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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Albano - a day trip with all things Roman

The "cisterone," in use today to water gardens and lawns
The town of Albano, nestled in the Colli Albani - Alban Hills, is a great day trip outside Rome.  Unlike the more famous towns surrounding Rome -  Frascati, Castel Gandolfo and Tivoli -  Albano attracts few tourists. Touring Albano is a bit DIY, but worth it.

The town's origins date back to several millennia B.C., and it has ruins from Roman days, including an impressing town gate, an amphitheater, and an enormous cistern.  Partly because of its treasure trove of Roman artifacts, it also boasts a very good archaeological museum.  And, for us, it's a great starting point for a lovely walk around the volcanic lip of Lago Albano.

a black and white photo that more clearly shows
 this early Roman waterwork
We first took Albano seriously when we went on a guided tour with a favorite Italian tour guide to look at the cistern.  Always interested in the water works of the Romans, we couldn't resist Laura's tour.  The cistern, also known as the "cisterone" - i.e., really big cistern (as Julius Caesar in Italian is known as Cesarone), is amazing in its vastness.  We're not sure how much you can see on your own.  But it's always worth a try.  And the last time we were there, there was at least an explanatory panel in Italian and English.  The cisterone is between via Aurelio Saffi and via San Francesco D'Assisi.

Baths for the soldiers, in Albano
Roman ruins still in use

The porta and other remains of Septimius Severus's huge encampment of Roman soldiers - his legions - are right out in the open.  He built some of the largest baths in the Roman empire - to keep those legions happy. Just walking around town, you can see the ruins everywhere, including as parts of today's buildings. Follow via A. Saffi up the hill and it curves into via Anfiteatro Romano.  The amphitheater is locked up too, unless you are there for a concert.  But you can look in.

The Roman amphitheater in Albano
Before you go up the hill to the cisterone and amphitheater, if you're interested in the museum, head there first.  Museo Archeologico di Villa Ferrajoli, is on the main drag, viale Risorgimento, 3, and the price is right.  We just can't recall if the descriptions also are in English.  For days and hours, scroll down to the bottom of this site:

The view across Lake Albano
To get to the start of the lake walking tour, continue on via Anfiteatro Romano up to where the road joins the larger road (Highway SP71b and 72b) that cruises along the volcanic ridge.  The walking trail takes off just to the right of the restaurant at the top of the hill.  You can walk along the ridge for a mile or more.  This will give you the best views of this volcanic lake - you can see the Pope's residence and observatory at Castel Gandolfo across the lake. If you keep your eye out, you will see some caves and aqueduct remains along the way.

Trains run hourly from Rome's Termini Station to Albano, and back.  The trip takes under an hour and costs about 2 Euros each way.


Caves along the trail

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Street Benches: Monteverde

Public housing projects exist in almost every neighborhood beyond the historic center, thereby creating mixed communities of rich and poor, upper-middle class and lower-middle class.  The projects in Monteverde (Vecchio, but especially Nuovo) date to late in the Fascist era, and they come with one feature we've not encountered elsewhere: "permanent" sidewalk benches fashioned of concrete and brick.  Configurations differ.  One set, on via Ozanam as it approaches
via di Donna Olimpia, features separate tables--probably intended as benches.  Although the street slopes quite acutely coming down the hill from Piazza San Giovanni di Dio, the stone tables been leveled with bases that reverse the sidewalk grade.  Note that  the merchants whose shops are on this street have converted the benches into tables by supplying their own chairs--and some of their own tables. 

Via di Donna Olimpia, which separates Monteverde Vecchio from Monteverde Nuovo, also has permanent places designed for sidewalk sociability.  This one faces away from the street.

And viale dei Quattro Venti has more complex seating arrangements than a linear bench provides, designed so that users may face different directions but can, if they like, sit in the same "area."   Bill

The garbage and trash cans offer a nice touch
Life amid scooters

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yet more updates to Rome the Second Time: Don't Leave Home Without It

What's left of the Tiber boat service; "Non Attivo" - Not active.
They could at least take down these signs.
The boats on the Tevere (Tiber) are completely defunct; don't try to book one.  We discouraged visitors from Rome from doing these cruises, and now we can somewhat happily report you can't even try.

Kino's new Bistrot

Grauco, a very particular film club in the Pigneto area of Rome, closed in 2010 after 30 years of operation.  But we're happy to report, like a phoenix from the ashes, Kino a "cineclub" sponsored by Italian film lovers, directors, and the like, has opened in its place. 

These are two of the "Updates" that are in the now 18-page Updates to Rome the Second Time.  We remind our loyal readers that you can access these Updates through the link to the right of the blog, but also via this link:  Readers of an eBook version can click directly on "Update" anywhere it appears in the eBook.  For the paperback readers, we strongly recommend you download or printout the Updates before you start on any of the itineraries.

Buon visite!  Dianne

Once Grauco, now Kino theater space

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Men in Coats: Looking Good in Piazza San Giovanni di Dio

I have fond memories of Saturday mornings more than a half century ago, when my father would take me "downtown"--downtown, that is, in the sleepy suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois.  We would go to the hardware store and the bank, where he seemed to know everyone.  In that dignified way he had, he wore a sport coat. 

I see something of him, that desire to present oneself well, to look good even on a Saturday morning, in the older men of Piazza San Giovanni di Dio, far from the center.  We were renting close by, on via Palasciano, and I couldn't help but notice the attire of these older, doubtless retired men: sport coats to be sure, less often a suit, commonly a tie, now and then a dressy cap, sometimes, today, a trifle corrupted with jeans and tennis shoes.  The age of mannerly dress, now long gone for most Romans, kept alive by these elderly gentlemen.  Bill

Monday, July 8, 2013

Nice from one perspective - another stand-alone bar outside Rome

Stand-alone bar, in '30s architectural style, with signs for Lotto,
Tabaccheria, etc.  This bar was on a particularly busy cross-roads
and probably accessible only if you are going out of Rome.
The stand-alone bars of Rome and its environs are a special pleasure of ours.  Many of these (by the looks and placement of them) seem to have been put up in the Fascist era, as the road system in and around Rome expanded.

looks nice from this perspective
We ended up in this one because we needed to return some hiking boots we came away with after hiking with an Italian group (Bill thought they were Dianne's, Dianne thought they were Bill's, and we found ourselves with 3 pair of hiking boots).  In case you wonder why they weren't on our feet, it's de rigeur - even proscribed -  when hiking with Italians to bring an extra pair of shoes to wear in the car - so you don't wear your dirty hiking boots in someone's macchina.

So we met the owner of the boots near her workplace, out of Rome a ways at this bar she suggested.  And, being us, we couldn't resist having a coffee in the bar's sweet outside spot. At least it looked sweet from one point of view. From another, the "terrace" was filled with garbage cans, leftover furniture, and even (though out of the photo) an unused refrigeration case.  The Italian sense of style seems to have only one perspective here.  We'll leave the theories up to the reader.
but not so nice from this one


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Street Art and Occupiers: Ostiense Gets Even Hipper

Cat eats bird
[Update - December 4, 2014 - Blu has finished the artwork on the "occupied" building below.  See this link for photos of Blu working on the immense project, and of the finished work.  The title of the lnk is Blu unveils a majestic mural on Via Del Porto Fluviale in Rome, Italy.  As our London son put it, "Blu is considered a big deal."  Glad we were there early!]

For those tired of RST's obsession with Street Art, skip this post.  But you'll be missing something, imho.  As we noted recently by reviewing Jessica Stewart's book on Rome street art, Street Art Stories, this ephemeral form has an exceptionally good life in this, the Eternal City.  And, having just returned from London and a great street art tour there (Street Art London), we're jazzed up about the form.

oops, there goes the cat
And so it was that we finally stopped in the Ostiense neighborhood (a run-down working class area that is being revived by youth and money, and was on its way enough that it made it into the original RST as part of Itinerary 4) to get a close-up look at what we drive by weekly, if not daily.

The train underpasses for via Ostiense and via delle Conce

we like the see-through aspects of the art in the underpasses

are clearly painted artistry, and they survive tagging and painting over.  Some of the themes echo Rome itself, including the nearby Protestant Cemetery, where Keats's memorial has the inscription by Shelley:  "Here lies one whose name was writ in water".  Some are political (anti-war), and some fantastical (a unicorn, a cat eating a bird, eating a cat, etc.)..

Nearby is an "occupied" building.  We've written previously about occupied cultural spaces in Rome, both on the blog and in RST.  This is an occupied living space.  We took some photos before being asked not to; so out of respect for the residents, we have not included any photos of the inside of this - in many ways - charming space.  The occupants here celebrated their 10th anniversary on June 1-2, with some events open to the public.  It's hard to get one's head around all that from a US perspective. 

The residents of this building are painting the exterior, using the windows for eyes, and creatively bringing out faces.  It's not done yet, one can tell.  We like it. 

But we learned a few days after our visit in early June that residents had filed dozens of complaints with the police about the dangers of the painter working high up without any protection.  Add to that, say the residents, the fact that the large cornices are losing chunks of plaster - hence the closer of the sidewalks with the orange fencing you see in the photo above.  The residents and local merchants are clearly frustrated by the police failure to do anything about the building.  The artist, who doesn't live in the building but was asked by residents to do the painting, claims he will carry forth, even though the police have stopped him a couple times. 

Check out the building, which occupies a former military installation; the ex'caserma, we're told, is what it's called (and, the woman we asked, said, "bello, no?"  - "beautiful, isn't it?").  You can start at the corner of via del Porto Fluviale and via delle Conce. 
and the 1950s madonnellas are still around

Brazilian artist Herbert Baglione's work from 2011 is still