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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bruno Buozzi: Nazi victim who "gave his life for liberty"

"They gave their life for liberty."
The name of a Hungarian Jew, Gabor Adler, alias
Captain John Armstrong, alias Gabriele Bianchi,
was added only in 2007 after his identity--previously
he was known only as "an English spy"--was confirmed.
One of the late tragedies of World War II in Italy was the Germans' assassination of Italian prisoners as the Germans fled north from advancing Allied forces.

One of the most famous of these martyrs, and so they are considered, is Bruno Buozzi, whose name graces streets, piazzas, schools, sports fields and cooperatives throughout Italy.

Buozzi, a trade unionist held prisoner in the infamous SS torture house on via Tasso (now Museo Storico della Liberazione - "Historical Museum of the Liberation"), was killed on June 4, 1944, along with 13 other men, most of them partisans of the "Matteotti Brigade" (Brigate Matteotti), less than 10 miles from the northern gate of Rome.

You can see a small monument to these men on via Cassia, km 14.2, now at the intersection of via Giulio Galli.  We went in search of the monument last year, and found it in a small plot, with cars and scooters whizzing by.  At one time, we had read, there was a grove of trees with the name of a victim on each of 14 trees.  We think we found the grove, but it is barred with fences and gates, and no names are visible.

Why is this particular assassination so memorable?  In part it is because of Buozzi's legacy as a giant among trade union organizers and politicians in the inter-war period; Italy lost an important leader with his death.  Another is for the odd series of events that led to his - and the others' - death.

The monument is tucked beneath some shrubbery on the
very busy via Cassia. The monument is just
above the right tail light of the grey car. 
Buozzi, born near Ferrara, and a machinist in Milan and Turin, was a worker-organizer, and organize he did.  He kept unions together, built them to great stature, negotiated for and among them, and also served as a leading politician in Rome.  Resisting Mussolini's attempts to draw him into the Fascist Party, he ended up in exile in Paris, where he ultimately was captured by the Germans.  He continued his leadership of the unions and the socialist parties while in exile and even in the brief period between the fall of Mussolini and the occupation of Rome by the Germans in 1943.  He was fighting at Porta San Paolo in the brief resistance to the German invasion of Rome in September 1943, and then went underground again.

Even the circumstances of Buozzi's capture in Rome and assassination are murky and make for the stuff of mystery.  It's possible he was betrayed by a young man (not yet old enough to shave, according to the stories) who worked in the Resistance but also for the Germans.

The large memorial/tomb of Buozzi in Rome's Campo Veranno (another
reason we need to return to this most memorable cemetery in Rome).
Photo by Luciano Tronati (Feb. 2016)
There were two trucks loaded with prisoners that were to leave the via Tasso prison heading north on June 3, 1944.  One broke down; the men in it were saved.  Buozzi made the decision to go in what turned out to be the functioning truck.  There is a question of why the men ended up dead.  Some evidence points to the Germans wanting to make room for loot.   Then there is the question of who gave the orders to shoot the men in this second truck.  The judicial finger was pointed at SS Erich Priebke, deputy commander of the SS headquarters in via Tasso.  Priebke actually obtained a conviction for libel against the publisher and the historian author of a 1994 article in which he was implicated as the one who ordered the killings.  He was awarded 20 million lire (about $10,000) in damages in 2001, an award overturned in 2005.  Priebke's appeal was dismissed just 7 years ago, in 2010, over 60 years after the event.  Bill wrote about Priebke in 2010, when, having been given a life sentence for his World War II crimes (for which he never repented), he was released from house arrest in Rome--to protests.  He died in 2013, at age 100, in Rome.

The gate blocking the grove, and behind the trees the type of housing now
dominating the area.
The shallow graves of the 14 murdered men were found shortly after their assassination when "peasants" led the Allies to the sites of the graves, not far from via Cassia.  It's hard to imagine "peasants" in this area now, which is basically a suburb of Rome with middle-class housing.  We walked quite a few of the streets in the area, hoping--in vain it turned out--to find more evidence of the massacre.

A room in the via Tasso Historical Museum of the Liberation is dedicated to the murder victims of June 4, 1944.  The via Tasso museum is #3 on RST's Top 40.  It's even easier to visit today, with more didactic materials in English.

A monument at Porta San Paolo to the more than
400 people who died trying to prevent the Germans
from entering the city in September, 1943.  Buozzi
was among the fighters who survived.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Door Handles, and Knockers

Near the Anglo-American Book Shop
To say Rome is a visual delight would be obvious, but not all of its delights are, well, obvious.  For years we've been going in and out of, or walking by, Rome's doors.  And at some point we couldn't help noticing the accoutrements that allow access: the door handles and door knockers. Many are old, perhaps very old, some are new, but distinctive.  Some--especially those from the 1950s and early 1960s--announce their age more specifically than most.  Here are some we've found during our trips to Rome.  The earliest photos are from 2013.

Inside what was the home of Ignatius of Loyola, Piazza del Gesu

Straight out of 1960. San Paolo.
Palazzo Barberini
Unusual wood handle.  Belongs to a watch
band shop at via della Vite, 14.
Recent, but cool anyway.

Near via della Gatta

Utensils as Handles.  Possibly Monti.

An interior door, at Largo Ippolito Nievo, 1, Trastevere

An odd knocker with an Egyptian and/or African look, near the Spanish Steps

Casal Bertone.  Nice because one handle has been used, the other not.  Same with the doors. 
Very unusual hands--knockers or handles not clear.
They're on a building by Rapisardi (now housing Bulgari) on the Lungotevere

Location unknown.  Sweet.  Angel holds on tight.  

Trastevere, somewhere on the south side of viale Trastevere

Flaminio.  Recent.  The door on the right is the only one that's used.  


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Best Contemporary Art in Rome is in the....State Department!

One is greeted on the ground floor by Michelangelo Pistoletto's "L'Etrusco" (The Etruscan), 1976, with Pistoletto's
classic use of mirrors, inviting one to join the Etruscan, we we did.
"La paura" (Fear), 2004 by Mimmo Rotella.  How could
  we--film reviewers, and one of us an author of an article
on Zombie films and the Holocaust--not like this one?
The best collection of contemporary art in Rome is not in any museum--not in MAXXI, the nation's 21st-century art gallery, not in MACRO, the City's contemporary art gallery, not in the Gagosian, the city's largest private art gallery, but in the country's State Department building, colloquially known as The Farnesina. 

That's not the Palazzo Farnese, where the French Embassy resides, nor the Villa Farnesina, in the heart of Trastevere where Raphael painted rooms. The Farnesina is the enormous structure designed to be the headquarters of the Fascist party, across the Tevere (therefore, literally Trastevere) but up river adjacent to the Foro Italico, once the Foro Mussolini, the sports complex housing the city's soccer stadium, once its Olympic stadium.

Back to art.  Beginning in 2001, the government convinced artists to loan their works to the Ministero degi Affari Esteri (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, equivalent to the U.S.'s state department).  It apparently purchased some works, but most are on long-term loan, now comprising the Collezione Farnesina, and open from time to time (hey, it's Rome!).
"Battesimi Umanoi"  (Human
Baptisms) by Oliviero Rainaldi,
2006, cement.

The "di quando in quando" openings began just last year to include the last Friday of every month, except July and August, along with an early May weekend opening for Open House Roma, which is when we went.  I'd say run, don't walk, to make your appointment for one of these visits.

The work is also available on Google, but if you think you might go, save your first-time experience for the real thing.
Links are at the end of this post.

The collection is astoundingly rich and unabashedly contemporary.  The works fill the walls and halls of this building, whose construction began in 1937.  The building itself is filled with artwork from the period of its construction and decoration, which occurred mainly in the post-World War II period, with artists such as Sciajola.
From Elena Bellantoni's "The struggle for power, the fox and the wolf," 2014 video.  This video was
filmed in The Farnesina itself.
Our tour included an extensive look at the building and its hallways and rooms, which is essential to view all the artwork.
The large meeting room where Bellantoni's video was filmed.
Mosaics by Sciajola and ceiling art, part of the building decor.
Grand stairway, with original designs on sconces; classic
Fascist use of travertine marble, and use of Roman designs,
including the painting at the end, with a modernist take. 
The collection also includes some original drawings of the building by architect Enrico del Debbio (whose work we've admired in previous posts).
Del Debbio's "first solution" to the "Casa Littoria a Foro Mussolini." The building sits at the base of Monte Mario.
Today's exterior is not too different from del Debbio's "first solution" - minus the marching military, plinth and horses:

For visits, consult the Web site (it says it's in English, but it is not:
Google's "virtual tour" is here:

Mario Sironi's Il lavoratore  ("The worker"), 1936.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Quartiere INA-Casa Tuburtino IV: a Postwar Suburban Public Housing Project

One of our favorite Rome guides is 200 Architetture Scelte: Il Moderno Attraverso Roma (200 Architectural Choices: The Modern Across Rome; pub. 2000).  Obviously in Italian, it has multiple authors: Gaia Remiddi, Antonella Greco, Antonella Bonavita, and Paola Ferri (I just noticed they are all women).  Our fondness for the book has less to do with its analysis of the buildings, which is often quite technical, perhaps meant more for architects than historians or tourists, than its "pointing out" function; without it, we would never have found some of its "choices."

And so it was that in the Spring of 2017 we found ourselves dismounting the scooter at kilometer 7 on via Tiburtina (the right side, going out).  We were there to see and experience a major housing development built between 1949 and 1955.  We've driven by this project dozens, maybe even hundreds of times, and never noticed it.  It has the feel of a protected suburban enclave. The project was coordinated by Mario Ridolfi. The dozen or so architects who designed parts of the project include Ridolfi and Ludovico Quaroni, the latter perhaps best known for a poster designed to commemorate an enormous arch for E42 at EUR, but never built.

When you see the gas station sign (at left in the photo above), turn right and park across the street from the "Snack Bar."

Quaroni and his colleagues designed and built 771 housing units on the site.  Many of the buildings are sited at odd angles to via Tiburtina and to area streets (and to each other), are of moderate scale, and--for public housing units--have a remarkably "homey" presence, to this day.  Despite the overall dimensions of the project. the dominant feeling is of a comfortable suburban community.  Exterior colors are in several shades of "terre romane" (Roman earth).  "INA-Casa" was a post-World War II government entity designed to provide subsidized housing, in this case for a class above working class. "INA" refers to l'Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni, (the National Institute for Insurance), that managed the funds.  One of our favorite architectsGiò Ponti, was critical of the project, though most architects of the day were not.

If you park across the street from the bar on via Tiburtina and walk south, up the street, on via. D. Angeli, you'll find a Ridolfi-designed 2-story structure with an unusual stairway and an elevated second-floor walkway.  The building has this unusual look because of changes in the terrain. In suburban fashion, all units have exterior space.  Our book calls the building case a ballatoio (houses on a gallery/walkway).

Below, on via dei Crispolti, a winding/jointed 4-story complex by Quaroni and Mario Fiorentino.  Communal outdoor space at ground level.  Because the building is composed of several large units set at different angles, the result is that the interior units vary in angularity, from rectangular to octagonal.

At via D. Angeli and via L. Cesana, the tallest building in the complex at 7 floors (below).  Designed by Ridolfi, its distinguishing feature is the intersection at angles of three square buildings--a feature that can be hard to see from some perspectives and from ground level.

Communal outdoor space is a feature of several of the buildings.  When we visited, this space was being used by a group of older men.

Angular businesses, perhaps part of the original design:

There are other project buildings to the south and southwest--explore at your leisure. 

Pleasant as the INA-Casa project was, the most spectacular "find" of the day was a structure that stood in stark contrast to those around it.  This Brutalist masterpiece,  Santa Maria della Visitazione, was designed in the Mayan temple mode by Saverio Busiri Vici, who was active in Rome between 1960 and 1980.  It was completed in 1971. More on the church in a post to come.

The view from the church terrace showcases the surrounding community.