Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Friday, December 28, 2012

An Awkward Moment at an Art Opening

        At Luigi Moretti's ex-GIL (where Fascist youth once played their games), Trastevere, last June. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Arts alert: Totti Fresco undergoing Restoration

Elizabeth Minchilli reports on Facebook that a 10-year-old fresco of the Roma soccer star Francesco Totti--off via Madonna dei Monti in the Monti quartiere--had recently been defaced and, we're pleased (and somewhat surprised) to learn, was being restored by the artists who painted the original.  The restoration effort is depicted in Minchilli's photo, above.  RST took the "before" photo, below, in 2010.  Elizabeth Minchilli's website is    Bill

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grandissimo Stronzo: [Bad] Parking in Rome

RST found this note on the windshield of a car in the quartiere of Trieste.  The owner had pulled the car up onto the narrow sidewalk, tight against a building, blocking pedestrians from getting through and forcing everyone to walk into a busy street to get past.  Parking on the sidewalk is the custom in many places in Rome, and no one pays much attention, but this perpetrator had gone too far--even we thought so.  Our pique was shared by the author of this note.  Roughly translated, it reads: "You s.o.b./ Where can people get through?  You moron.   Bill

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Asphalt Jungle: Rome's Sidewalks

Rome has lousy sidewalks.  Yes, sidewalks. 

Americans may be shocked to learn that sidewalks are not the same world wide (as if RST could claim familiarity with the world's sidewalks).  There are places--and Rome is one of them--where those familiar concrete rectangles, placed one after the other--do not exist.

A sidewalk of sampietrini, on viale Trastevere
There are some handsome sidewalks in Rome.   Here and there, especially in or near the city center, one finds sidewalks fashioned of handsome modern paving blocks, others of sampietrini.  The one at the right is lovely, but the stones can come loose, leading to expensive repairs (or no repairs) [see photo at end].

Piazza Vittorio
Under its porticos, Piazza Vittorio (left) has a colorful sidewalk in the terrazzo style. 

But by and large, the preferred sidewalk material in the Eternal City is anything but eternal: it is asphalt.  Asphalt makes some sense as a paving material for the city's streets; it is smoother and provides better traction than the lovely but impractical sampietrini that fill so many roadways, and scooter riders can now enjoy a less bumpy, safer, and more predictable ride on--for example--large sections of the Lungotevere, the city's main north-south artery.  So streets are one thing. 

Monteverde Vecchio.  A dog's world.  They are all wealthy.
And sidewalks another.  And surprisingly, the city's sidewalks are mostly asphalt.  Even in elegant neighborhoods, like Monteverde Vecchio, where an average condominium sells for a million dollars.

We don't know why this is so.  Perhaps in Rome the difference between the cost of asphalt and the cost of cement is substantial, or larger than elsewhere.  Perhaps, in a city where many prefer to walk in the streets, sidewalks are an understandable afterthought.  Perhaps the asphalt sidewalk is just another sign of how little Italians care for, or take responsibility for, anything beyond their own homes and apartments.    

There is one advantage to asphalt.  The dark, undivided surface is good to write on, and Rome's bards have taken advantage, letting the sidewalks speak of Giovanni's obsession with Maria, of Massimo's with Chiara, of Vittorio's with Frederika, and so on.

Otherwise, the asphalt sidewalks are a failure.  They are hard to clean (not that Romans are out there scrubbing away).  See right.

Compared to cement, they are hardly level even when new.   The thin layer of asphalt breaks up into pieces and holes.  Ugliness abounds.  Dangers loom. 

 But it is more than that.  There is something dispiriting, degrading, even disgraceful, about an asphalt sidewalk.  That would be true in Peoria, but it is especially true in Rome, where the elegance of the past is everywhere. 

Rome deserves better.

Sidewalks of sampietrini can be handsome, and they have
historical resonance, but they are hardly indestructible. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Updates to Rome the Second Time

New in 2012 - the Metro B1 stop Sant'Agnese-Annibaliano -
perhaps more glamour than function
        Rome may be the Eternal City, but it also is eternally changing.  Everyone who visits has some experience with a museum that is supposed to be open, but isn’t; a restaurant that is supposed to be there but now is run by someone else; an ancient ruin that one should be able to see but now is blocked by high walls. 

                Writing a guidebook to Rome, and perhaps especially an alternative guidebook, means many things do not stay the same and the book needs Updates!  And so we try to keep up with ever-changing Rome through our Updates document, available with a click here, or on one of the tabs at the right of this blog.  The Updates themselves are updated periodically, and we just did a new set of Updates – so we encourage you to try it.

We like this combination of athletes and mythical sea
creatures in the Foro Italico swim complex of 1937

                Our Updates include new, and improved, hyperlinks.  The hyperlink you all have been clicking on madly – that has nice photos of the mosaics in the Foro Italico (then Foro Mussolini) swim complex – doesn’t work any longer.  So we provided a new one.   

                There is a new Metro line, the B1, that runs out of Piazza Bologna.  So our Itinerary for Piazza Bologna, and the maps that relate to it, have been modified, and our links take you to those revised maps.  See our map for the Piazza Bologna Itinerary 8:,+Lazio,+Italy&msa=0&msid=115234173574934358486.00048bff8c1136f67d863&ll=41.917104,12.515616&spn=0.021523,0.037723&z=15

Rome's Eataly - just opened
                We found more restaurants we liked near one of our itineraries – and so we included those restaurants in our Updates.   We’ll give you a hint – we like L’Oste de Coste next to the Jolly Theater off Piazza delle Provincie.  via Giano della Bella, 2; tel. 06.999.24.609.  We had very mixed feelings about another blockbuster, Eataly, that we've included in our Updates.

Now missing - the plaque to Primo Levi
and the more than 1,000 Jews  taken from
Rome to the Nazi camps October 16, 1943
                The Lion Bookshop – the oldest English language bookstore in Rome—simply closed its doors last year. 

                The plaque to honor Primo Levi, and the Jews who were transported from Rome to extermination camps, has disappeared from the Tiburtina Station.  The old station was torn down; a new one takes its place. 

                And you’ll find much more in the 17 page list of Updates (coordinated to the pages of RST).  If you’re using the book version of RST, we urge you to print out those Updates right before you leave for Rome.  If you’re using the eBook versions, your click on “Updates” – hyperlinked - will take you to the Update list.

                Buon viaggio!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012 Tuscolano!

Every edition of La Repubblica, Italy's rough equivalent of the New York Times, contains something--an article or a letter to the editor--about how dirty and unkempt Rome is.  RST couldn't agree more.  But now and then--this may be the first time, actually--we are surprised to observe a change for the better, some place that's been cleaned up in some substantial way, making a difference in the urban scene.

It happened not long ago, in the quartiere of Tuscolano, a gritty neighborhood near the (Tuscolano) train station.  As an exit strategy, we were spending two nights at the Holiday Inn Express, a modern hotel that's at most a 6-minute walk from the station, where we can catch the train for the Fiumicino airport for about 1/8 the cost of a taxi.

Anyway, while there we went to the station to buy tickets and check on times.  The route took us under the railway overpass.  In October of 2011, it looked like this:

Via Tuscolana, October 2011

Nine months later, our jaws dropped when we passed the same area.  A work crew had been through, clearing brush and debris.  Repairs had been made in the concrete.  One could actually sit here now.  And some advertisers had invested in the space.  You never know.

Via Tuscolana, July 2012