Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 things to do within 200 meters of Stazione Termini

For most tourists, and most Romans, the area around Stazione Termini--that is, Termini, the city's main train station--means bad hotels, swarthy immigrants, pizza and trinkets, and phone centers for calling home. True enough, and we don't recommend the bad hotels. But there's more to Termini than the stereotype, and to prove it we offer our lists of 10 things to do within 200 meters of Stazione Termini.

Our 200-meter perimeter creates an race-track shaped oval that reaches out from the front edge of the station building toward the Baths of Diocletian (but does not include them) and around the sides of the building, two blocks on either side of the long station building, then curves around the back. Because the station is long, the oval is enormous, and we have tried our best to focus on attractions near the front of the station. So if you're changing trains in Rome and have a couple of hours....

1. The Station Itself . It's actually a complex structure, completed in two phases. The first phase dates to 1935-1940 (late Fascism), and consists of the area where the trains arrive and depart--up to but not including the enormous open hall--and the side areas. Facing the station 0n the left (west) side one can admire the enormous exterior arches; and on the right (east) side, inside, enormous interior arches that speak to the Fascist delight in architecture that at once intimidates and inspires (the light poles, while compelling, are of 1999 vintage).
In phase 2, The Saarinen-like front of the station, including the covered but open great hall, was designed by a team of architects and built between 1948 and 1951. Amerigo Tot decorated the modernist frieze cut in the metal across the station's front (1951). The lovely, enclosed space in the front of the station (see left, c. 1960) was unfortunately filled with shops, including a bookstore, as part of the preparations for the 2000 Jubilee.

2. The Servian Wall. The earliest wall we see around Rome is from the 4th century BC, and the biggest stretch of it is here, in front of the station, to the right, as one exits onto Piazza dei Cinquecento.
We (who don't go there) hear there's a small piece of it inside the station's McDonald's.

3. Piazza Independenza North of the train station (following the line of the Servian Wall, above), and one block to the right at the wide street out front, is Piazza di Independenza. One attraction here, precisely 200 meters from the station, is the charming bar/caffe in the center, amid the buses yet sheltered, called Casina delle Terme (little house of the baths, referring to the Baths of Diocletian). The main building with its curved corners dates from 1939, and a browntone photo on the napkin holder shows the enterprise as it was in 1950. So there's age and history to be savored. The food is fine and tourists are few; we recommend it for lunch.
At the far, northeastern edge of the piazza, and perhaps a tad out of our range, is a palazzo of Fascist-era origins, well known among Romans for the heads that grace its facade. It's widely claimed that the face is that of Mussolini--and whose else would it be?--but to us the likeness is questionable.

4. Casa Del Passaggero. Retrace your steps out of the piazza, walking southwest along the busy street that fronts the train station. After crossing several streets, at the corner of via Viminale and via Terme di Diocliziano you'll find a grey building with a descending double staircase, its gates now chained, all in an advanced state of disrepair.
These are baths, and they were built within the ancient baths of the emperor Diocletian, but their origin is relatively recent: 1920, when they were conceived as a "daytime hotel"--a sort of bath/spa known as the Casa del Passaggero (traveler's house). Despite the decay, there are reminders here of what once was, especially four lovely bas reliefs in metal, by Oriolo Frezzotti.

5. Museo Nazionale Romano. Just kitty-corner from the baths, at Largo di Villa Peretti, 1, in the direction of the station, is one of Rome's outstanding museums. The Museo Nazionale Romano is housed in the 19th-century Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. The museum houses a great many fine pieces from ancient Greece and Rome, including two great bronzes: Pugile (The Boxer) and the Principe Ellenistico (the Hellenistic Prince). The museum is open every day except Mondays and some holidays, 9-19:45 (Euro7).

Five more coming soon.

1 comment:

Rococo Baroque said...

The section of the Servian Wall that resides in a McDonald's is in the first McDonald's in Italy- near the Spanish Steps!