The purpose of this section is to provide scholars and students interested in the urban development of the city with the historic maps and their eventual elaborations.
Higher resolution images and permission to use them may be obtained by emailing a request to the Studium Urbis (


I. Bufalini 1551
II. Tempesta 1593
III. De Rossi 1668
IV. Falda 1676

V. Barbey 1697


The Bufalini plan-map of the city of Rome (Figure 1) is the first orthogonal plan of the city since the early third century Forma Urbis. All earlier 14th and 15th century images of the city were view-maps. It is surprising that no plan-map of the city appears until this late in the Renaissance, since the technique was known and used in such earlier plans of other towns such as Leonardo’s plan of Imola which dates from about 1500.

The Bufalini plan is distorted, understandably so, because it is the first of a series which culminate in the highly accurate Nolli map of 1748. A distortion grid (Figure 2) reveals the uneven distortion of the map. The rectification was made by tracing the Bufalini information over the 12 sheets of the large Nolli map (Figure 3). This was done by Allan Ceen in 1988-1989 as a senior fellow at CASVA (Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in the National Gallery, Washington DC).

Figure 4 is the second of the twelve sheets which constitute the whole redrawn Bufalini map. By leaving the Nolli plan visible below the darker lines (corresponding to the Bufalini), one obtains an instantaneous idea of the development of the Piazza del Popolo trivium over the two centuries that elapsed between Bufalini and Nolli. Bufalini’s “Orti” (gardens), between Via del Corso and Via del Babuino, have been replaced by Nolli’s time with an irregular grid of streets, and Piazza di Spagna has evolved out of the acute-angled intersection of two streets into a bow-tie shaped open space.

  • Fig.1_Bufalini_1551
  • Fig.2_AC_Bufalini distortion
  • Fig.3_AC_Buf-Nolliwhole
  • Fig.4_AC_Buf-Nolli2


Tempesta’s was a new kind of viewmap remarkable for its rendering the whole city in a sort of tilted perspective view taken from the Janiculum hill. Unlike its 16th century predecessors (eg. Bufalini and Duperac) which were approximate squares, the Tempesta map is a long horizontal rectangle, with consequent compression on the vertical axis.

The orientation of the map is east, but this orientation is not consistent because the Borgo has been cranked into a north-south direction instead east-west which is its true orientation. There appear to be two reasons for this: to fit Borgo into the overall rectangular shape of the map, and to show St. Peter’s and its piazza from the side rather than from the rear. The map is rich in detail, but the dense street net in the foreground is more detailed than the distant, emptier part of the city. The map was updated in 1662 and in 1693 editions.

View Map


This is one of the very few plan maps of Rome published between Bufalini (1551) and Nolli (1748). It is something of a hybrid because while most of the city is shown in plan, some major buildings are drawn in three dimensions (eg. Colosseum, Campidoglio complex). Curiously St. Peter’s is shown in plan while the adjacent Belvedere courtyard is drawn three-dimensionally. Like most of its predecessors the map is oriented east and has the same general proportions as its contemporary small Falda map and the later large Falda map. Considerable attention is given to the layout of gardens and villas, an element that was picked up by Nolli in the following century.

View Map
De Rossi

FALDA 1676

Falda’s is probably the most successful of the long succession view-maps (as opposed to plan-maps) of the city.  Its 16th century predecessors, especially Cartaro, Duperac and Tempesta, provided many useful details of streets and buildings, but their accuracy was very limited.  The same can be said about the huge 1625 Maggi view-map.

The way Falda obtained far greater accuracy is revealed in the title of the map: NUOVA PIANTA ET ALZATA DELLA CITTA DI ROMA.   Falda started with a straight 2-dimensional plan (PIANTA) of the city, on which he showed buildings in 3 dimensions (ALZATA means “elevation”).  Successive updates of the Falda map (1705 and 1730) makes it a useful tool for studying the city’s urban development in that period.

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The 1551 Bufalini map was acknowledged by Giambattista Nolli as the precursor to his Grande Pianta of Rome. However the 1697 plan of the city by Antonio Barbey was the immediate predecessor of Nolli’s map, and exerted considerable influence on his work. The Barbey plan is perhaps the clearest and most informative image of the contemporary city before Nolli. Except for its overall proportions it is also one of the more accurate delineations of the city up to the end of the 17th century.

While tracing the remains of ancient ruins and labeling classical sites, Barbey made no effort to reconstruct ancient monuments the way Bufalini did in his map. Evidently his concern was the city of his day, with equal attention paid to both the densely inhabited center and to the sparser areas within the circuit of the urban walls. The contemporary city was also Nolli’s principal concern. Both Barbey and Nolli trace the borders of the city’s fourteen Rioni. Nolli worked with Bernardini on the redrawing of those borders when they underwent considerable changes in 1744.

Barbey’s map is perhaps the best figurative source for the pre-1744 Rione borders. They are close to the written descriptions of these earlier borders by Bernardini, but do not correspond to them exactly. A comparison of the borders as depicted on the two maps throws considerable light on Bernardini’s intentions of consolidation and simplification of Rome’s administrative regions. It also suggests that these earlier borders go back at least to the first half of the Cinquecento.

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