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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Backstreet Rome: the Tevere side of Marconi

Ready for rehab
We don't recommend the Marconi district for tourists, whether first or second time.  It has its virtues: an active street life, a wine bar and good mix of coffee bars, a book store that holds readings now and then, an outdoor market, easy access to the Tevere. But it's one of the dirtiest sections of the city, is a trifle removed from the action for our tastes, and--in our opinion--has no worthy restaurants.  When we lived there some years ago, our 2-cycle scooter broke down frequently, and we found bus service into the center inadequate.  The Trastevere train station is a 15-minute, rather unpleasant walk from the heart of Marconi.  
We recently returned to to the quartiere, not to revisit our earlier haunts, but to explore the backside of the neighborhood, the area between its commercial core (a triangle of streets to the south of Piazzale della Radio--viale Marconi, via Grimaldi, and via Oderisi da Gubbio) and the Tevere, to the east of viale Marconi.  The area was once industrial, and it retains some of that character, in stages of preservation and decay.  A series of recent interventions has fashioned a pleasant post-industrial, post-modern space, full of surprises--enough that we recommend this itinerary (for intrepid Rome explorers).

Homeless camp

Our walk began across viale Marconi from Piazzale della Radio, at via Papareschi, walking east toward the river.  Passing a school with sanctioned graffiti by Alessandra Carloni (2015), we turned right on the Lungotevere di Papareschi.  Just ahead, a homeless encampment--no one present at mid-day, but plenty of evidence of human habitation.  

Beyond (walking south), on the right, a massive early 20th-century industrial complex, today anchored by the Teatro India, now in the process of being restored along with other buildings in the group.  Don't hold your breath.  

View from the tower, to the west.

At the southern end of the industrial complex, a long, narrow park appears at the right, heading toward Marconi proper. A short tower with stairs offers views of the river. A recent construction, the park, in standard Roman fashion, is already in a state of deterioration, brickwork crumbling, facing on the sides missing in spots, and graffiti, of course--in this case lacking official approval. 
Elevated walkway, looking east toward the Tevere.  Left, the gazometro
on the far bank.  Right, redeveloped buildings housing businesses.

Walkway graffiti, ironic mode
Urban vineyard.  Unusual in its proximity to high-rise

Redeveloped apartments

The walkway ends about 200 meters on, in a piazza of smaller, redeveloped buildings in Roman red--apartments and offices--and, on the north side, a tiny vineyard (above).  

Hotel.  It reaches out to you.

Redeveloped offices or apartments

We turned back here, working our way below the elevated walkway and to the right, to the front of the H10 Roma Città hotel in late modernist non-style.  We can't imagine why any tourist (or for that matter, anyone) would stay in a sterile structure in the middle of nowhere, with taxis the only convenient outlet to civilization.  Even so, the tented patio--just to the left in the photo above right--looked inviting, even at mid-day.

All stairs
After snooping around inside, we walked south in front of the hotel and took the first left, onto via Blaserna.  To the right, what appears to be a rehabbed, modernized older building. Nothing special except an elaborate set of stairs on its north side.  

Santi Aquila e Priscilla
To the left, at the end of the block, one of Rome's modern churches: Santi Aquila e Priscilla, complete with bell tower and tall cross, covered in vines and resembling an anchor.  The stained-glass windows are exceptional, but they should be seen from the inside.  

Turning left (north) on the Lungotevere Papareschi, you'll see another modern building with a substantial glassed atrium--an interesting if not compelling feature--and, beyond it, one of Rome's newest bridges, the Ponte della Scienza, a walking bridge.  

Take the bridge--sweet views of the river, without the 50-foot brick embankments found in the Centro--and turn left on the bank opposite.  

The standard graffiti.  A wonderful, up-close look at the iconic gazometro--the shell of a gas storage system.  This was once a busy working waterfront, and some businesses remain active here. 
Still a working waterfront.  The cranes once moved goods from the river to processing buildings.
A concrete watertower on the right would normally not be worthy of mention, but a special effort has
A watertower reminder of the Mussolini regime
been made to reveal and emphasize a Fascist fasces, complete with dating (A VII, or 1929).  

From this point, you can continue your walk north to the next, much older, bridge, and turn left, or backtrack, cross the Ponte della Scienza, and turn right.    


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