Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Gates of Heaven

Due to the overwhelming response from metal heads everywhere to "Manhole Covers: Art and Politics," we present our second offering in the made-of-iron series, this one on gates. Like manhole covers, they're everywhere and, with few exceptions, they're made of real iron, shaped by real iron workers. Our focus here is on late-19th and, especially, 20th-century gates. Precise dating is beyond us, but we'll do our best.

Our first gate, at left, is in the "Liberty" style. Liberty is the Italian word, and it derives from Arthur Liberty, who owned a decorative arts store in London; in most places it's known as late Art Nouveau. Popular from about 1900 to the mid-1920s, Liberty is ornate but restrained--the style is related to the Arts and Crafts movement--with curves and designs often based on floral and other organic motifs. We found this gate in Coppede', a section of Rome named after Gino Coppede', who designed many of its buildings between 1919 and 1926. One of Rome's most unusual architectural spaces, the quartiere Coppede' is located just beyond the Centro to the northeast; it's bounded by viale Regina Margherita (it begins there as one goes out), via Nomentana, and via Salaria.

Italians love their airplanes, and the nation was at the center of aviation history in the early years of the last century. One of Mussolini's favorite Fascists, Italo Balbo, found fame as an aviator, not to mention Fascist glory, by leading a squadron of planes on a non-stop flight from Argentario, not far from Rome on Italy's west coast, to Chicago, in 1933. Then there is celebrated futurist artist Tulio Crali, who painted almost nothing but airplanes. Crali's "Nose Dive on the City" (1939) is above left. The gate above right, which captures the joy of flight and the wonders of Italian aviation, was probably fashioned at that time or perhaps a few years before. It's located in the sleepy town of Acilia, west of Rome.

The gate below left has some characteristics of the Liberty style, but it's probably much older. The stars and strips are the symbols of the Aldobrandini family, and this gate is located on the grounds of the spectacular Villa Aldobrandini, built by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini in the early 17th century. Just up the hill from Frascati's main piazza, the villa is on the Frascati/Tuscolo itinerary in Rome the Second Time.

We came across the worn but lovely creation, right, on a side street in Monteverde Vecchio, not far from where Pier Paolo Pasolini lived as a young man.

The gate below can be dated precisely, because it's topped by Fascist-era coding: the "E" means Era, the "F" Fascist, the "A" anno (year), and VII refers to the 7th year of Fascism, beginning with 1922 and the March on Rome. So the gate is from 1929. It's located in Coppede'.

Most gates serve practical purposes rather decorative ones, and none more so than the gate below, protecting a rogue garden on the right bank of the Aniene River, not far downstream from the quartiere of Monte Sacro (all on the Aniene itinerary in Rome the Second Time). Not the first gardener, and not the last, to build a gate around a bed spring. Bill


Peter @ italyMONDO! said...

"...they're made of real iron, shaped by real iron workers."

They really are a work of art. If you ever get to see these guys in actions it is truly a sight to see.

Riley said...

There's certainly a fascination with gates in Europe that hasn't completely translated into U.S. culture, perhaps because we've historically had more space and thus a greater need for walls and perimeter demarcation rather than gates.

Seeing these pictures I can't help but think about those ornate, wooden gates in northern Romania. Gates are intriguing in that, unlike most housing decorations, they are not purely a statement of material wealth. In their opulence and design, they say something about power, attempting to strike fear in those who wish to enter by denying visual information on what lies within. They both keep out those who wish to deprive the owner of wealth and power, and keep in the same.