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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy Holidays from Santa, in Distress

Here's Santa, struggling to delivery toys and goodies in the old Testaccio market, soon after it closed in 2012.  Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Exploring the Valley of the Aniene, and Pietralata, on a Sunday afternoon

On a warm Sunday afternoon in late April, we took a walk through an area mostly new to us: the Riserva Naturale della Valle del Aniene (Nature Preserve of the Aniene Valley).  On most days the park would be empty, or virtually so, but on this sunny Sunday it was full of families and friends enjoying a variety of activities in the way Romans do.  We followed the path/park until we arrived at the rather forbidding Ponte Mammolo, where we crossed the Aniene before returning through Pietralata (eventually on busy, possibly dangerous via di Pietralata).  If I remember correctly, the walk took about 3 hours.  Below, some pics with brief commentary.

The walk begins at the very old Ponte Nomentana (parts of it dating possibly to the 8th century), which is reached on a brief spur that angles off the broad via Nomentana in the north of Rome. The bridge carried this consular road over the Aniene. The walk over the bridge begins Itinerary 10 in Rome the Second Time, but that itinerary heads left over the bridge.  On this day, we headed right. through this large gate, which  is just over the bridge.

We went through it and found ourselves on a broad path that more or less tracked the Aniene.

We found a large water channel, purpose and origin unknown.

In the distance on the left, a family had anchored their tent to a roll of hay that provided additional shade. 

Further on, playground equipment for the kids.

And a soccer game, for all ages, amid the weeds.

Bicycles--a good way to get into the park.

Picnicking.  The Italian word is "picnic," pronounced "peekneek"

Here, the door to a garden (no doubt "abusivo," illegal) is made from a mattress frame.

Walking on Ponte Mammolo, which crosses the Aniene.

Below, a large and elaborate garden--again, likely abusivo.

The Aniene below.  It's one of Rome's 2 rivers, even if unimpressive here.

Turning right and entering the neighborhoods (bring a map to make sure you don't lose your way at this point) on our return.  Note the striking stairway on this apartment building.

Below, a restaurant on via di Pietralata, closed between lunch and dinner. As we recall, this is the Pietralata "suburban" outpost of Betto e Mary, the original of which is in Torpignattara, near the Wunderkammern gallery.

Almost across the street from Betto e Mary is the arts center, l'ex Lanificio (the former wool factory), where in the past we saw exhibitions of art by Biodpi (Anna Magnani walking the she-wolf) and Alice (the painted trailer).  The center was quiet this day.

The Butcher Shop.  Meat cured or cooked.

Blue Chair. Poignant art photo.

Acqua Vergine (one of Rome's important aqueducts), water meter, 1868. Acqua Vergine's "show" fountain is the Trevi.  The aqueduct also runs under, and is accessible (with permission) via Villa Medici.

Almost back. Graffiti-covered courtyard of a business. 

All in all, not a thrill a minute, but a nice slice of Roman life. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Before and After: the Stairway to Piazza Brin, Garbatella

It's been devilishly difficult to find a photo--any photo--of the stairway leading up from via Alessandro Cialdi to Piazza Brin, in Garbatella.  I couldn't find such a photo in the tens of thousands of Rome photos taken by RST since 1989.  And a lengthy search of the internet turned up only the photo below.  It was taken sometime in the 1920s, when most of Garbatella did not yet exist.  It reveals the stairway walls to be rather handsome, made of stone that's been employed as a design element as well as a structural one.   It's a fitting entrance to the piazza above, and just beyond the piazza, to the historic entrance to Garbatella, the entrance and its flanking buildings designed by Innocenzo Sabbatini and completed in 1922.

Sadly, the Piazza Brin stairs no longer have the elegance they once had.  In 1989, when we first saw them, they were not only overgrown with weeds but littered with needles left by drug dealers and users.  Today, the stairs are no better maintained, and the walls have become a favorite haunt of taggers and graffiti artists, including some who claim to be making political statements or support the Roma soccer club (Roma/Sud--i.e., Roma fans on the south curve on the Stadio Olimpico).  Steel railings, to keep folks from driving vehicles on the stairs, were in place.  In 2012, the stairway looked like this:

Even so, the side elements of the stairway remained fairly clean.

By the spring of 2017, most of the open areas had been filled in.  The Roma cheerleading had been replaced by standard lettered graffiti, its meaning unknown (to this viewer).  And the 2012 "Carlo Vive" was now on the left side wall, complete with a painting of Carlo.  The splendid view of the buildings of Garbatella, available in 1925, was covered by bushes and trees.  And the bottom of the stairs has become a site for garbage collection and recycling.

Who Carlo is, and why there's so much interest in him is a story that remains to be told.  The words "Carlo Vive" (Carlo lives) present on the Brin stairs in 2012 and 2017, are solid evidence that Carlo is dead. [For information about Carlo, see the first comment, below].


Monday, December 4, 2017

A Tree Lives in Rome: Giuseppe Penone's art installations in the City.

Foglie di Pietra  in Largo Goldoni
Giuseppe Penone's massive tree-like sculptures have dominated Rome's art scene over the past few years, and one is now on permanent public display.

Another view of Foglie di Pietra  in Largo Goldoni
We'd say don't miss it, but it's hard not to.  The large sculpture, entitled Foglie di Pietra ("Leaves of Stone"), occupies a prominent spot on Largo Goldini, along via del Corso in front of the Fendi store there.  It's Fendi, the luxury brand, that paid for the sculpture and its installation.

"Penone, Fogie di Pietra stupiranno Roma" - "Penone, Leaves of Stone will astonish Rome" reads the headline of an article describing the installation of the work and using Penone's verb, "stupire" - to astonish, surprise or make wonder.  The work "rises on high because I'm working on public ground that shouldn't occupy space," said Penone.  The trees, weighing 11 tons, are designed to "provoke a sense of wonder that should make one reflect on the meaning of the work:  the reality that surrounds it, the architecture of the city based on's also a reflection of the material, the marble, and nature.  The Corinthian capital [see top photo - it's the white block] represents historical memory.  I put the block on high to indicate the elevation of man and to make one think about the ruins underground below."

In 2009, Penone's work was the subject of a large exhibition at Villa Medici, the French academy in Rome.  Any time a show occupies the inside space at Villa Medici, including the ancient cistern, and the outside space, it's a great experience.  The tree and stone theme was evident in 2009 as well.

Earlier this year, as part of Fendi's grand opening of its headquarters in the Palazzo della Civilta' Romana (the Fascist era "Square Coliseum," the restoration of which Fendi also financed) in EUR, it sponsored Matrice, an exhibition of Penone's more recent work.  Speaking of this show, Penone said, "The trees appear solid, but if we observe them over time, from their birth, they become fluid and malleable.  A tree is a being that memorizes its own form."  That exhibition closed in July; some photos of it follow.

Penone, born in 1947, is considered part of the Arte Povera movement.  For those non-Italians,the Arte Povera movement was active primarily in the 1960s and 1970s and includes artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Mario and Marisa Merz.  The movement was marked by the use of "poor" or "impoverished" materials and promoted art free of established conventions.  Some of these principles still inform Penone's work.

Outdoor sculpture in front of the Square Coliseum, EUR
part of the Matrice exhibit (no longer there).

Fendi's entrance to the restored Square Coliseum.