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Special places archive

September 2005

The interactive Nolli map


In 1741 Giambattista Nolli published his Pianti Grande di Roma, a fabulously detailed and accurate map of Rome.

Now Jim Tice, Erik Steiner and others from the University of Oregon have created this website. Bravo!

Map engine interface

A section of the Nolli map displayed in the navigation window. Towards the centre is the Coloseum, surrounded by orchards, vineyards and villas.

The website’s centrepiece is the Nolli Map Engine, a zoomable and scrollable high-resolution image of the map. Other layers of information can be displayed on the map, including recent satellite imagery that reveals how much has changed (and not changed) in Rome.

The website also has a lot of other material, including a database of places and essays about the history of the map and of the city.

Detail showing Ponte Sisto

A detail of Nolli’s map showing the Ponte Sisto crossing the Tiber. Edward Tufte calls the map masterly and reproduces this detail in Envisioning information. But he criticises the map for the river’s heavy inking which activates what should be a visually tranquil area. Tufte shows how this aspect of Nolli’s map could be improved by lightening the lines that signify the water. This is a true observation, but obsessive.


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