Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

"Love Nests"/Exploitation in the Woods: Rome Prostitution

Get a few miles outside Rome's center, on any of a hundred country roads, and you'll see young ladies in very short shorts, trolling for business.  Sometimes there's a couch where the work gets done.  In this case, the love - or sex -  bed, which admittedly seems a bit too close to the traffic for privacy, has been covered with wide strips of blue fabric.

These photos were taken on via di Castel di Guido, between the town of Castel di Guido and via Aurelia, west of Rome.  A few hundred yards down the road, we found the women who might have made use of this spot, soliciting motorists as they came off the eastbound exit ramp. 

We probably see more evidence of prostitutes than most Romans, since we are often hiking near these only-barely-remote spots.  We've chatted with some of these women, but not about their jobs.  They've offered to - and have - protected our scooter while we go exploring.

The issue of prostitution in Italy is a difficult one.

The European Union categorizes prostitution as completely legal in Italy and other European states, including Spain, Portugal and the UK. But it’s street prostitution that’s legal in Italy. Brothels are not. The 1958 Merlin law (named for Lina Merlin, the first woman elected to Italy’s Senate) banned brothels (known as case di tolleranza, "houses of tolerance") and imposed a new offense, “exploitation of prostitution,” aimed at pimps and clients.

In Italy, police use laws based on obscenity, including dressing in revealing and suggestive clothing, to move prostitutes out of an area or neighborhood. Current Italian law punishes obscene acts committed in the vicinity of places frequented by children and young people. According to a Rome prosecutor, these are parks, schools, day-care centers and athletic facilities. The result is women who ply their trade on the roadsides we frequent - far from the city center.

In Italy immigrant sex workers are a particularly vulnerable group. The International Organization for Migration estimated that 80 percent of the 11,000 Nigerian women who entered Sicily in 2016 would end up trafficked into the sex trade. These women — as well as undocumented women in the U.S. sex trade — face deportation if they attempt to report their circumstances.

There's more discussion of the pros and cons of legalization of prostitution in Dianne's article in TheAmerican/inItalia.

Bill and Dianne

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rome's New Metro "Archaeological Station" - "Archeo-Stazione" - its newest and best free museum

Travelers in the San Giovanni metro station amidst artifacts from ancient Rome.
Everyone agrees Rome's 21st-century infrastructure is deteriorating to a new low - piles of garbage in the street, holes in the asphalt big enough to close streets and kill motorists, buses catching on fire, tram brakes sabotaged, parks unkempt, trees falling on cars.  And yet, one can enter a Metro station and be in a first-class archaeological museum that opened this May.

Under this very ordinary Metro entrance
lies an incredible museum.
The expansion of Rome's Metro system to a third (!) line, the C line, resulted, as almost all excavation in Rome does, in the discovery of layers of ancient artifacts.  In this case, the discoveries at the connection of the C line to the A line at the busy hub of San Giovanni in Laterano held up the inauguration of that station by a couple years and in the process opened a window into centuries of Roman life.
Artifacts discovered under the station at this level (more photos below).
Because the station was so deep, archaeologists had the chance to reach depths they don't normally work in. As a result, they used the depth of the station to provide a timeline.  As one descends into the basic 3 levels of the station, the panels on the walls and the artifacts reveal the time lines at those depths.  It's a clever way of showing human, and pre-human, history.
At the top, times for the next trains arriving.  On the wall, an indication that we are 14 and 15 meters (45-50 feet) below current Rome and in the "Middle Imperial Age--third century AD."
Also noted is the year 216, when construction began on the Baths of Caracalla.
One of the most interesting discoveries was of a 1st-century BC water system, on a farm it appears, with pipes made from used and broken amphorae.
A 1st-century BC plumbing system (more photos at the end
of the post)

The station, which opened May 18, has been an enormous hit primarily with Romans.  It may take time for tourists to catch onto this - in reality - marvelous free or low-cost museum.
A central hub - travelers going through the station, and video displays on the right.
The first level is before the Metro turnstiles and thus is free.  But for a 1.50 euro ticket, anyone can travel down to the other levels of the station. The free level has very good videos, in both Italian and English.  The second level is the most rich in artifacts.

The escalator going to the bottom level takes one down through time.
On the right it says "Republican age" and then "Proto-historic age."

The lowest level does not have artifacts, but has pictures on the
walls of the kind of life that existed on earth (in Rome)
at this level of feet below the current level of Rome.

A Roman delighting in her 'find.'
Pipes from the 1st century BC plumbing system
(and Bill's hand and camera reflecting in the glass)
The discovery of broken amphorae used to create a pipe
in the plumbing system.

An end piece from the side of a Roman house.

Amazingly enough, the remains of a wooden basket--
1st-2nd century BC.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hiking: Tivoli to San Polo, 10 miles, 2300 feet, great views

One view from the long ridge between Tivoli and San Polo de' Cavalieri.  The hill town at center is Castel Madama.
We've hired near it too in the past, encountering one of our more brutal brier patches.
As the body ages, long rides on the scooter become less enticing.  And so we've taken to doing some of our hiking from train depots.  On a hot Sunday in early June, we scootered in the a.m. to Piazza Independenza in central Rome, walked 10 minutes to Termini, and caught the train for Tivoli (takes about an hour, less on the return).  Our plan (we've done it twice before) was to hike from the Tivoli train station to San Polo de' Cavalieri, a small hill town roughly 5 miles distant.  10 miles total.  Varied terrain, delightful views.

Monte Cattillo, seen from the Tivoli bar,
with requisite beer, after the hike. 
The hike goes up over the shoulder of Monte Catillo (seen here from a bar after the hike).  The trailhead is about half a mile from the train station: exit the station right, downhill to the roundabout, take the road right, up to the arch, and turn right up the road, where you'll find the marked path around Monte Catillo).  Then uphill through scrub to a lone oak (this much we described in an itinerary in our first book), through a lovely grove of oak trees and onto a long ridge, finally pitching down off the ridge, then up on a road and some other tracks to San Polo, where we ate the tramezzini we had purchased in a Tivoli bar in the morning.

Benches line the right side of the street in San Polo.  
We sat on one of the benches on the town's main street.

Bar Centrale.  Quiet, but open, on a Sunday afternoon. 

Or you could buy lunch at Bar Centrale.

Or, from San Polo, you could go on to Monte Gennaro - another 6 hours or so!  We've climbed Gennaro half a dozen times, from several directions, but never from this one.  Tivoli and San Polo are in the Lucreteli, and Monte Gennaro is the highest mountain outside Rome.  The Tivoli to San Polo hike gives you the flavor of the Lucretili and some small town and farm ambience as well.

The ritorno (return) is a reversal of the andato (no good translation, sort of "going" or "the way there"): down from San Polo, steep climb up a hot road to the ridge, more or less flat journey along the mostly open ridge (great views on both sides, especially left), descent through the oaks, the scrub, and along the shoulder of Monte Catillo and down into Tivoli.

There used to be a lot of cows in these pastures, and bathtubs were used as rural fontane (fountains) to provide the animals with water.

Dianne at the oak grove, on the descent.  Several years ago, during a drought,
we feared the oaks might die.  Today, they appear healthy.  Red and white trail
marker on the tree.  A clear path.

Descent into Tivoli.  The white triangle just below the horizon and about 2/3 of the way toward the
right side of the frame, is Santiago Calatrava's famous, but unfinished and unused, swimming pool.  
A short section of road at the beginning and end of the hike. 

The numbers are hours and minutes estimated to reach the
destination, not distance.

Grateful for the shade. 
The trail is well marked (above, a typical sign) in a way it wasn't some years ago, when we first did the hike.  There are just a couple of places where one can go wrong: on the way to San Polo, having passed the lone pine, bear to the right and slightly upward at the fork (the intersection is marked).

Then, about halfway to San Polo, be careful to avoid pitching downward to the left (that's another trail, and a shorter hike) and stay more or less on the ridge.  There are some lovely and cool shaded stretches.

The total dislivello (elevation gain) is about 2300 feet (total for both directions, which involve ups and downs both ways).  That means this one's for hikers, not walkers.  Lots of rocky paths, so hiking boots are highly recommended.  There's water at the Tivoli train station (look for the eagle fountain at one end) and at the fountain in San Polo's main square--but none on the trail, with one exception that's quite close to San Polo.
Water is available at the eagle fountain on the north end of the Tivoli train station.  
You'll be headed for Monte Catillo, whose top is marked by the cross in the center
of this photo.  You can go to the top or across the shoulder on the way to San Polo..
We described another hike from the Tivoli station to the higher Monte Sterparo in 2016. That blog post includes some photos of our "cow map" that has part of this hike on it as well.

We've been partial to Tivoli for a long time, not only for hiking, but also for just the feel of this small, very old town (dating from the ancient Romans), the magnificent 19th-century Villa Gregoriana (#6 on the RST Top 40) and the more famous 16th century Villa d'Este with its fountains (the wild and the ordered, respectively, were compared in Rome the Second Time).


Friday, July 6, 2018

Caffe' Natalizi

via Po.  At right, what was our coffee bar a year ago,
now being remodeled for a dress shop.
The most extraordinary aspect of this photo is that only one vehicle is parked in the crosswalk.  At right, the woman in
pink has just exited the caffe' and is giving the black man, who has a cap out, some change.

We lived in the Salario neighborhood, not far from Villa Borghese, for about a month, and this was our coffee bar.  Caffe' Natalizi is on Salario's main drag, via Po. It's old style rather than trendy modern; the baristas (most of them large men, usually working two at a time) wear black shirts or jackets.  The heavy glass, circular counter has seen so many cups of coffee that it's almost white with scratches.

It's both a coffee bar and a pasticceria (bakery), which means that the cornetti (croissant, brioche, sweet rolls, pastries) are fresh and, in this case, extraordinary--not only warm and delicious but large enough that we could purchase only one and divide it (with the spoon that always comes with coffee).  On the saucer was a piece of wrapped chocolate.

Not a lot of counter space, and the place could get
very crowded.  But service was excellent, and most
Italians drink and go.  
We always ordered the same thing--due cafe' Americani (2 American coffees), un cornetto (price E3, about $3.50; some bars charge up to an additional 50 centesimi for American coffee--we don't return to such places). 

After about a week, the woman at the cassa (cash register, where you place your order and pay) knew the order and said simply, "il solito?" (the usual?) and a barista would begin making our American coffees when we walked in the door.

It's customary to place your receipt (scontrino) on the bar with a tip (mancia) of 10 centesimi (12 cents) for each coffee, and we did that.

Outside, every day, a black man, likely Nigerian, and not necessarily the same man every day, held out a cap, asking for money (the man at the right of the photo at the top).  We usually gave him 50 centesimi (about 60 cents) on our way out.  Because immigrants without their legal status (usually waiting for their legal status to be determined) are not allowed to work for wages, some beg in front of bars and grocery stores or, along via Po and many other Rome streets, sweep a portion of the sidewalk while soliciting contributions.  The woman in the top photo has just exited the bar and is giving the man some change.