Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tor Bella Monaca: A Church, and a Shopping Center

Our goal in heading out to the Rome suburb of Tor Bella Monaca was to see the church of Santa Maria del Redentore, one of many built in recent years on the city's outskirts.  We weren't disappointed--more on that building in a forthcoming post--but having seen it, we couldn't resist poking around.

Tor Bella Monaca suffers from a bad reputation--something along the order of
Rome's armpit--and it's not entirely underserved.  But coming from rustbelt Buffalo, with a similar reputation that we know is overdone, we're willing to give any place a chance.

We found ourselves interested in, if not quite fascinated by, the big concrete shopping center across the street.  It was built in architecture's awkward period, between 1960 and 1970, when modernism was washed up and searching, and postmodernism, despite all its flaws, hadn't yet come to the rescue.

Concrete was all the rage--the structure participates in the beginnings of brutalism--and there's plenty of it here, softened a bit with playful--or what were once playful--curving awnings of plastic.

Appropriately for Rome, it's an open-air facility.  Just a hint of postmodernism in exposed overhead steel beams.

Nice views of the Colli Albani from elevated walkways beween the 2nd and 3d floors

Downstairs, on the ground floor, we found the standard array of shops, including a newsstand, but also a "New York City Industry" store, solidly plugged into American mythology, including Muhammad Ali.

Nearby, a pay-to-play park for the little ones--no kids present--and a seating area with large ashtrays and now-shabby wooden benches.  At one of the building there's a performance space, with rounded concrete seating.

We stopped for coffee in a bar--with tables outside, but under cover.  Asked about Tor Bella Monaca, the barista, a woman of about 20, replied that the community was a comfortable one that had "everything," or everything she needed, anyway.

Things got toney upstairs.  A 1960-style sculpture.

And, lo and behold, a legitimate theater, whose manager, noticing our interest, talked the place up. Tor Bella Monaca has everything.

For those entertained by graffiti, there's plenty of it, mostly the colorful, less offensive kind, on the center's exterior walls.  Those walls reveal, too, that Tor Bel Monaca has a neo-Nazi or otherwise right-wing constituency.  One script read, "E Neo Fascista/L'Uomo Sano [The Neo Fascist is the Sane Man], signed by a group called Azione Frontale [Frontal Action], whose sign is a fasce.  Rapinato/Ti Hann Umiliato/Ti Hanno Tradito" [They've robbed you, they've humiliated you, they've betrayed you]: "Popolo Italiano/Alza La Testa" [Italians, Raise your Heads"].  It's by a right-wing organization, Forza Nuova.  Raising his head, and leading the charge, is our own crazy king of right-wing paranoia: Mel Gibson.


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