Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Gates of Rome: The Postwar Era

Some of these gates are best seen--and photographed--at night. 

A window barred--but elegantly, c. 1910
From the point of view of crimes against the body, Rome is a safe city, with very low numbers of assaults, rapes and murders.  Property crime--things like thefts on the bus, breaking and entering with intent to steal the television set--is more frequent.  Romans--and Italians generally--are understandably anxious about property crimes and eager to protect their homes from invasion.  Hence Romans prefer the upper floors of apartment buildings, where they feel--and are--less vulnerable, and those who must live on the ground or first floor commonly install bars on windows. 

Fenced in, completely
Some have been known to fence in an entire terrace or balcony (right).  Portieri--the guys who sit in little rooms ready to jump out and prevent you from snooping around in that lovely interior courtyard--are less common than they once were, but they're still at work here and there, and they still serve as a deterrent to crime in many buildings.   If a thief does manage to get to your front door, he must deal with multiple sets of multiple-bolt locks on an order that even a hardened New Yorker would have trouble imagining.  Opening one of these doors with the keys requires not only a good memory--for which key fits which lock,  which of the locks, if any, is a fake, which lock to unlock first, how many turns to make--but also a non-arthritic wrist and some time to waste. 

A fanciful gate, in Coppede'
This concern for home safety has one benefit (well, maybe more than one): the iron gates that guard many buildings--the first line of defense, especially in the absence of a portiere--are works of art.  Some are centuries old, veritable masterpieces of the Italian renaissance.  Others, as in the Coppede' neighborhood in the quartiere of Trieste, evoke the medieval sensibilities of Gino Coppede', the architect who built the area, or offer a touch of the "liberty"/art nouveau style that was in vogue in the decades before and after 1900. (The Coppede' neighborhood came in at #20 on RST's Top 40.)

Then there are the modern gates of the between-the-wars Fascist period, with their strong vertical and/or horizontal lines.  No nonsense. 

Here's another, from the 1920s, with touches of the medieval: that spear to the right, the grate-like general appearance.  Nestled in the center, the modernist letters CP (Case Popolari/Public Housing).  This gate is in the planned community of Garbatella (RST's #16 on its Top 40), south of the center. 

And after the war?  Nothing worth looking at, right?  Wrong.  We (and that really means Bill, that master of the perverse perspective) have been enjoying the gates and doors of the 1950s and 1960s.  Yikes!  At least that's when we think they were made; they don't come with dates. 

Angles, colored glass, lovely shadows.  Note the floor.  This
gate is "busier" than most.  You can see it in Piazza Vescovio.

They're easy to recognize: they're "modern" in the sense that they (usually) aren't busy with detail, and they don't resemble Victorian wallpaper.  But the designers of these postwar examples have moved on just a bit from the stark lines favored in the Fascist era.  Lines are bending (photo at top).  New angles.  Playfulness.  One senses a search--not always successful, we admit--for something beyond the stark order of modernism.

Playful, yet bold and powerful.  Straight out of the 1950s, and strong and masculine.  In postwar, modern Garbatella, not far from the Metro. 

Sensational.  Gorgeous.  You could be in Miami Beach.  But it's Monteverde. 

We found this gem in the quartiere of Trieste, while walking to our
apartment from Piazza Bologna.  Wasted on a parking lot, but dazzling.
We're thinking Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome. 

There's Fuller with his dome. 




Anonymous said...

By the way, it's written "popOlarI", not "populare". Great post, tho.

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Made the change! How dumb! Thanks for your proofreading skills.