Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Poster Lies: Alemanno Advertisements in the 2013 Mayoral Campaign

It's not unlikely that the average Roman gets most of his or her information about the political scene from, of all things, posters.  These ephemera are everywhere in the eternal city, and unavoidable.  Usually they're innocuous--along the lines of "I Love Rome" so vote for me, or "I was born in Rome, so vote for me."  But in the just-concluded mayoral run-off election, won handily by the center-left candidate, Ignazio Marino, the center-right, in a last-minute attempt to get votes for the their flailing incumbent, Gianni Alemanno, issued two posters of questionable ethical content. 

The one above reads "Zingaretti invita a votare Alemanno Sindaco"--Zingaretti invites you to vote for Alemano for mayor.  Straightforward.  Except that the poster seems to be suggesting that the well-known and widely respected governor of the province of Lazio (a sort of county executive), Nicola Zingaretti, is an Alemanno supporter.  Not so.  That Zingaretti is solidly center-left, a strong backer of Marino.  So what gives?  It seems the Zingaretti in the poster is--must be--Alessandro Zingaretti, a comparatively minor figure on the center-right and then a candidate for Rome's city council.  The old Zingaretti switcheroo. 

The second poster attacks the challenger by focusing on his career as a transplant surgeon.  The ad contrasts Marino's supposed attitude toward animal vivisection--enriching the pharmaceutical companies, with Alemanno's humane view--he asks people to contribute to families (human families?  animal families?) by adopting strays.  The large letters say, "For Marino it's a guinea pig," "For Alemanno it's a life."  At the bottom, the conclusion: those who love Rome--well, at least we're back to loving Rome--respect animals. 

Marino took 64% of the vote. 


For an earlier post on Marino's "Daje" campaign, see:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Fans of Lazio: C.M.L. '74, Il Tassinaro

Lazio fans, on the Curva Nord

With apologies to fans of the soccer club AS Roma, and with a sense of betrayal (for Roma is our team, too), we can't help bringing our readers just a bit of Lazio--the "other" Rome team--lore.  We found it on the walls and sidewalks of Rome, especially on the walls and sidewalks of Monteverde Nuovo, where we've been living.  The references began appearing after the Lazio victory over Roma in the finals of the Coppa Italia in late May, 2013--a bitter defeat for Roma, a thrilling victory for Lazio.   

Some of the writing was simple:  "Lazio Campione," referring to the team's triumph in the Italian
Cup, written in huge letters across an intersection in a suburb south of Rome. 

Or the large sidewalk letters in Monteverde, in sky blue--Lazio's team colors are sky white and sky blue (biancoceleste)--celebrating the victory and the player who scored the winning goal, the Bosnian winger, Senad Lulic.

More mysterious to us were the letters CML and, adding a date, CML '74.  CML, we learned from Roman friends over beer and ice cream, refers to Commandos Monteverde Lazio, an Ultras (hard-core) Lazio fan group founded in 1971, a few years after the first Lazio fan groups appeared.  The
What's that symbol?  A crown? S.S.L. is Societa' Sportiva Lazio
full name became CML '74 in (duh!) 1974, when the team won the Scudetto, the cup signifying victory in Serie A of the Italian League. 

Then, while working out an itinerary on "The Steps of Rome"--this one in the hills of Monteverde--
Tassinaro Vive! (Except he doesn't)  C.M.L. '74
we found CML '74 linked with "Tassinaro."  Tassinaro, usually referred to as Il Tassinaro and sometimes as Er Tassinaro, refers to Goffredo Lucarelli, the leader of Lazio's fans on the Curva Nord (the north curve of the stadium) and the most famous of the team's fans in the 1970s, the crucial decade in the formation of Lazio fan organizations.

For followers of the Lazio club, Il Tassinario was, and remains, a legend.  In 1999, his contribution to Lazio fandom
Stop  and Reflect....
was commemorated with a plaque, mounted by his personal fan club in the working-class district of Magliana, where Lucarelli had grown up.


For an earlier (one of many) post on right-wing soccer fans, see this one:

And, for equal time for the Roma team, and it's red and yellow colors, see: 

Il Tassinaro, in his younger days


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Alberto Moravia's Intellectual Gathering Place: Home in Rome Series #4.

Moravia, one of the great 20th-century Italian writers, is not a household word in the U.S., but probably should be.  His "The Conformist" resulted in Bernardo Bertolucci's acclaimed 1970 film of the same name.   And, Alberto Moravia's experience in the Ciociara region of central Italy, where he and Elsa Morante went to escape the German occupation of Rome in 1943-44, produced the novel and film we know in English as "Two Women."  In Vittorio DeSica's film, Sophia Loren gave the performance that earned her the first major Academy Award for a non-English performance. Moravia's "Gli Indifferenti" (The Indifferent Ones), published in 1929 when he was only 22, and with some of his own money, was the work that vaulted him onto the national scene.

Moravia's study.  He personally answered every
phone call. 
So it was with perseverance (see tour hours below) that we recently made a reservation to tour Moravia's apartment of his last 30 years, in which he died in 1991.  We enjoy seeing where historic figures lived, and the ambience they created around themselves.  In this sense, the Casa Moravia (Moravia home) does the job. One can see Moravia's study, his Olivetti typewriter, the desk his sculptor friend made him, the table around which the intellectuals gathered.

This home is where he moved with his second writer-wife, Dacia Maraini, in the early 1960s, after he separated from writer Elsa Morante. The Morante-Moravia relationship was tortured, at best.  Both have been described as unusually difficult people, although they also inspired creativity in each other.  It's hard to imagine a healthy spousal relationship with a writer who was obsessed with sex and younger women (a 1971 novel was about a screenwriter and his independent penis).

Yet a great writer he was, and we can breathe in the atmosphere he shared with his wives (the third one 40-some years younger than he) and other intellectual companions, including Pier Paolo Pasolini.  Moravia's life, in addition to being shaped by his wives and friends, was also heavily influenced by his 5-year bed rest as a teenager with tuberculosis, a life-long disease for him, and by Fascism.  His father was Jewish, and the family name was Pincherle. The Fascist regime kept track of his activities. 

Moravia, by Renato Guttuso
We encourage non-Italian speakers to enjoy some of these "second time" places.  But this one is only for those who understand Italian or just must see where Moravia lived.  The "tour" of less than one hour includes a 20 minute video (Italian only) and two 5-10 minute "talks" before seeing any of the apartment.  The 15 minute tour of the premises is too small a part of the "tour," we think.

Moravia was much painted by his artist friends; as a result, a significant part of the tour is the guide pointing out paintings. There are 3 by Renato Guttuso (one of our favorite 20th-century Italian painters) alone.

via della Vittoria, 1, in boring Prati.  Moravia's
apartment occupied the top floor on the rounded corner;
the terrace is quite something. 
Moravia's apartment is, frankly, rather ordinary and conformist.  It is also in what we consider a rather boring part of Rome: Prati.  On the day of the tour, to escape June rains in Rome, we walked for 30 minutes without finding a single coffee bar - now that's deprivation. Moravia had lived with Morante just off Piazza del Popolo for decades.  The move to Prati, even though just across the Tevere and up river a bit, must have felt like a move to the suburbs.  Even so, the environment may have suited the author, whose themes of ennui, alienation, and existentialism were well served by the neighborhood.

Casa Moravia was opened only a couple years ago, though the State has owned the apartment and its belongings basically since Moravia died.  Tours are given only at 10 and 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, and reservations must be made in the month preceding the one in which you wish to take the tour.  Euro 5; Lungotevere della Vittoria, 1.  Web site in English:  For reservations, call:  +39 339 2745206 (ArcheArte).
For RST's other "Home in Rome" postings, see those on German writer and philosopher Goethe, Nobel prize-winning playwright Luigi Pirandello, and artist Giorgio de Chirico (in birth order).  


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Taking Photos in Rome? Watch Out!

The photos on this page have no common subject matter, but they are related: all were taken within 48 hours, and--more important--all produced criticism, or concern, from people around us, whether they were in the frame or not. 

The first photo was taken in Pigneto, during a public event called Citta' Aperta (Open City).  In this instance, I was photographing a street sign on which street artists had done some work.  As I was taking it, a woman in the distance--about 100 feet away--got up from a bench, waved her arms and yelled "no foto, no foto."  I explained that I was photographing the sign, not her, and she calmed down. 

The second photo was taken across the street from our apartment in via Palasciano, near Piazza San Giovanni di Dio.  The subject was a large banner/sign of Jesus that covered most of the back wall of a small car-washing business.  As I took the photograph, the proprietor or employee emerged, concerned about what I was doing.  Dianne explained, but his unease remained.

Later, on a walk in the neighborhood, we turned down what turned out to be a dead-end street, passing an older man walking a Dalmatian-like dog on a leash.  Working our way back to the main street, I took the third photograph, of a building whose rounded balconies I found intriguing.  The dog-walker was upset, asking what I was doing, and he was not mollified by my explanation that I found the building's curves compelling.  As his dog barked and snarled, he said with vehemence and obvious irritation that we couldn't
Looks like an "abusivo"--an illegal addition--on the
third level
take such photographs.  When I asked him if it was against the law, he said yes, of course it was, and he twice asked us, still irritated and rubbing in whatever authority he (and his dog) possessed, if we understood what he was saying. 

The next day, while reading La Repubblica over morning coffee, I discovered that Ermanno Polla, a professor of architecture, had similar experiences while carrying out a study of Rome's buildings.  Polla's project was to photograph, chart, and draw every façade of every building within the city's walls, which he did over a 17-year period.  "So many negative comments," he said in the interview with a reporter.  "People said to me, 'What are you doing here?  Why are you taking photographs?"  Although the chair of his department had written a letter for Polla explaining his purpose and reinforcing that he wasn't an impostor--and Polla had made thousands of copies to distribute--"only a few trusted me and invited me into the entrances halls or courtyards." 

Much suspicion.  Too much. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Artists' Colonies in Rome, Part 2: Piano Creativo ("Creative Floor")

Silvia Codignola was the first artist at Piano Creativo, and the only one of the original artists still there.
Artists hard at work:  that's the portrait of the artist colony we found at the end of the No. 8 Tram line, "Casaletto."  "Piano Creativo" (the "creative floor"), as the group refers to itself collectively, is testament to contemporary art being alive and well in Rome, despite decreasing support from the City or State.

Discussing their work with Luis Serrano, Flavia Dodi and
Sonia Cipollari - in Serrano's bright studio
On a Tuesday morning in June, six of the artists gave us some background on the artists' studios on one floor of a school, showed us their studios and many of their works - done and in process, and made us coffee.  What more can one ask?

The 1950s school building that hosts the artists' studios.
The artists generally (the exception is interesting and noted below) have not known each other before renting studios in the building, and only occasionally show their work together - one or two "open studios" each year.  The artists tend to come and go over time. The building was built as a school on private land owned by the Tozzi family- their "tenuta," or semi- rural land holdings in this southwest corner of suburban Rome.  It's an unusual early-1950s structure with enormous glass windows that are ideal for artists' studios, and interesting, given that the school was once a school for the blind.  In the '90s, with less demand for school space, some of the building was re-purposed; part of one floor was designated artists' studios.   Rent is reasonable - Euro 500-600/month for one studio, and the studios usually are shared by 2-3 artists.  There are a dozen artists now, and 8 studios.   As the photos reveal, the studios range from clean and well-organized to crowded and rather messy, what one would expect from a group of artists. 

Serrano with one of his "Bedding" series.
As Sonia Cipollari and Luis Serrano explained to us, almost all of the artists here have no other jobs and work hard all day, 5-6 days/ week, at their studios.  Historically, artists' studios were once on via Margutta, near the Spanish Steps, as portrayed in Roman Holiday and where the rents went sky-high as early as post WWII.  Then artists moved to other areas, such as San Lorenzo.  But artists now tend to be in collectives on the outskirts of Rome, such as Portonaccio, about which we wrote last year, and this area, at the outer end of Monteverde Nuovo.

Sonia described the "golden age" of contemporary art, in the late '90s until about 2003, when the City funded studios and shows.  No longer.  Now, we have heard, artists who want shows usually have to pay for the space, the opening party, the publicity, the catalog; something few contemporary artists can afford.  

Cipollari showing her water color technique.

Now artists depend on cultural institutions, such as Temple University's Rome campus, where Shara Wasserman has curated shows of independent artists, including this group.  Wassernman, who now has her own Web site, is perhaps the most knowledgeable curator of contemporary art in Rome.

Dodi describing her chromatic approach.
And, of course, to the art:  all of the work we saw at Piano Creativo was of a high level.  Luis Serrano showed us work from a recent show, "Bedding."  Flavia Dodi explained her mysterious paintings, some in black and white, others in "beautiful" color.  We sensed she prefers her more monochromatic pieces. Marcello Toma works with machinery and gears, in a neo-realist, post-Futurist vein, while his studio mate, Stefano Bolcato is using children's toy pieces (listen up, Fisher Price) to explore themes such as domestic violence and homosexuality.  Sonia Cipollari works in the difficult medium of watercolor on somewhat slick, slightly transparent paper, making her fascinating projects time-consuming, she told us.  We were particularly drawn to Silvia Codignola's sculpture and paintings, the latter evocative of the existential themes and styles of the 1930s and of the California work of David Hockney..  She uses a type of manikin figure to portray domestic scenes.  

Toma and work in process.
Cipollari shows photos of the sets for HBO's Rome series.
The exception noted above to the artists knowing each other before renting studios here is a group of 3 who worked together painting interior walls and ceilings, both de novo and restorations.  They had a successful project painting the Cinecitta' sets for the HBO Rome US TV series.  

The artists at Piano Creativo are open to visits. We suggest going during a weekday, perhaps between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.  Take Tram 8 (now beginning at Largo di Torre Argentina, but shortly to begin at Piazza Venezia) to Casaletto (end of the line).

Bolcato points out the "wedding portrait" tipped over in his
scene of domestic violence.
Immediately on the right, at No. 420 viale Gianicolense, access "artisti" on the citofono by using the up and down arrows, and then press the bell sign below.  There's an elevator: they are on floor "2" , but 3 floors up, because you start on floor 1.    The Web site is:  There are links there to the individual artists' Web sites as well.

Buon viewing.  Dianne
From Codignola's domestic series.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bike Sharing: Rome

What's to Share?  Piazza del Biscione, near Campo de' Fiori

Near empty bike-sharing lot, near Largo di Torre Argentina

Bike-sharing programs work well in cities like Seattle and Portland, Oregon, where residents are convinced that sharing bikes is the solution to global warming, energy dependence and diabetes, and where the locals are so law abiding that crossing against the light or at mid-block is considered about as bold and life-threatening as parachute jumping.

This doesn't describe Rome, a city where living within the law means not driving your motorscooter on the sidewalk more than once a day, and where the life expectancy of a bicyclist is about 10 minutes. 

In Rome, bike-sharing means sharing space with scooters.
Piazza dell' Óratorio, just south of Galleria Sciarra
So it's no surprise to us that the city's bike-sharing program, inaugurated about two years ago, and now administered by ATAC (in charge of all aspects of transport in the city), doesn't appear to be thriving.  The stations have been handsomely outfitted, but there are no bikes--or only a few.  We would guess, in a city whose most famous film may be the neo-realist classic The Bicycle Thief  [English title] (in which even the hero tries to steal a bike) that many have been stolen.  The good news is that adaptable Romans have found the empty bike racks an ideal place to park their scooters.