Rome Travel Guide

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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).