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, March 30, 2017

You Can't Sit Down! Places to Sit--and Not to Sit--in Rome

Neighborhood bench seating in Piazza Tuscolo, in the quartiere of San Giovanni

Fountain seating, Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore
Fortunately for the exhausted tourist--and the city's residents--Rome has plenty of places to sit down: benches in parks and piazzas, the stairs of any of Rome's thousand or so churches, the edges of the city's many fountains, and the Spanish Steps (a large group seating experience) just for starters.  

But there are some places where you can't sit down--or wouldn't want to--likely because someone doesn't want you to.  Here are a few examples.  

Via Arenula

The sharp points on this door may be
decorative in purpose--or maybe not.

The Lungotevere.  The stairs ahead are an option, but not the window sill.

Store on the periphery
A doorway.  The left side opens--but the balls are there to prevent
anyone from sitting on the other side. 
At Santa Maria Maggiore, the stairs are available, but not that
otherwise inviting piece of iron.
This ledge on the Lungotevere would be uncomfortable.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ancient Rome's Influence in Architecture RunsThrough Palladio

Palladio was fascinated with Rome's Pantheon's deep front portico and shell-like dome.
The thread tying 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio (from whom we have the often-used name "Palladium") to Rome is thin but strong.  Palladio, like hundreds if not thousands of other artists and creators, was inspired by ancient Rome's classical buildings, in particular the Pantheon.
Palladio was also intrigued by the Portico d'Ottavio in the
ghetto of Rome, even designing a "conjectural reconstruction"
of it.

Palladio turned his interest in ancient Roman architecture into the immensely influential I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura  ("The Four Books of Architecture"), the first major work on architecture in Italian rather than Latin.  As one curator noted, "Palladio's book has probably exerted more influence than any other architectural treatise before or since."

The deep, symmetrical front portico and the shell-like dome of the Pantheon are the hallmarks of much of Palladian architecture.
One of Inigo Jones's first designs for the Queen's House London
(Greenwich) - showing the absolute symmetry in Palladio-
inspired design, symmetry that England loved.

St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, built in the early 18th century, uses the deep portico.  And, as our curator noted, "Churches based on this model have been built ever since."

The original US Capitol (burned by the British in 1814) "was in the Anglo-Palladian tradition and had a central Pantheon-type saucer dome."

St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, inspired by
Palladio and then a template for hundreds of
churches thereafter.
Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren in Britain were two architects who promoted Palladian forms.  Thomas Jefferson was also a devotee, as was Goethe.  The US Congress in 2010 declared Palladio, "The Father of American Architecture."

Vicenza on a hot July evening.
We mostly imagine Palladio in his home state of the Veneto, where Vicenza shows off his genius in what may be the most lovely piazza in Italy, and where his magnificent villas dot the Veneto countryside.  Yet it is his incredible influence that brings Palladio to mind almost daily in many countries.
Villa Barbara, also known as Villa di Maser, by Palladio in theVeneto
"Negro Church" - South Carolina, echoing the St.
Martin-in-the-Fields format.


Much of the information and the architectural photos in this post are from an excellent exhibit at  the Royal  Institute of British Architects, London, "Palladio Design - the Good, the Bad and the Unexpected," with exhibition text by Charles Hind and Vicky Wilson.  That exhibit has closed, but the RIBA has frequent exhibitions featuring Palladio.
And a bit of modern Palladianism:  Town Hall, Padua, Italy, by Aldo Rossi, completed 1938.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Trastevere: Home of the Pasteup

A series
Trastevere is Rome's most touristy neighborhood--not something that attracts us, usually--but it does have its charms.  It's lovely at 6.a.m., when the streets are virtually empty.  It has two cozy English-language independent bookstores.  And it's the Roman home of the pasteup, a form of street art--essentially thin paper constructions, attached to walls with some sort of adhesive--and one that's often whimsical.  Here are some of our favorites.  We're curious to know if they will still be there when we return in a few weeks.

A version of "The Scream"
Not so whimsical
Nice. Enigmatic.
New Agey "Plant for Life"
One of several pasteups of Pasolini, carrying his
own body, that were posted in 2015 in Rome
and environs.  This one, in Trastevere,
has been seriously messed up.  
Shoes with skateboarder motif.  An ad?  By K2?
By the same person who did "The Scream"
"I can't stop giving a damn"?  
Another K2?  Looks like a skateboarder with a strong woman in front.  

Mimi is one of the most active of the paste-up artists working in
Trastevere.  She presents public figures with clown noses.

Warhol and somebody.  By Mimi.

And one more.  

Skateboarding is a popular subject.  This one no longer
exists, and while it was "across the river" (Trastevere), it wasn't
in the Trastevere that most tourists know.
We did enjoy a coffee in the traffic circle just to the right of this photo.

K2 again.  Compare with skateboarder with woman in front, about 6 above.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Anna Magnani, Rome Icon

Anna Magnani died in 1973 in Rome.  The story goes that a passer-by at a funeral observance in Piazza della Minerva, behind the Pantheon (above), impressed by the enormous crowd--much too large for the space--asked one of the participants: "What's going on?  Did the Pope die?"  "No," was the reply. "Much more important than that--Anna Magnani."

Almost a half century later, the actress who personified postwar Italian neo-realist cinema remains an iconic figure.  Images of Magnani--her face, especially, but her body, too--continue to appear on

Rome's walls and, recently, on a set of stairs at one of Rome's large public markets.

In 2013, the artist Biodpi explored Magnani imagery in an exhibition at one of Rome's alternative galleries, an ex-factory space known as the Lanificio

Front gate of the Lanificio (wool factory)

Part of the Biodpi show on Magnani

A chic Magnani walking a hip she-wolf.  Biodpi  

An unattractive rendering, Pigneto

Anna Magnani was born in Rome March 7, 1908, and not at Porta Pia (as some claim) but in a house at via Salaria 126.  Her mother, Marina, was 20 years old, unmarried, and Roman; her father, who had left the household for good before she was born, was Calabrese.  For reasons that remain unclear, Marina spent much of Anna's childhood in Egypt, leaving her daughter in Rome to be raised by her grandmother and five aunts.  As a young child, Anna lived briefly in an apartment in Piazza Costaguti, then for some time in a substantial 4th floor apartment on via di San Teodoro--in a neighborhood between the Campidoglio and Circo Massimo.  She recalled those years fondly: a large living room, an expansive terrace, and a pet hen.

When she was about 12 years old, Anna left elementary school and enrolled as a piano student (she took 6 years of lessons) at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in via Vittoria, not far from via del Corso (and still there).

At some point she discovered that the same building housed a well-known acting school--the Eleonora Duse Royal School of Acting--and at age 18 (1926), she began to study acting.  For several years she financed her lessons by singing in clubs while accompanying herself on the piano.  She was good enough to be known as the "Edith Piaf of Rome."  By 1930/31 she was traveling around Italy to take a variety of acting jobs.

Magnani married film director and script writer Goffredo Alessandrini in October 1935, in a civil ceremony at the Campidoglio, then took religious vows in December at the church of San Roberto Bellarmino in Piazza Ungheria (Parioli).  The couple lived for a time at viale Parioli 48. The marriage lasted until 1950.

Rome, Open City (1945).  Magnani as Pina, moments before her death.

Magnani became a star in 1945, in the now-classic film Rome, Open City.  She played Pina, the fiancée of Francesco, a resistance fighter.  With the Nazis occupying Rome, Francesco and others in the neighborhood are arrested in a Gestapo raid and put in a truck to be taken to a place of interrogation--or worse.  In one of the most famous scenes in all of Italian cinema, a distraught Pina runs after the truck, and is shot and killed.

In Mama Roma (1963), the Pier Paolo Pasolini film set in Rome, Magnani played a prostitute and mother.

Magnani, wearing the wolf.  Rome's Nomentana train station, 2016. LAC 68.
In both these films, and in many others, Magnani played a tough, no-nonsense, working-class woman, usually wearing a simple house dress.  Perhaps as a result, she is often identified with the Lupa (the mythic she-wolf that nourished Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome)--indeed, she was sometimes referred to as "La Lupa" or a "living she-wolf symbol."

Anna Magnani died in Rome in 1973.  She is buried in the Verano cemetery.