Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Ponte della Musica: Update, 2015

Ponte della Musica, much busier than usual on a soccer night.  The Stadio Olimpico is close by.  Monte Mario in the background.  View from our apartment.  Skateboarding space below left.  
The Ponte della Musica (2011) sits astride the Tevere at the big bulge of the Flaminio quartiere, with Monte Mario (straight ahead), Olympic Stadium (up river) and Prati (down river).  We wrote about the bridge two years ago, ambivalently, praising the elegance of its white, skeletal, curving plasticity while questioning its originality, noting its resemblance to two much older bridges, the Bac da Roda bridge in Barcelona (1987) and the Valencia bridge (1995), both by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  Although we found the bridge more useful than did some critics, we subtitled that first piece "the bridge to nowhere."

Today we offer a different "angle" on the bridge, both figuratively and literally.  In June of this year we lived on the 6th floor of one of four 1930s-era apartment houses on Piazza Gentile da Fabriano, with an enormous terrace that overlooked the Ponte.  No one in Rome lives closer to the bridge, or has a better view.
The city, and the Alban Hills beyond, at dusk from Lo Zodiaco on Monte Mario.  The white triangle, center right in the distance, is Calatrava's unfinished swimming pool. 

French military cemetery.
From that position--unusual and privileged, we understand--we thoroughly enjoyed the access the bridge offered.  We hiked up Monte Mario (400 feet vertical) at least four times, enjoying the views of St. Peter's, the stunning views from the bar Lo Zodiaco, then dipping into the pleasures of new neighborhoods (Balduina and Trionfale) while discovering new sites (the amazing French military cemetery, Piazza Walter Rossi) and new paths on the mountain. All because of the Ponte.

We had cacio e pepe at Cacio e Pepe.
We also made several forays into Prati, whose northern end begins just downriver across the bridge. Piazza Mazzini, with its lovely fountain, came into our orbit, as did the jazz club Alexanderplatz and a guided tour of "liberty" architecture--all within walking distance of "our" bridge, and we enjoyed a well-known area restaurant, Cacio e Pepe (Dianne reviewed it not too positively for Tripadvisor), and two Lungotevere bars, one just across the Ponte, the other a long block south.  At the latter, and out for just a drink, we found live music and a free spread of food.

One of many brooding buildings in Prati.
That said, Prati--probed from the north, anyway--is not the most interesting or welcoming area.
Enormous, gloomy apartment houses--most built without provision for the commercial establishments that breathe life into a neighborhood--abound on Prati's north end, and its center is laced with block-long, deadening military establishments.  The southern end of Prati is lively and inviting, but it's also full of tourists--and it's a long walk (about 2 miles) from the Ponte della Musica.

Gymnast doing backflips for the camera.  

From our 6th-floor perch we also learned that the bridge is important for the activities it fosters, which take place on the bridge and under it.  Because the bridge is (for now) closed to motorized vehicles, and lies outside the regular tourist areas, it's open to a wider range of activities than the city's other pedestrian-only bridges.  It's used for photo shoots--some of them, at least, with a professional air--featuring groups of men with cameras taking pictures of dressed-up young women. One day we witnessed a small crew filming a gymnast doing backflips.

Exercise class. 

The wooden side walkways attract individuals and couples, reading, talking, contemplating, relaxing as they look out over the Tevere.  The wood walkways are also frequently used for yoga-like exercising, both by individuals and large, leader-led and organized groups. Joggers are frequent.

Dude dancing on the bridge.

The Ponte is also a performance space.  On one occasion, three young women posed for a male companion while standing on the end-of-bridge stanchions.  On another, we observed an aging
hipster, fresh from a physical confrontation with a nearby bar owner over an unpaid bill, break out into a strutting Michael Jackson-like moon dance.

Skateboarders--and graffiti

Below the main deck, skateboarders practice their skills on the large, flat concrete surface at the Ponte's Flaminio end, leaping on and off sleek granite benches that were likely not intended for that purpose.

Glass, broken cables, and a homeless man trying to sleep.
We enjoyed watching the skateboarders, but not everyone thinks they're a positive addition. In a letter published in La Repubblica, one citizen linked the skateboarders to the graffiti that mars the bridge, especially down below. Whether there's a connection or not we can't say, but there's no doubt that graffiti--and more generally, the destructive behavior of young people--is a problem below the deck, where ugly tagging mars the walls and broken beer bottles litter the stairways.  A homeless man was sleeping under the bridge.  Some of the wire cables that form the sides of the stairways were broken.  Graffiti has begun to appear on the vertical bridge supports on the upper level, though someone--most likely the city--painted over it during our June stay (in a color that didn't quite match).

Scooter on the Ponte della Musica, a pedestrian bridge.
The serenity of the bridge's main deck was interrupted on two occasions that we observed, when motorscooters violated the law and
used the bridge to cross the Tevere.  On one occasion, a young man of about 14, dressed in what might be described as the uniform of a junior police officer--or some kind of boy scout--upbraided the offending moto rider--who, apparently nonplussed, proceeded across the bridge.

And so it goes, at the Ponte della Musica.


Evening romance on the Ponte della Musica.  


Marco said...

"[...] That said, Prati--probed from the north, anyway--is not the most interesting or welcoming area.
Enormous, gloomy apartment houses--most built without provision for the commercial establishments that breathe life into a neighborhood--abound on Prati's north end [...]"

That's not the ward of Prati you're describing, though, but rather the Trionfale district - which is adjacent to that neighbourood. Prati begins past both viale Angelico and piazza Bainsizza...

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Glad you're back, Marco, keeping us honest. Thanks for the clarification.

Marco said...

No, thank you for listening to your fanbase! Just came back to add that actually, the part of Rome you were describing is split between the della Vittoria and Trionfale districts. So here's also that.