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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Truck Shopping in Rome

The 'shop'  name is "Melandra...Moving Shop." The "ape" or "bee" is a
3-wheel commercial vehicle, based on the Vespa scooter and produced,
as is the Vespa ("wasp"), by Piaggio.  I once said we mainly saw them in
the countryside, but maybe not!
The joys of shopping in Rome, for us, are mainly the visuals.  We love looking at the multitude of ways in which petty capitalism operates in this city of 3 million people. A method new to us this year was the mobile clothes store.  Yes, we have pop-ups in the U.S., but the Italians as usual, take it one step further.

We had seen vendors selling batteries (see photo towards the end of this post), glasses, flowers, fruits and vegetables out of trucks.  But a mini clothing store? That was new.

The "ape" trucks  above and below were parked in and close by the large Piazza Mazzini near our apartment this Spring, and came around periodically to sell their wares - and the Italians were buying.

Quite a combination of Italian and English words here, plus a take off : "Fruit of the Loom" (right), then "Fruit on the Road" (left). We didn't check  to see if the goods were authentic or knock-offs, but we can guess.
Below, not a shopping truck per se, but likely a delivery truck for a Sicilian (mostly) take-out restaurant in Prati (near where we lived).  Unfortunately, we never got there, but the arancini look amazing! (To say "arancini" are stuffed rice balls doesn't do them justice.)
The paintings are of Orlando and Rinaldo dueling for Angelica's heart in the classic "Orlando Furioso"
tale.  The story resonates with Sicily and the Sicilian puppet tradition, emphasizing these arancini
are going to be Sicilian to their rice core. The restaurant name is MondoArancina - with an "a" at the end,
 apparently the Sicilian spelling. The truck enlivens an otherwise rather soulless piazza in della Vittoria.
And then there's the use of a Fiat 500 to sell vinegars--again, just down from our apartment.

"Wine without sulfites...Wine and apple vinegar..." etc.
And, apparently, he doubles as a clown at night.

This van houses an Orologeria, a store that sells watch-bands and watch batteries.
A piazza in San Paolo.  Eager customers, including me. 

And, left, not exactly shopping from or out of a truck, but shoe sellers who use their truck to carry all the shoes and the stands and tents they put up to sell - they do this every day of the week - up in the morning, down in the evening.
I thought the arrangement of shoe boxes could have stumped a Rubik's cube expert.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Enjoying Rome's 'hoods: The Wild Sides of via Tiburtina

Once in a while, one of us (guess which one) gets the itch to explore a new Rome neighborhood--not that easy when you spend three months each year in the city.  This time, he chose a section of via Tiburtina--the busy thoroughfare running northeast to Tivoli--just beyond the Verano cemetery, over the bridge, and you're there.  We took a right on one of the first side streets and parked the scooter.  At first blush, the neighborhood appeared alarmingly ordinary.  Desperate to find something of interest, we enjoyed a 1960ish front gate to an apartment complex.

We noted that Tiburtina, like the rest of Rome, has a garbage problem.

Turning onto via Bertarelli, we found this curious, below-ground church, San Giuseppe Artigiano.

Then things changed.  We dipped onto vialetto Tiziano Laudani (probably not on any map, including Google), a charming country lane.

It spilled out onto an large open green space, where Dianne was able to get a much-needed workout.

A back-building with neo-Nazi slogans, invoking Mussolini. One imagines it's a youth hangout in the evening.

Ahead, a newly fenced-in, mowed! dog park.

A jogger passed by.

A play area.

As we exited the space, this sign told us where we had been: Parco Galla Placidia Ottoboni.

Turning left out of the park onto via Galla Placidia, we found BricoBravo, a suburban-style outdoor store, catering to the area's middle class.

Crossing via Tiburtina, we admired the pasteups.

And just beyond, in a tiny "mall," a store with a box of buttons outside: 3 for Euro 1.

And beyond that, a still-functioning film studio.  Cool! Our discussions with the portiere (doorman) indicated the studios still were used, but now primarily for TV series.

We turned right into the neighborhood, then right again on what we think was via d. Casale, with its older buildings and country feel, just a stone's throw (literally) from the traffic of via Tiburtina.

Another charming vialetto beckoned, and we took it.  Turned right, toward via Tiburtina, once again coming upon the movie studio, its upper reaches marked with signs of the past.

Crossing via Tiburtina, we found this poster at a gas station.  It expresses the frustration of residents with a construction project, intended to provide more traffic lanes, that has been ongoing for 10 years.  "Per Fare il Colosseo," the poster says, "Ci Hanno Messo di Meno."  (It took less time to build the Coliseum).  There's more to it than that, if you read Italian.

Left, to the scooter.

Love the 'hoods!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Small Gallery Openings--a Rome Pleasure

If you're looking for something to do in Rome in the early evening--before 8, when the stores close and the restaurants open--you should consider attending an opening at one of the city's numerous small art galleries.  Notices of openings can be found in Trova Roma, an entertainment insert that comes with the Thursday edition of the newspaper La Repubblica, or in a free art publication (Art Forum) that's available in most galleries and is also online.

Some small gallery experiences are mostly interior affairs, with little "street exposure."  The gallery below, AlbumArte,  just off via Flaminia, has a small porch in the rear that was popular with visitors.

The art at these events varies from excellent to adequate to (infrequently) downright bad, as in "I could do that," or "Oh my God he wants $2000 for that!"

Outside Galleria Varsi, near Campo de' Fiori, soft focus
But unless you're a collector or a genuine connoisseur, you'll have a good time anyway, and, if you don't like the art, any pain you experience in browsing the works on display will last only a few minutes.  Whatever the quality, we recommend playing the "best of show" game (self-explanatory) and the "if you were to hang any of the works in this room in your living room, which would it be?" game.  We enjoyed the fabric collage art in this show (photo below) at Galleria Varsi by Sardinian artist, Tellas.

In addition to the art on the gallery walls, openings have three pleasures.  The first (to be accessed first thing, so you can sip as you meander), is free wine or, much less frequently, beer.  If you're really lucky, there will be some small-bite food, which the Italians will consume as if they'd spent the last year in a survivalist challenge.

Nice - from Tellas's "Fabric Series 4"
The second is people watching, a menage that includes the "identify the artist" game--not all that easy, by the way--observing the girl with the (name your color) hair, and (below) photographing people photographing people photographing art.

The third, related to the second but different, is hanging out outside, drink in hand, with the Romans.  Some of them, of course, are smokers, but they are primarily experts at the game of twilight relaxation, skilled at finding a clean hood to sit on, at dodging automobiles and scooters, and talking.  Learning these skills with a drink in your hand is the primary reason for attending an art opening in Rome.

The photos are of a late-April opening at Galleria Varsi, in via Grotta Pinta.  It was a beer night.  Brett "I like beer" Kavanaugh did not show.  There is no dress code for these affairs.  Dogs were welcome--at least at the Flaminio venue.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Palazzo Barberini Opens Up with Show Juxtaposing Renaissance and Contemporary Art

Giulio Paolini's contemporary "Eco nel vuoto" (Echo in the void)
 in the same room as Caravaggio's "Narciso" (Narcissus) (1597-99) (also below right).
Palazzo Barberini - that staid old lady in the Centro housing major Renaissance paintings and sculpture - has something new to offer. Following an accord between the Ministers of Cultural Heritage and Defense, the entire South wing of the building, comprising 10 rooms and a small chapel, has been turned over to public use.

From 1934 until this agreement in 2015, the "circolo" - or social center - for the Armed Forces occupied these rooms, perhaps not their highest and best use. We saw some of these odd uses when we highlighted the grounds of the Barberini in a 2014 post. Pursuant to this unusual agreement, the Defense Ministry contributed almost €2 million (about $2.3 million). And they get to use the rooms for 40 days/year - for "reasons of high representation."

That curious story aside, the rooms are magnificent and the opening show - which closes at the end of this month (Oct. 28), is a great one with which to open the South wing. Titled Eco e Narciso ("Echo and Narcissus"), it's a creatively curated matching of Barberini Renaissance works and contemporary pieces. I admit, I'm a sucker for that type of juxtaposition dating from when I saw a show entitled "Antiques in the Modern Home" - or something like that - in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence in the 1960s.
Bernini's sculpture of Pope Urban VIII flanked by Yan Pei-Ming's
paintings of Pope John Paul II (2005) and Mao (1999?)

Paired for example are Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture of.Pope Urban VIII (Cardinal.Francesco Barberini) with paintings of Pope John Paul II and Mao by Yan Pei-Ming; Renaissance paintings of women with Kiki Smith's sculptures; a room richly frescoed by Pietro da Cortona with Luigi Ontani's "Le Ore" ("The Hours").
Ontani's "Le Ore" (1975) in the large salon with
 da Cortona's ceiling fresco, "Allegory of Divine
 Providence"  (and Barberini Power), 1633-36.

The theme is portraiture and self-portraiture, and certainly Ontani about whom we've written before, fits the "Narcissus" theme.

Signature works by Caravaggio and Raphael are also prominent in this show, which features 19 more masterpieces from the collection of the Gallerie Nazionali, in dialogue with 17 contemporary works from MAXXI or loans, with three works realised for the occasion (including 2 for which there are photos here - by Giulio Paolini (top photo) and Yinka Shonibare (last photo).
Ontani again.

The juxtaposition of works was created by a Renaissance art curator and a contemporary art one: Flaminia Gennari Santori, of the Barberini/Corsini galleries, and Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, director of the 21st- century MaXXI Arte.  There's another piece to the show at MAXXI, featuring one Renaissance and one contemporary work.
Kiki Smith's "Large Dessert" (2004-05) against the backdrop of female portraits
by Rosalba Carriera and Benedetto Luti (both late 17th to early 18th centuries).

After the current show closes, the entire collection will be re-arranged. For those familiar with the Barberini, this likely is welcome news.  For those of us who visit intermittently, we probably won't notice the difference, except for one change - visitors now will enter on the Bernini stairs and descend on the magnificent Borromini stairs (left), until now closed to the public.  

More pictures of the show below. 

Pierre Subleyras, "Nude from behind," 18th century, paired with
Stefano Arienti's piece below.

Arienti's "SBQR, netnude, gayscape,
orsiitaliani..." 2000.

Yinka Shonibare's "The Invisible Man" (2018) with Marco Benefial's "Portrait of the Quarantotti Family (The missionary's family)" 1735.