Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FAO's Vines: a Tale of Survival

The building that houses FAO, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizaton--is one of the least interesting of the numerous Fascist-era structures that dot the Roman landscape. Intended to be the seat of the Ministry of Italian Africa, it was designed by Vittorio Cafiero and rationalist Mario Ridolfi in 1938 and completed in 1952, years after Italy had lost its empire, such as it was.  It seems today to presage the brutalist style that was popular in the 1970s, though its enormous if spare balcony offers a fine view of Circo Massimo and elements of the Roman forum--assuming you have a friend who can get you in and up there.  

What the building does have, on the exterior walls that front the sidewalk on viale Aventino [once viale Africa], is an impressive, vigorous set of vines.  Yes, vines.  They're thick and primordial in appearance, deriving nourishment from somewhere beneath the asphalt pavement that's [unfortunately] everywhere in Rome. They may even date to FAO's arrival in 1953.

For us they stand for resilience.  Although we have been by the building many times over the years, we first noticed the vines in mid-April, while on a tour--rather disappointing, as it turned out--of the remaining vestiges of Italian colonialism.  They had been trimmed, relentlessly it seemed.  We wondered if they would survive.

They did.  Here's how they looked just two months later, in mid-June:

We'll stop worrying.

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