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Friday, November 7, 2014

Wall Walk IV: Porta Portese to the Gianicolo, or Brian's Lament

Our friend Brian was in town, and we somehow convinced him to accompany us as we pursued our
Porta Portese.  A good place to get run over.  
goal of walking the length of the Aurelian wall--in this case, a segment that begins at Porta Portese and ends on the Gianicolo at Piazza Garibaldi  In retrospect, it's not the most inviting portion of the wall - at least the first part; there seemed to be more trash and ugliness around than usual, though the former is endemic to Rome. [Update - here's a Google map that includes the itinerary.]

We gathered at Porta Portese, on the inside of the wall, and walked through.  On your left, on any day but Sunday, when the market takes over, is the beginning of a quarter mile of shack-like shops, all dedicated to 2-wheeled vehicles: bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles.

A Barberini Pope.  Below, the date--looks
like 1644; Pope Urban VIII's (a Barberini)
papacy was from 1623-44

You can explore these if you like, but the wall goes right--we're on the outside now--bumping along viale delle Mura Portuensi, past a substantial pile of detritus and a handsome, if worn, papal symbol--nicely dated, too--to Piazza Bernardino da Feltre.

Looking back from across viale di Trastevere
There, looking right, one can observe the inside of the wall.  Here the wall disappears as it crosses the busy viale di Trastevere, but it's easy to find on the other side next to an unassuming structure of ca. 1970 vintage.  The photo here was shot on the other side of the viale, looking back.

Your climb begins here, along viale Aurelia Saffi, the outside of the wall on your right, hugging Villa Sciarra.  If you've tried the stairways walk in our latest guidebook, Modern Rome, you're in familiar territory. There are some ragged sections of the wall here, but some handsome and powerful ones, too.  Having gone around the corner of the Villa, enter the park at the first entrance on your right--narrow but suggestive.  The Villa is large and fascinating, with lovely paths and intriguing structures.  Much of the best stuff is to your right, near the portion of the wall you've already seen from the outside.

Detritus in Villa Sciarra.  Someone had a party.

But, in pursuit of new wall, we're going left, into a scruffier section.  If you poke around, you'll find a short staircase down inside the wall--and your familiar pile of Roman trash.

"Are these people crazy?"

Following the wall takes one into what appears to be a maintenance area--cars and vans, overgrown bushes, and so on.  Brian is wondering what he's doing here.  Further on, there's a reward: a handsome fountain, vintage and author unknown - though there are rumors of a Bernini satyr fountain in the villa, perhaps this is it.

Reward for hard work

Porta San Pancrazio, from Bar Gianicolo
Exit the park at your first opportunity and follow the outside of the wall as it enters an open space known as Largo Minutilli, with its complement of handsome pines--and an SPQR plaque from 1649. Ahead, the wall bends right--via Carini is on your left, and the automobile traffic from it can be intimidating--with Porta San Pancrazio just ahead, and, just before you get there, one of our favorite places to snack and drink: Bar Gianicolo.  The porta is a handsome one, featuring the shield of Pope Pius XI, who rebuilt it after it was damaged in the 1849 battles between Garibaldi and his followers, who were holding out inside the wall, and the French armies, defending the papacy, attacking from the outside.  The French won, delaying the creation of a unified Italy.

Views, finally; these from in front of Acqua Paola,
looking across the Spanish Academy to much of Rome

The combat up here was intense and bloody--we've written about it in a chapter of Rome the Second Time--and the battle can be followed in considerable detail in a fine new museum inside the porta.  Instead, we took our companion Brian down via Masina--to the right of the porta--past the McKim, Mead and White building housing the American Academy [1913], then sharply left to the Acqua Paola Fountain, which hovers dramatically above the city (and came in at #19 in our RST Top 40).

Evidence of water tank

Brian asked to be carried the rest of the way, but we refused.  Returning to the porta we took a hard left through the opening--picking up the wall again, now inside,  On the left, a building, possibly designed by Michelango, that once housed - and may still - a "serbatoio"--a water tank.  The inscription is of interest: Gianicolo Storage Tank, 1941--and, nearly erased, XIX E.F. [year 19 of the Fascist Era]. Further on, on the right, a curious statue to Ciceruacchio ("Chubby"), a working-class martyr to the Garibaldini cause.  The statue is curious in part because it is out of place here.  It was recently moved to this spot.   A hundred meters of London plane trees track the Aurelian wall here (you're on top, and inside).

Bruno, kissed

Then the statue to Giuseppe Garibaldi (bear in mind we are now in what can only be called a Garibaldi Theme Park) and, just beyond, a humbler piece of work honoring Bruno Garibaldi, rather charmingly decorated on this day with a kiss.  We are crossing perhaps our favorite spot in Rome, the top of the Gianicolo.  We are not alone in this preference, of course.

Our destination, the end of our wall walk for today,  is just ahead, down the hill towards Prati. Fittingly, it's another Garibaldi, and this one is a woman: hard-riding, gun-toting Anita Garibaldi, wife and companion to Giuseppe. The Annie Oakley of the Risorgimento.  We're not making this up.    Bill


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I believe I asked for a taxi, not to be carried.

Everything else is the God's truth about that goddamn wall.