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, December 20, 2019

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow....

Rome's winters are often cold and rainy.  But now and then the rain turns to snow.  The kids love it, and the adults find the camera and take pictures before the melting begins, often in minutes.  It happened on February 12, 2010, and our friend Massimo found the camera and took these shots from the windows of his apartment near Piazza Bologna.  That's our beloved Malaguti (below, since replaced by a Honda Forza 300), right next to the sideways-parked Smart car, covered in the white stuff.  Looks like Christmas--soooo, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Bill and Dianne

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Quarto Miglio: 20th-century town, new market

We've known about Quarto Miglio for some time, because our son went to school there in 1993, when RST's Rome adventure began.  It's basically just a small town--population about 11,000--located to the southeast of Rome's center.  The name comes from its location at the 4th Roman mile of the Appian Way (via Appia Antica). The area was settled in Roman times, and many of its streets are named after ancient Romans.

As a modern community, Quarto Miglio dates to the 1920s, when construction of new buildings accelerated. The parish was established in 1935, and the church of San Tarcisio (on the main drag, via di San Tarcisio) was completed in 1939. San Tarcisio was a 3rd-century Christian martyr.

Among those who once lived in Quarto Miglio are movie director Franco Zeffirelli, Gina Lollobrigida, and fashion designer Valentino (though they no doubt lived in large villas on the ancient Appian Way, not in the town center).

Poster announcing the celebration for the opening of the new market and playground
We were ready to touch base once more with Quarto Miglio, because we had read about the construction there of a new market, complete with wall murals by, among others, Luca Maleonte and Diavù .  The opening of the new market had taken place on a Friday evening, complete with music and calisthenics (to celebrate a new, outdoor activity center).  But we couldn't make the Friday opening, so we headed out on the scooter the next day, arriving about noon.

We found the new market easily enough. It consists of about 10 small, separate buildings, designed for individual merchants. When we arrived, only one of them was occupied and open, a fruit-and-vegetable seller.  He told us that heavy rain had pretty much ruined the opening, and then lamented the lack of traffic at the new market.

The nearby exercise area was not much more active--a few mothers with their kids, who were playing on the newly installed equipment.

Playground in foreground, market in background
Behind them, a school wall displayed paintings designed to appeal to children--not art by any means, but pleasant enough:

On the back and side walls of the market stands we found a few more artful pieces (below).

Could be  Diavù -referencing nearby via Appia 
Looks like Luca Maleonte.  Playground is back right. 
Bummed out by the lack of activity at the market and playground, we headed for the "town" center, which was a few blocks away.  More life there, including a caffetteria in a small piazza, with some folks hanging out at unshaded tables, and a sartorie (seamstress), located in a bright storefront.

And we think we found the 1939 church of San Tarcisio:

On a side street, we came across a handsome building in the neo-medieval style, probably dating from the 1920s:

Another small piazza,below, this one featuring some elegant pines, a modernist apartment building with a balcony jutting out over the stone walkway, and a couple of shops.  In one of them, we were lucky to find some tennis balls, for a friend who needed them--and not for tennis.

And a wiry cat, enjoying a high window ledge that it had somehow managed to scale.

That's our Quarto Miglio "adventure."  Disappointing in some ways, modestly satisfying in others--sometimes that's how things work out.  And it's what we do.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Street Art Comes to the Hospital

To some, the painting above may be familiar.  It's Caravaggio's 1607 "Seven Works of Mercy," the original now in Naples, here replicated on the immense exterior wall of one of the many buildings of the Policlinico Gemelli (Gemelli hospital - more like a small city) in Rome's northern Trionfale quarter.

The artist signs himself Ravo; full name Andrea Mattoni, a Swiss-Italian whose hallmark is replicating the Old Masters or, as Ravo states it, "the recovery of classicism in the contemporary."  The Caravaggio above, completed in December 2017, was the most complex wall painting Ravo had done to date. In an interview, he stated (not my translation): 

Closeup of Ravo's painting; "Visit the
imprisoned and feed the hungry."

“It’s like if I was a conductor who present a symphony drawing from an immense repertoire and my theater is the territory itself. I become a transmission channel that follows the ancient tradition of the copy of the work, a practice that was once widespread for the diffusion of paintings. I try to present them to a larger and unexpected audience, carrying forward also my background: graffiti. In fact, the spray is the common thread that connects with my past, where I come from, and it is precisely for this reason that I chose the spray can as my running stick.”  

(You can see the work in process in late 2017 here.)

He is, of course, speaking our language when he inserts the unexpected - in this case the classical - into an unattractive contemporary landscape - the suburban hospital complex.

Ravo completed a second work at Gemelli this past Spring. We saw it shortly after it was completed.  "Madonna Litta," a late 15th-century painting in the Hermitage, is attributed to Leonardo. Ravo painted it in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death.  It sits above a busy road within the hospital complex:

For photos of the Leonardo work in process, see here (article in Italian).

Ravo also has a Facebook page. One of his posts (they are in English) started with this quote: "All art is contemporary, or it was at some point."

One can debate whether replicating great art is itself art. It has been historically. And we like what Ravo is doing to our often isolated and forbidding urban landscapes

We later learned the Gemelli complex has 5,000 employees and hosts about 30,000 people on any given day. Hence, my reference to a "small city" - perhaps not so small.

Getting to Gemelli and finding the works was another issue. The complex is so enormous that we had problems even finding our way in - it's not made for pedestrian access.  Once in, most people - and we asked a lot of them, including at the front desk and in the library - had never heard of Ravo's work, even though he had recently completed the Leonardo.  And, the Caravaggio is in a building quite a distance from the main ones, on a hill. At one point, due to my poor translation, I thought we were looking for 7 works by Ravo (mistaking the "Seven works of mercy" - also a failure of my training in art history- sorry, Mrs. Reinhart from Stanford-in-Italy).  

Bill hauled us out to Trionfale and the hospital complex (no mean feat - these are not roads meant for anything but high-speed autos) on a day when no rain was predicted.  So, of course, it rained (recall, we are on a scooter).  Ultimately, the adventure was successful.  We saw two magnificent pieces of wall art, a glimpse into the life of hospitals in Rome (not that I haven't had others - very close up and personal), and the rather unfortunate story that most people don't even know these paintings exist.

Below, some of our hospital pix.  

Main hospital buildings, with statue of Pope John Paul II (and smokers).
The entrance to the complex is rather unassuming,
though somewhat intimidating for pedestrians.

The hospital seems to have its own highway system.

And its own bridges...Calatrava step aside!

Hard to capture the effect with this small photo, but this
 could have been the largest - and busiest -  hospital cafeteria
we've ever seen. We didn't even try to get a coffee.

No post is complete without a scooterpark pic.
(The sign says "motorcycle exit.") Ravo's Leonardo
painting is up on the right.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Women with Guns: Rome's New Feminism

Saudi Arabia has just labeled feminism, along with homosexuality and something else I can't recall, an "extremism."  Having survived the American 1970s as a male, I can see their point. I was forced to learn to cook!

But that was almost 50 years ago, and I wasn't prepared for the hostile, militant feminism I found on the walls of Rome in the Spring of 2019.  I should qualify the "walls of Rome" reference in the last sentence.  Most of the aggressive feminist images and slogans I found were not in "Rome," as if they were everywhere in Rome, but in certain areas of the city--especially Pigneto, but a few other places as well.

Here we go.

You may have seen this one; it's been on the RST Facebook site.  "Monogamy is the New Fascism." It's in English, so maybe it doesn't count.

This one's a stencil.  While the message seems aggressive, it's also sensible:  "Neither forced maternity nor imposed sterility."

The next one's more obviously aggressive, yet it's also vague about what it's advocating:  "We're multiplying the feminist rage."  Followed by the standard feminist symbol - in triplicate.

"Addio al patriarcato"--a reasonable translation would be "Goodbye Patriarchy."  Who could disagree with that?  The symbol here combines feminism with anarchy.  Anarcho-Feminism.

Below: "Complicit with the women who resist and kill the aggressors." That's strong.

Now we're into visuals.  Many of these fall into the "women with..." category.

As in, below, "Woman with a Drill" (and small wrench).  One could think of this as something like Rosie the Riveter, or....?    From Ostiense.

Below, a piece of wall art.  I tried to translate "Tommy gani [or cani?] sciorti" and could not.  This is "woman with dagger as hand":

Then there's "woman with dynamite" (upper poster):

And "women with guns."  Four of the figures in the poster below are women, and three of them have guns. The rally of the New Resistances was to take place in Casal Bertone--a community just north of Pigneto.

The following poster invokes the Partisans of the 1940s, and in that sense the woman with a gun is justified.  But it also says "oggi antifascisti" (today [we are] antifascists]), and it's not so clear that anti-fascism requires women (or anyone) carrying weapons:

This poster announces a "sciopero globale transfeminista"--"a global strike of transfeminists," I guess.  The woman is masked and ready for street combat.

Two more.  The first one, below, was found in Pigneto and starts with "Gender violence also involves (or concerns) you." "La Casa delle Donne Lucha y Siesta" ("Women's House - Fight and Nap") is a self-run women's organization fighting violence against women, located in the Tuscolano quartiere. Again, the image has a Rosie-the- Riveter quality, but it's more aggressive than welcoming.

And finally, from Ostiense. Here, less aggressive than anxious? (For more on the F word in Rome, see here.)

Author of "Patty's Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America."

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We Get a New Scooter

The expert driver (yes, helmets are required; tickets are given).
The time had come - in 2019 we "traded in" our (very) old Malaguti 250 for a Honda Forza 300. The Honda is our third scooter in Rome and certainly the largest, classiest, and most expensive. For those who picture us zipping around Rome on a Vespa, well, nope. A classic Vespa has less than half the power of this baby, and is considerably smaller. Gregory and Audrey, move over.

(I guess I should've posed like this.)

Bill did a considerable amount of research to come up with the Honda as our first choice. The 300 cc is an ideal size for us, because it gets us into the hills and mountains around Rome without groaning, as the Malaguti did. Bill's usual passenger also had a lot of complaints about the hard ride on the back of the Malaguti; the Honda's suspension is way better.

Picking it up at the dealer's near the GRA - yes, though it literally is in the
 showroom, that's OUR scooter.  Friend Massimo helped with the negotiations.
We could have purchased a used scooter for a better price, but given our use of the scooter in Rome (we put on about 1,000 kilometers in 2 months) and our amortization of it over our remaining scooter life, we decided to go with a new model. The Forza 300 also is fairly new for Honda; the first model was 2018.

The detriments to driving and riding a scooter include the terrible streets in Rome and the surrounding area and parking challenges. We've written about renting a scooter with the bottom line: don't and about the dangers (the statistic - 25% of deaths on the streets of Rome are moto riders).

The additional negatives for a new scooter, and of a popular model such as a Honda, are the worries about it being stolen. So insurance (which only covers a portion of any loss) and a garage are extra expenses.

We spotted our model in a scooter showroom window in Rome.

We found this garage near our Pigneto apartment.  It was run by an Egyptian, who told us to go the Pakistani next door to get our documents copied for him - indications of Pigneto's immigrant-friendly neighborhood. Bill found the steep driveway down to the parking area somewhat challenging. It was one-way in and one-way (on another street) out, but not everyone felt obligated to follow those rules.

And, for posterity - below, our first scooter, a Hexagon 125 (bought used in Bologna in the early 2000s and driven - by Bill - over 4 days and more than 250 miles/450 kilometers - to Rome). We survived - and one bone-breaking accident later - still do. We often quote one of our Roman friends, who says there are 2 kinds of scooter drivers: those who have fallen and those who will fall.

Not quite the Audrey pose, but equally posed (the kickstand is down; no helmets).

 Dianne (the passenger).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The New Corviale: Failed Public Housing AND Street Art Center

We've been drawn to and appalled by Corviale, the massive, kilometer long, 1970s housing project in the south of Rome, since we first saw the place more than a decade ago.  It's still there, and it's still intimidating, especially for those who, like us, obviously don't live there and don't "belong." We're voyeurs, and we know it. On the sunny early June day we visited, we were once again in awe of the sheer size of the complex, as well as its sameness; we were once again taken aback at the exterior corridors that seemed to stretch into infinity; and we were surprised at how few people we saw--Corviale seemed empty.

If that were all there was to this world-famous housing project, we would be repeating ourselves and risking boring our readers.  There's another side to today's Corviale: it's become one of Rome's premier sites for high-level wall art.

After parking the scooter in a near-vacant parking lot, we walked over to the structure.  This is the first thing we saw:

Turning right, there's this work by the artist SFHIR, a minor piece but interesting for its message, as if all of Corviale's street art had been done illegally, under cover of darkness.  We doubt it.  There's too much art here, and much of it too large and complex, to have been completed without knowledge--and permission--of the authorities.

We found the mermaid below, the first of several works that combine wall art with poetry. We asked our Roman friend MV, a professional translator, to help us with the words, and we're glad we did, because almost every line is difficult.

Here's what MV came up with, starting from the top:

Open your shutters         [serrande] there's something great to [see]
It stirs your mind, but not your senses/snake      [the rhyme is mente (mind) serpente (serpent, or                                                  snake, a reference to Corviale, whose nickname is The Serpent)]
It welcomes you in her arms                        [or breasts [seno], or lap]
The 'hood' [periferia] is a state of [my] mind  [MV adds, of course here the pun works much better in                                                English; it's obviously referring to the mental clinic next door]
People pierced by splinters            [schegge, misspelled here; MV adds that the word schegge is                       usually associated with wood, but the word trafitto is usually associated with spines/thorns]
It's been a prison         [or, it is a prison state, or if the mermaid's tail covers the word "in," it could be                                 "it did time in prison"]

Mille Grazie, MV!

And another with a message: "If you have no memory, you have no knowledge."  More snakes--again, reflecting Corviale's nickname, "serpentone" (big snake).

Some of the art is clustered in and around a small stadium (which we missed on our first trip), including a whimsical tableaux by LAC 68, one of  our favorite street artists. His "signature" is a white figure with a shopping cart (far right side).

LAC 68 also did this portrait of a woman. "Pupo" translates as kid; "geloso" as jealous. Looks like she's stroking a cat-like creature.

It was one of a number of depictions of women:

Including several by Pier the Rain, an artist unfamiliar to us:

On the level below the stadium, where there is a functioning business or two, we found the lovely "Corviale" mural that for the past few months has served as the cover photo for our romethesecondtime Facebook site:

And this piece, with some serious word content, perhaps referring to life at Corviale:

Our reality is tragic,
but it's only one fourth:
The rest is comedy.

One can laugh
at almost everything.

On the level above, the artist QWERTY has fashioned one of his well-known, playful--but also deadly serious--stick figures (left side).  Shades of Guernica?

And a painted walkway.

With a police station close by:

Aside from the wall art, and while exploring Corviale and near-environs, we found a few objects of interest.  One of them was a old rusted sign for an alimentari (a small foods store), an indication of what used to be and isn't any more.  As far as we know, there is no commerce in or near Corviale.

And across the street from Corviale proper, we saw what appeared to be an abandoned social space:

Just beyond it, a short tunnel with words by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Roman poet, novelist and film-maker known to have visited the city's public housing projects--though not this one.  He was murdered in 1975, the year construction of Corviale began.

"Beauty can pass through the strangest streets."

Within a stone's throw, an upscale sports facility, likely not intended for the mostly downscale residents of Corviale, though the complex also harbors some wealthier folks.

Corviale has a small, comfortable library:

As well as a modern art gallery!

And now, its own worthy collection of outdoor public art.