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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rome's right-wing Graffiti: the 2014 Collection

We're not fans of people tagging and writing on Rome's buildings.  But not writing about it won't make it go away.  We doubt the graffiti writers are reading the RST blog and rejoicing in their having been discovered, or recognized.

Most of the casual graffiti writing--maybe 90%--is right-wing.  Disaffected youth expressing their ideas and concerns, such as they are.  Here's the rightist stuff we found on Rome's walls in 2014.

"Tutto il resto e' noia"/All the rest is boredom or, perhaps better, All that remains is boredom.
When we first saw this, the meaning seemed obvious.  The young rebels of the right--and the Sun Cross/LS (see below) signature suggests we are dealing with the radical right--are bored. It's not clear why they're bored.  It may be because they're not involved--unemployed, not in power, doing uninteresting, menial work.  And the "resto" implies some previous state, or other state, of non-boredom.  According to our Rome friend Massimo, the phrase expresses "a sort of existential ennui,...extended to cover a political stance: everything that is not (political action), everything that is not 'us' (that is, il resto, with their lazy and bourgeois life) is just plain boring." 

We agree.  But there's a complication, though one that doesn't change our sense of what the phrase means: "Tutto il resto e' noia" is also the title and chorus of beloved singer-songwriter Franco Califano's (1938-2013) most famous song.  Although written in 1976 during the anni di piombo, it seems to have no political valence.  It's just a love song.  Correspondent Massimo adds, however, that Califano the man and Califano the songwriter expressed something like a right-wing view of relationships between men and women.  So perhaps there is a link. 

"Vita, amore, guerra"/Life, Love, War.  Echoes here of the vitalism of Nietzsche, the Italian
Futurists, the cult of Mussolini and Fascism, even Hemingway.  You can add to the list.  If you're really bored, you can get some relief by going to war against the Austria/Hungarians.  Or driving an ambulance.

"Eredi di terza posizione"/Heirs of the Third Position.  The "Third Position" was a right-wing group founded in Rome in 1978, during the anni di piombo.  The "Third Position" reflected the group's goal of grounding a society in neither capitalism nor socialism--hence a "third" position--based on the ideas of Julius Evola.  The main ideas, which seem straight out of 1920s Fascism--are nationalism, tradition, militarism, and opposition to parliamentary government.  The Third Position now has a theme song, "Inno della terza posizione"/Hymn of the Third Position (2014), which you can listen to online--if you can stand it.  You can learn more about the "terza posizione" on Wikipedia, in English.

"Passi securi, passi pesanti e lenti"/Sure steps, heavy and slow.  This slogan suggests that the group will move in a gradual but determined way toward its goal.  We also have a signature: the LS - Lotta Studentesca (Student Struggle), a right-wing organization and one of the "Eredi di terza posizione" [see just above], this one focused on changes in the educational system. Appropriately, we found this grafitti on a school building. Perhaps this, too, is from a popular song. 

"Arma la tua anima"/Arm your Soul/Arm your Spirit.  We're not entirely sure what this means, though the schematic fasci at the right of the slogan mark it as right wing.  Also, it's likely from the right because that side seems particularly interesting in being armed.  We think it means "Toughen Up."  Note, too, that around the fasci are two letters--B and S--likely standing for Blocco
Studentesco (Student Bloc), a ring-wing organization similar to the Lotta Studentesca.  Those enamored with this organization can purchase a T-shirt bearing the words "Arma la tua anima," along with the words "absentia lunae."  This phrase is the name of an affiliated black metal band, whose website describes its "lyrical themes" as "negativity, emptiness, sadness"; its enemy as "modern scum"; and its goal as "resistance against the modern world."  Very earnest.   

"Valentino presente."  We haven't been able to pin down who Valentino is or was.  But from past experience we do know that the word "presente" (Present) means that Valentino is dead--likely some time ago, and likely as a consequence of his commitment to the values and goals of the right.  (We first saw the word "presente" used in this way on a poster in the Tuscolano zone, paying tribute to 3 young rightists killed there in 1978).  To say "Valentino presente" is to say that Valentino is alive in the hearts and minds of those committed to the cause.  The word was used by the Fascists in reference to Italian soldiers killed in the Great War. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Three centuries in one place: 6th Century BC Servian Wall, 1908 Palazzo, 2014 Hotel

Sixth Century Servian Wall in front of 1908 Palazzo Montemartini [more photos of the wall at the end of this post]
I thought I'd start with these two pictures - above, a 1908 palazzo in 18th-century style with the 6th- century BC Servian Wall in its courtyard, and below, the 2014 entry lobby of the Hotel Montemartini IN this palazzo.  Ah, Rome.  What a fabulous conflation of eras.
Registration Desk, Hotel Montemartini

We wanted to see this palazzo because the conversion to a 21st- century hotel was by the architectural firm of King Roselli, praised by one of our favorite contemporary Rome architects, Nathalie Grenon of Sartogo Architetti Associati. King Roselli also are the architects for the Radisson Blu es Hotel, which sports one of Rome's great rooftop bars. The Radisson Blu es Hotel is also near Stazione Termini, but about a mile away, on the other side of the train station.

It took us a while to find Hotel Montemartini, because it's not an obvious hotel building and the address doesn't make its location apparent.  Once we found it, and the Servian Wall, we were duly impressed.

Lobby view into "library"; note the use of see-through
stone block (i.e. Servian Wall) display
The hotel design has been up for awards and received good press when it opened a little over a year ago, January 2014.  King Roselli has commentary on its Web site about the conversion, which clearly wasn't easy.  It appears (see below - like many things in Rome, nothing is totally clear) the building was first designed as headquarters of the Rome transportation system, ATAC.

As the architects say:  "The structure and the original internal arrangement were not immediately suitable to the programme of a hotel.  This meant the design of the 87 guests rooms in seven or eight 'types' which were then adapted to the existing building one by one."

Looking through the stone blocks
Another Web site notes:  "The structure, an early example of a reinforced concrete, mixed with load bearing walls, with a large number of level changes, has given rise to a necessarily complex distribution of the hotel."

King Roselli state they tried to reflect ancient history with their use of stone (the Servian Wall) and water - the ruins of the Baths of Diocletion are, yes, a stone's throw, from the hotel (if not under it).

We think this all works, but then we haven't paid to stay in this 5-star hotel.  There are many meetings here, including those of an ex-pat group that seems particularly fond of the bar, and we would say, appropriate so (photo below).

A view out the entrance -a feel for the 18th century
style in a 1908 building (on ancient ruins)
Another mystery to me was the name of the palazzo.  "Montemartini" is known to Romans as the site of the ancient sculpture collection of the city housed in a former 1920s power plant - hence the name of the museum - Centrale Montemartini.  But that's way on the other side of the city in Ostiense.  Hmmm.  Now (not when we started this exploration) we know that the palazzo originally was a headquarters for ATAC.  And Centrale Montemartini was named for the then head of ATAC, Giovanni Montemartini.

restaurant, featuring the 18th century-style columns
and water streams at left (see next photo below)
Giovanni Montemartini, 1887
Aha!  As stated in one of the Web sites "The Palazzo was established by Giovanni Montemartini, first councillor of public transport of the municipality of Rome and, until December 2008, it was the headquarters of the transportation company of Rome, today ATAC."  Should we trust that info?  The same Web site says the building dates from the 1800s, which seems clearly to be wrong.  Was it first Montemartini's residence?  Some evidence suggests that; other evidence that it was built as an administration building.  As the hotel's own Web site says, it was an 18th-century design, in any event.

Seeing the Servian Wall here and having seen it in other places - the McDonald's under Stazione Termini among other sites - maybe our next project is  "walking the Servian Wall" - or at least connecting the dots of the few pieces left - one of which is also next to the hotel.

described as "table fountain," water reflecting
the proximity of the Roman Diocletian baths


The bar - one can see its appeal

Another part of the Servian Wall, this one under wraps, at the
entrance area to the hotel.

Another view of the Servian Wall, this one from outside the
hotel grounds, complete with street vendors, which are plentiful
around Termini, this one appropriately selling luggage in front
of the hotel.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Artisans in Rome - perhaps a dying breed

The carefully collected and preserved tools of the restorer.
Rome still hosts true artisans, although lamentations can be heard throughout the city that they are being driven out by tourism (wine bars, international brand stores).

We were delighted one day to be invited to the restoration shop of one of Bill's fellow soccer players, Maurizio (the only name by which we knew him).  "Come visit my shop," Maurizio kept saying to Bill as they left the soccer field time and again.  Being suspicious Americans, we anticipated being in an awkward position of having to buy something we couldn't afford or didn't want.  We were so off the mark.
Maurizio Carletti, not stopping his work even to chat, and his uncle, who
praises his skill.

Maurizio wanted to show us his artisan expertise in restoration. His one-room shop is crammed with tools, some of them over 100 years old.  He learned his trade from his father, who opened the shop in 1966, but, his uncle told us, Maurizio's skills surpass the father's (and the uncle's).
Showing us valuable compounds.

Maurizio also makes his own compounds for restoration, especially gilding.  He thought about expanding his business to, for example, London, but he couldn't figure out a way to bring his special compounds into that country.

Since we were at the shop, we found a Web site Maurizio maintains, in English, and a Facebook page, and an Italian site, devoted to artisans in the province of Lazio (home of Rome).
Before and after pictures of Maurizio's work.

Maurizio too bemoans the decline in his trade; this kind of furniture is not prized as much by the modernist and post-modernist younger generations.  You can only restore so many pieces for the French Embassy or Museo Braschi, it appears.  And, of course, rents are going up in this hot tourist area around Piazza Navona.  But, like other lamenters, we hope Rome will find a way to maintain these artisans, who are such a critical part of Rome life.

Stop by and look - Laboratorio Restauro Carletti, via del Teatro Pace, 26.

Tools you can't find anymore.
More tools.
Maurizio took a break after clamping this down.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

21st Century Churches Continued - out in the far-flung suburbs of Rome

It's been awhile since RST wrote about 21st-century churches (our last post on this was last May), and we're sure our readers have noticed.  OK, so maybe you haven't, but we have.  So here we give you one of  two 21st-century churches, by the same architect, obviously a favorite of the Vatican, Roberto Panella.
The asymmetrical and dramatic interior of Santa Maria Stella dell'Evangellizazione.  Lots of white, stained glass,
windows, but also a wood ceiling - the church as Christ's ship?

Isolated by roads, and perched in a corner lot.

It wasn't easy to get to Santa Maria Stella dell'Evangellizazione (translated by Wiki Churches of Rome as Our Lady, Star of Evangelization ), because it is nestled, or crowded, into a small, oddly shaped space midst wide roads and soaring apartment building in the modern southwestern extension of EUR.  We scootered out here after seeing, yet again, because Bill really wanted to, the not very interesting church (say I) that dominates EUR's skyline.

The neighborhood - the view from the church.
How the church fits on the lot.
Again, it's one of the "50 for Rome" churches, and was completed in 2006 to serve the burgeoning suburban population.  One source says it replaced "a totally inadequate hut."  The church's Web site (which has nothing on the architecture nor any pictures of the church!) states the parish was founded in 1989, when there already were thousands of people living in the area, inadequately served by a
church.  Today there are, says the parish, between 15,000 and 18,000 inhabitants in the parish.  Keeping a parish priest has been no mean feat, according to the parish Web site.

Moving from sociology to architecture, the church is noted for its asymmetrical shape, and overwhelming use of white - no doubt the influence of Richard Meier's magnificent and iconic Jubilee Church in another far-flung Rome suburb (Tor Tre Teste).  In fact, architect Panella, it's said, likened the roof to a billowing sail.  Sails also feature in Meier's 2003 (a couple years late for the Jubilee) church.

Interesting use of grass - yes, it's real.
There is no information on the decorations of the church, which also are notable, including the use of stained glass, openings created for light - one in the shape of a cross.  And, there is a fair amount of real grass and plants used in the various church adornments, such as the baptismal.

We also note the addition of a neon star (Santa Maria Stella, obviously) that likely was not in the architect's plans.

More photos below.  Dianne

The confessionals are old-fashioned.

The campanile looks as if rising from EUR-like
fascist columns

More of a sense of modernism in some views.

Room for a soccer field.

From the church front to the high rises.

Interesting Stations of the Cross; no information on the

Monday, February 2, 2015

Rome's Best Posters, 2014

Compared to any place in the U.S., Rome is a poster city.  Some are legal, some are "abusivi"--illegal--and most of them are interesting in one way or another.  It wasn't a great vintage, but here are our 2014 favorites:

As in the U.S., the Italy's right wing--here, the Lotta Studentesca and Forza Nuova--have appropriated the family, as if the left didn't care about families, and as if the policies of the right didn't damage them.  The poster announces a "March for the Family" in Piazza Mazzini.  Bring your three kids and wear jeans.  And smile a lot; raising 3 kids is easy.  Are they all boys?

We first shot this one through a bus window, then returned to photograph it again.  It's Ronald, of course, and next to him the words "I'm destroying it," meaning the world (a take off on the company's ubiquitous slogan "I'm lovin' it," of course).  Across the golden arches it reads "McDeath."  This is a rare poster. 

Here are two of the most crowd-pleasing Popes (at least prior to Francis), Pope John Paul II (left) and John XXIII (right), freshly made new saints on April 27.  The political party, Azione Cattolica Italiana, is thanking us all--for just what we can't say.  Or is it thanking them?  Colorful, though, with slanted graphics.  These were everywhere.  
This is a right-wing effort.  The words below translate as "Honor to Fallen Comrades, Victims of Anti-Fascist Hatred."   The "7" refers to January 7, 1978, when a man on a motorcyle shot and killed 2 members of the neo-Fascist group, Fronte del Gioventu'.  The killing took place in the Tuscolano neighborhood on via Acca Laurenzia, where there is an informal memorial to the event.  Historian and guest blogger Paul Baxa wrote an insightful post on this event and its aftermath.  
Here, a larger poster for a TIM fiber network is partially covered by a poster announcing an event around the work of American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski--one of our favorite authors, despite his outrageous sexism.  The coloring and the pose are reminiscent of the 2008 "Hope" poster of Barack Obama, but the sponsor, CasaPound, is right-wing.  A CasaPound poster made it into our 2012 year-end poster reflections as well.

"Enough Immigration, Enough Banks, Enough of the Euro"/"We want a Europe of Homelands"
The right-wing message, clear enough, is distributed by the Fronte dei Popoli Europei--a group with which we're not familiar, and the Lega Nord [see the circle at bottom right], a once powerful northern Italian party that in the past advocated the secession of the north from the Italian nation.  Although the Lega Nord no longer has much power or influence, the anti-Europe, anti-immigration sentiments of this poster are common in Italy.  In the background, the arm wielding
the hammer suggests the appeal is to the working class. 

"All' Assalto" might be translated "On the Attack" or "To the Barricades."  The author is the Lotta Studentesca [LS, Student Struggle].  The best we could do with the words at the bottom is "Not in anger, not to destroy, but for the red dawn," whatever the "red dawn" is.  The LS is a right-wing organization committed to educational change.  The building is the famous "Square Coliseum," a Fascist-era structure in EUR with visual links to the Coliseum and, therefore, imperial Rome.  

We chose this one not because it's a great poster--the layout is standard for politics--but because the message is clear.  The group "Contropotere," its symbol a pair of pincers, wants to get rid of the new Rome mayor, Ignazio Marino ["Rome, throw out Marino"].  However, the words at the top--listing the homeless, the unemployed, workers without contracts, students, and others--suggest a left-wing orientation, and Marino is center-left.  Anarchists at work?