Rome’s Iconic Pine Trees

stone pine in Rome

If you come to Rome you will likely quickly notice its pine trees. The trees slightly resemble something that Dr. Seuss would have dreamed up, with tall and skinny trunks supporting widespread canopies of needles high in the air. These are the stone pines of Rome, sometimes also called umbrella pines or parasol pines for their top-heavy appearance. If you want to be precise, the scientific name for the Roman trees is Pinus Pinea.

villa pamphili in Rome with pine trees lining a green space with walkers

Rome’s iconic stone pines are a part of what makes the city so unique. It is impossible to imagine Rome without its soaring umbrella pines, which can be found on Palatine Hill, Villa Borghese, the Orange Garden, and countless places in between. 

rome pine trees over a walkway

The stone pines are native to the Mediterranean in general, but the pine trees have come to be a symbol of Rome. You will see them regally spaced down Via dei Fori Imperiali, or lining the roadside of the Via Appia. In fact, after Mussolini planted the first umbrella pine in Piazza Venezia, he made sure to continue them in a line of 2,000 trees all the way down to the new Fascist-designed suburb of EUR.

The tall pines have been valued for the pine nuts since Ancient times and were supposedly brought to Italy by the Greeks. Their popularity continued for decades and in the Renaissance they became very fashionable ornamental garden trees.

umbrella pine framed by arch

The broad canopy is what gives the tree its “umbrella pine” name, which is what I usually refer to them as. The top of the trees can reach about 26 feet (8 meters) in width. They grow to an average of 40-60 feet tall but they can sometimes tower up to 80 feet above the ground.

The pines live for 50 to 150 years without many problems. However, that means that the trees planted by Mussolini starting in the late 1920s are now starting to fall. The city of Rome is tasked with the unenviable job of attempting to maintain the stone pines and prevent them from crashing into houses and cars when the wind picks up or when pests weaken the trunks and branches.

In Ancient Roman times, the health of the branches of the pines in the Forum were thought to predict the fortunes of the empire. Today, the evergreen stone pines are an essential part of the city’s panorama.

Are you also in love with the pine trees of Rome? If you want to see them for yourself, here are Rome’s best parks and gardens.

3 thoughts on “Rome’s Iconic Pine Trees

  1. Clint Burks says:

    Natalie,
    This is a thank you note for telling me about the umbrella trees in Rome. My mental process of reminiscing about Rome really needs to know about these trees, and I found your article to be a big help.

    Ignorance of these trees is commensurate to ignorance of eucalyptus when thinking about Napa & Marin counties in California, resulting in large blank spaces in one’s memory. Imagine all the famous paintings of the Roman Compagna in the 18th-19th centuries, having blank canvas in lieu of these trees.

    Again, thank you for painting in my blank spots.

    FYI — I lived in Rome in 1981-2, having found a job at the Daily American newspaper, located between the Corso & Trevi Fountain, but lived in the boonies — Via Appia Nuova near the Furio Camillo train station. There is parkland there, catacombs, aquaduct ruins, Via Appia Antiqua, the “Quo Vadis?” venue — and lots of umbrella trees. I have been taking a closer look at it now, from New York City, using Google satellite view & maps, plus your article. Thanks again.

  2. Claire says:

    i’d love to know what kind of cricket are stridulating in those trees.

    as a londoner it’s not something that’s common to me, and so quite an interesting and not unpleasant sound.

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