Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Rome's only beer garden: the ex-dogana

In Rome, you're never more than 2 minutes from a cold beer; after all, it's available in any "coffee" bar.  But if you're looking to have your brew in a spot that's more unusual--and maybe stroll through an art exhibit--you can't do better than the ex-dogana (ex-customs house), a sprawling complex of buildings recently converted into an arts and entertainment center.

The ex-dogana is located about 100 yards from Piazza Porta Maggiore, which is more or less at the far end of Stazione Termini (the main train station) and at the confluence of three quartiere: Esquilino, Pigneto, and one of the city's centers of youth nighttime social life, San Lorenzo.  The entrance to the ex-dogana is on viale Scalo San Lorenzo, which runs northwest off Porta Maggiore.  The Scalo is an odd street that can feel threating, because it's busy, noisy, divided by a tram in the middle, and covered and darkened by an elevated highway.  You could be in Brooklyn in 1955.  Anyway, if you exit Porta Maggiore (hopefully without getting run over) and hew to the right (east) side of the Scalo, you can't miss the entrance to the ex-dogana.  Just walk in.

On the left, ahead, is a large parking lot.  On the right, the first thing you'll see is an enclosed courtyard, the site of special events (participatory sports, milling around, music) for which there is
usually a fee.  This area seems to appeal to younger folks.

But if it's beer you want, keep going a few yards, then up a short flight of steps on the right.  You're there!

The beer is all draft, served in plastic cups, a bit pricey (beer is oddly expensive in Rome)--E6 is what we recall.  Hey, you're paying for the space!  There's food, too.  The food stands are made from shipping containers.

You're in Rome's only dedicated beer garden (there are some outdoor spaces attached to pubs). The "garden" was produced at considerable effort, by importing dozens of large potted trees.  It worked, creating any number of inviting spaces to sit and sip.  It's partly covered.  We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, unique for Rome. It's called the "Bosco Urbano" - Urban Forest, and is a project of Rome's La Sapienza University.  It's considered a "temporary" forest - so we're not sure how long it will be up, nor if the beer stations are there all the time. 

That's Dianne, looking contemplative. 

We liked the view too, especially to the north, where the elevated Circonvallazione Tiburtina swoops to ground with post-industrial flair. 

On the other side, a game area: foosball and ping pong.  Not much action at the moment.  The building on the other side of the game area has been the site of large art exhibitions.

At the near end of the platform (where you came in), you'll find a large open space with plants and tables, and the entrance to an interior space that houses a cafeteria, a bookstore, and a small art gallery.

On the day we were there, the gallery was hosting an exhibit by the painter Luca Grimaldi, whose work features consumer objects (such as items on a grocery store self, or racks of magazines).

Congrats, Roma, on this great new space!


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