Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Trullo in about 1940.  It was then called Villaggio Costanzo Ciano, after a notable Fascist.

'We live in Trullo, unfortunately.'
'Why unfortunately?' asked Blume.
'Well, Commissioner, it's not exactly the nicest part of the city, is it?'

That exchange is from Conor Fitzgerald's new detective novel, The Memory Key (2013).  Our Roman friend Massimo, who grew up off via Portuense about two miles from Trullo, confirms the impression, noting that in the 1960s and 1970s Trullo "was still considered a sort of Bronx," along withTor Marancia and the Donna Olimpia housing projects in Monteverde Nuovo.

Located a few miles to the south of Rome's center, between Magliana and Corviale--two other communities that are not "the nicest part of the city" either, Trullo retains more than a little of that "Bronx" feeling.  On the day we visited, we saw not one but two fires burning in the large public garbage cans that sit on the streets, probably set by the roaming groups of teenage boys with not much to do on a Sunday.  Massive towers carrying high-tension wires dominate what years ago was probably a nice park. But as we'll see, there's another side to Trullo.

There wasn't much of anything in the area until 1917, when an industrialist, Maccaferri Gaetano, acquired the land and opened a wire factory serving the war effort.  But the character of the place was not established until 1939, when the ICP (Istituto per le Case Popolari, or the Public Housing Association), an arm of the Fascist regime, acquired enough land to build 336 housing units, intended
for Italian colonists returning from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and other places in North Africa.  When Mussolini visited the following year, on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the March on Rome, he was not impressed.  "These houses," he said, "resemble military barracks more than living quarters."  Or maybe that was high praise.  Appropriately, the village was then called Costanzo Ciano, after a former naval officer who had participated in the March on Rome and become the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (1934-1939).

The Duce's judgment was not without reason, especially, perhaps, in those early days, before bushes and flowers emerged to temper the stucco buildings, row upon row of them, all the same or nearly so.  On the other hand, the treatments of the exterior spaces between the buildings differed,
One of the better kept outdoor spaces.
and most units had shared, and shaded, balcony/walkways, visible in the photos above and below.  

With the fall of Fascism the village of Costanzo Ciano became Duca d'Aosta (also of Great War fame) and then Trullo, a name derived from an ancient Roman tomb located on the right bank of the Tevere, along the old via Campana. 

Move back a few paces and you can't see the church. 

Despite the garbage fires, the electrical towers, and a general lack of maintenance that lend the place a gritty feel, Trullo is not without amenities and pleasures.  The Fascist-era church remains, a modernist evocation of the countryside--even if its sight lines have been intercepted by overgrown trees.

Bocce Circolo, for the village's older men

There's a newer market and, near it, several stores on the main street.  A small park, also quite new, centers the town and is well used by young and old.  A few blocks away, there's a bocce club (above).

What was long ago the town's hotel is now a graffiti-covered leftist circolo, but it seems clear that this colorful building is well and frequently used.  Next door a bar/restaurant, probably at one time part of the hotel, offers a covered patio, table service, and a great vantage point to survey the scene. According to the website Roma a piedi (Rome on foot)--the source for some of the information in this post--Trullo is a multi-ethnic community, though to our eyes it looked mostly Italian.

On a hill a few hundred feet south of the bar, newer apartment buildings suggest the arrival in recent decades of a small middle class, and we found posted notice (right) of a gathering to announce a new book on the village's history, a sign of Trullo's pride in its past.   


Trullo's Main Street.  At right, just out of view, the park.  The church bell tower is visible.
 Straight ahead and a bit to the right, the market.  At left, stores.  Not much action on a Sunday. 

1 comment:

Mick P said...

Let's not forget the Poeti Der Trullo, graffiti-poets with a different take on life in Rome's suburbs.