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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Secret Street in Rome--bet you've never been there!

There aren't too many secret streets in Rome--those off-off-off-the beaten path streets that even the locals may not know.  We've found one, and none too soon, for it's about to disappear, or at the least take on a very different look.  As it turns out, some interesting folks--including a number of prominent artists--live on the street (more below).  But the reason we know about it is because some of the buildings are illegal. 

We're talking about via Paolo Caselli, some 200 yards of homes and businesses that could be said to connect the neighborhood of Ostiense with that of Testaccio.  One end of the street begins precisely across the street from the entrance to the non-Catholic cemetery, which backs up onto the Pyramid. One can drive in this way.  The other end, accessible on foot only, can be found at the end of a small parking lot, directly across the street from the 1930s-era post office on via Marmorata.

via Paolo Caselli, non-Catholic cemetery end
Around the bend
Although we had been to the non-Catholic cemetery many times, we had never "seen" this street--until, that is, it appeared in the newspapers--and not because it was a quaint, unrecognized tourist attraction, which it is not, except maybe for RST.  As reported in La Repubblica, via Paolo Caselli is a poster child for abusivismo--literally, abusiveness, but in this case illegally constructed buildings, those lacking proper construction permits and other authorizations--and probably not paying taxes.

Certainly has the look of a legit business
Indeed, the story as reported is more interesting than that.  At via Paolo Caselli #1 (the first building on the left as you enter from the cemetery side), not only has one of the units been illegally occupied for more than ten years, but the brother of the occupier heads the police unit charged with keeping

A series of buildings at #1
track of the ownership of Rome buildings.  Sounds  bad!  Moreover, it looks like the family has been profiting from illegal building for more than 50 years, dating back decades to when the father of the two brothers distributed mineral water from a warehouse on the street.

A business behind the gate--not sure what.
And there's another angle here that we found fascinating.  There are many other "abusivo" properties on the street, and most of them are occupied not by Mafia types or low-lifes or anything of the sort, but--guess what?--by artists!  Some or most or all of them will be "sgomberati" (evicted), and the buildings they occupy torn down, costs borne by the occupiers (we'll believe that when we see it). Several are sculptors, at least one a woman, an ancestor, so explains La Repubblica, of Naples gypsies. Another is Paolo Olmeda, owner of an historic foundry--apparently located on this street--in which Olmeda in 2006 made bronze reproductions of Amodeo Modigliani's 1910 Tête di Cartiatide. Then there's the German artist, Janine von Thungen, who made molds of the walls of the catacombs of San Callisto and created the work "Eternity," for a time in the Villa Foscari in Venice.
von Thungen's "Eternity"  

Besides these notable artists, it seems the local station of the fire department is also responsible for its own "abusivo" structure, an add-on building at the Marmorata end of the street.

Perhaps only the bocce ball facility is legal.  Who knows?


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