggi. Bari-Roma: Laterza, 1993.
  • ISTAT = Istituto nazionale di statistica. The website is in Italian and in English.


Rome 1870-1946 Yearly Calendar

Rome 1870-1946 Yearly Calendar

This series provides an overview of the main events that took place annually in the Italian Capital from 1870 to 1946. Each year has its own page with a short introduction and a list of the most important days. The page concludes with notes on bibliographic information and links. The columns following here below sum up each individual year. Open the year of your choice that is linked and has the number between brackets: the quantity of days listed in that calendar year. The Rome 1870-1946 Yearly Calendar is a work in progress.

From 1870 to 1909

1870 (34)
1871 (12) Dutch


1899 (10)

1900 (13)
1901 (11)
1902 (6)
1903 (17)
1904 (13)
1905 (14)
1906 (20)
1907 (8)
1908 (8)
1909 (8)

From 1910 to 1945

1910 (10)
1911 (21)
1912 (7)
1913 (9)
1914 (16)
1915 (11)
1916 (6)
1917 (9)
1918 (7)
1919 (10)

1920 (14)
1921 (13)
1922 (14)
1923 (25)
1924 (16)
1925 (18)

1930 (8)


Rome 1870-1945 per jaar een kalender
The Etruscan bronze wolf is attributed to the sculptor Vulca. The artwork dates from the VI-V century BC.


Italy completes its statehood in 1870 with the capture of the city. 1870 is thus the ideal beginning of this series, because that is when the socalled Third Rome begins. I conclude the series in 1946, the last year of the Italian kingdom. On 2 June 1942 Italy becaume officailly a Republic.

Although Rome is the central theme of this Kalendarium, the visitor will notice that there are many lines running to other parts of the country.

Out of respect, the names of individuals are written in their original form. For that reason the reader will find king Vittorio Emanuele and not Victor Emanuel.


Notes on Rome 1870-1946 Yearly Calendar

  • The staircase to the Capitol Line is also known as ‘cordonata’ in Italian, because it can be ascended by horse as well as on foot. Not many horses will be seen clinbing the cordonata in our days!
  • The material to set up the annual lists comes from historical standard works and monographs. Also helpful is the Enciclopedia Treccani, both the online version and paper edition. Useful is of course wikipedia. Claudio Rendina’s book, Roma giorno per giorno, Rome: Newton & Compton, 2008. This book was the initial trigger and source. I checked the data, added and revised the information. Articles are regularly updated.
  • See here for a Wikipedia article on Chronology as an auxiliary science for historians. And here for a useful overview of Timelines.