March 1 – the original start of the Roman Calendar

March 1 is an important day – not only are you required to say “White Rabbits” before you speak to anyone else on the day, to ensure good luck for the rest of the year, but March 1 was also the original start of the year in the Roman calendar.

It is not known when the New Year was changed to January 1 in the Roman Empire – the Julian calendar was reformed by Julius Caesar in 46BC and this is when the change might have taken place. It is believed January was chosen because the god Janus looks both ways – ie at the old year passing and the new year approaching.

March originates from the name Martius – or Mars, Roman God of War and also father to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The parents of Mars were Jupiter and Juno.  As well as being a military God and the second most important god after his father Jupiter, Mars also governed agriculture – Ancient Rome was mainly a rural environment and farming and agriculture underpinned the success and survival of the city.

Mars, God of War, and father of the Romans (Image: Jean-Pol Grandmont (2011))

March 1 is also St David’s Day – St David resisted the Norman invasion of the lands that form Wales and was a considered a saint as a result.

As for white rabbits, the origins of this are varied – some people say it should be said at the start of every month with an R in the name; others at the start of every month for good luck. It would seem to be a throwback to the old Roman calendar – or maybe because March is when rabbits start popping their heads up out of their burrows after winter.

This enormous March hare popped out to take some sunshine by Livia’s House in the Forum

March 1 is also the start of spring for meteorologists – even though the weather might not agree, poppies still push their heads up to get some sunshine at Circo Massimo

Visiting Rome in March

March is a lovely time to visit Rome as it can be warm, but also rainy at times, so an umbrella and raincoat should be packed. At night it is also chilly, but the warm spring sunshine makes visiting the ancient sites extremely pleasurable, but without the crowds and intense heat of summer.  You will also find hotel prices are more agreeable in the spring – and strolling through the Borghese Gardens or down Via Vittorio Veneto on a warm spring day can be a lovely way to relax in the Eternal City.   (Note: You need to book a ticket for the Borghese Museum and art galleries in advance and visits have a two-hour time limit. There is a very nice cafe/restaurant inside the museum, but it gets very busy.)

Borghese Museum entrance (beneath the staircase)
Bernini’s Abduction of Proserpina by Pluto – one of the most famous works in the Borghese Museum

After a stroll through the Borghese Gardens, I always stop off at Aroma Caffe – which is located in the bend of Via Veneto – and sit at a pavement table to watch life go by. The coffee is also very good and it is a nice place to have lunch after a morning spent at the Borghese Museum and Gardens.  You will also get to see the old city wall as you make your way from the gardens to Via Veneto.

Time for a latte
Aroma Caffe, Via Vittorio Veneto
Stroll down Via Vittorio Veneto in the spring sunshine


Featured image: Borghese Gardens in March

Images copyright A. Meredith unless stated.

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Buon viaggio!

Borghese Gardens in March



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