Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

24 Hours in Rome

We--that is, RST, Bill and Dianne--are often asked what we "do" in Rome, given that we've been here so often and spend so much time in the city.  There's no simple way to answer the question. We're planners--we read La Repubblica almost every morning, looking for things to do, whether it's jazz in the evening, an art exhibit, or a demonstration to attend.  We read trovaroma, La Repubblica's Thursday supplement.  We get suggestions from friends.  We're on lots of email lists--for music, art, conferences, films series, hiking.  Because we enjoy walking and have a scooter, we're mobile - within about 25 miles of Rome.

On most days, our "sources" yield a couple of things to do.  But once in a while we get lucky, as we did last weekend.  Here's our "24 Hours in Rome," from Saturday night through Sunday night:

One of these is carved from Carrara marble and is now in a niche at St.
Peter's.  The other consists of a shell of chicken wire,
covered with clay and plaster of Paris--and came first.  
9 p.m.   A mile+ walk from our Monteverde Vecchio digs to Macro Testaccio (in the former slaughterhouse) for an exhibit by sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot (b. Roma 1966). Highlight is a superb video showing Ducrot at work with his colleagues on a massive statue of Saint Annibale Maria di Francia that eventually is lifted and fitted into a niche at St. Peter's.

Swing dancing at La Moderna
10 p.m.  Swing dancing at La Moderna, a restaurant within a stone's throw of Macro Testaccio, in the new Testaccio market. They've cleared the tables for a dance floor. Two women give swing lessons to recorded music, then the live band takes over.  We love to dance, and we do, surrounded by Italian couples, a few of whom know what they're doing.  Beer and wine.

11 p.m.  Up the hill and "home."

50s-era building housing coffee bar, needs TLC
9:15  a.m.  Scooter out via Tiburtina to San Basilio, a far-flung suburb to the city's northeast, tight up against the GRA (Rome's outer 'beltway').  Not the sort of place anyone would normally visit, but we've heard there's a tour of area housing, and we are housing addicts.  (From Dianne: Bill has read an article on this suburb, that includes a description of evictions here and the killing of a young protester by a policeman in 1974; hence we're more than merely interested in the housing.)

Guide at left, friend at right
Coffee with Italian friends at a 1950s-era bar in Piazza Urbania, a "talk" to just the 4 of us by the tour guide, a professor (it turns out the 4 of us are the only people there who aren't part of the community and the event).

Courtyard of 1950s housing project
Then a stroll around the town: lovely garden apartments, a walk through one of them, a substantial public garden, a larger public housing project built in the 1950s.

One of half a dozen animal-themed
murals by the artist Hitnes, in
San Basilio

When the tour ends we nose around, looking at San Basilio's impressive wall art.  The tour is part of Open House Roma 2015 - an event with almost 200 locales - ancient to contemporary - open over the weekend.

Dianne relaxing in Mezzo Litro, Monte Sacro
12:30 p.m. Now starving, thirsty and tired, on the way home we park the scooter in the main square of Monte Sacro (Piazza Sempione), reminded once again of how evocative its faux-medieval buildings are.  Find our oasis - lunch nearby at "Mezzo Litro," where we had a bit less than that along with two plates of lasagna; too hungry to share.  A straight shot on the scooter down via Nomentana to Monteverde Vecchio (i.e., home).

4:30 p.m.   Our respite at home doesn't last long. Shortly after Dianne discovers a library we want to see is open without reservations as part of Open House Roma, we are back on the scooter to Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano.  The Biblioteca
Roselli and King's library
Pontificia--the Pontifical Library--has been restructured in 2005/06 by architects Riccardo Roselli and Jeremy King, and the work had been recommended to us by a well-known Rome architect.  A delightful space, cleverly designed in a way that our guide likens to Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Just Borromini
5:45 p.m. We can't resist a few minutes inside Borromini's octagonal, domed baptistery (one might say the Guggenheim was inspired by Borromini), which is right there. The metal grates in the floor are alone worth the stop (D: for Bill).

Hip mom and son, treats still wrapped

6:30 p.m.  Scooter over to Testaccio, where, according to La Repubblica, a rehabilitated Porta di Roma (Port of Rome) is being opened.  Will the mayor be there?  As it happens, no one's there--no one's where we expect them to be--but on a chance we walk a few blocks to some of the old Roman storage areas we know about.  And there's the crowd.  We're too early for the festivities and the food, so we head for one of our favorite Testaccio bars.

No cat fell on our awning this time

7:00 p.m.  Aperitivo.  Pretty much all the food you'd want and a glass of wine for 6 Euro per person. This cafe is the place where years ago a cat fell from an upper story and landed (unhurt but screeching in terror) on a large awning right above us as we were having a coffee outside. This time we're safely inside, though right next to an open door and in the evening breeze.

Feeding frenzy

7:30 p.m.  Back to the Porta Roma (Porticus Aemelia) opening. The ruins are spectacular: the remains of a 2nd century B.C. storage and trans-shipment facility that would have rivaled the Port of Los Angeles in drama and size.  Now part of a public park space. Yes, you can touch the arches.  Music by a community band of limited ability, a scramble among the Italians (we're full) for the free food.  We manage a couple of glasses of complimentary prosecco.  Some well-done outdoor, permanent watercolors, part of a public art campaign in Rome, have been unveiled.  A ceremony, but no mayor.

People watching at Studio Spazzi Multipli

8:00 p.m.  Walking to our scooter, which we've left at Porta Portese, we come upon another event that's part of Open House Roma. An open architectural studio, Studio Spazzi Multipli; contemporary design in the basement of an early 1900s Testaccio public housing building.  A glass of bubbly on the house, watching the 20-somethings.

And home.  A nightcap on the balcony, celebrating our "24 Hours in Rome" and thinking, ala Buffalo Bills ex-coach Marv Levy, "There's no place we'd rather be, than right here, right now."


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