Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, January 17, 2019


What one sees--in Rome or anywhere else--depends on where one looks. Over the years, we've probably done more down-looking than most travelers. RST regulars may remember the post on manhole covers, or the one on curbs, or the offering on Rome's undulating and ugly asphalt sidewalks, or the one on love poems chalked onto those sidewalks.

But we also look ahead and up; that's where much of the architecture is, and we're fans of buildings of all kinds (even the much-maligned and misunderstood brutalism of the 1970s).  We've written about door handles, spiky things that prevent people from sitting down, the scallop shell motif that appears on so many 19th-century buildings, broken pediments, and the open loggia that's ubiquitous in Rome.

What we haven't written about--hadn't really "seen"--are the "mensole" that are a prominent feature of many buildings.  "Mensole" is the Italian term, and the English word, as we just learned from a reader, is "corbels," with an emphasis on the first syllable. We're talking about the mensole that support--or appear to support--Rome's balconies, roofs, and windows.

Below, a few, of thousands; the last two photos are of Noto, a Sicilian town known for its mensole:

Near the intersection of via Nomentana and viale Regina Margherita
Romanesque Basic 

Late-19th century elegance
Via Paisiello, in Salario.  Not sure what's supporting what here.  
The once-Poligrafico dello Stato (State Printing Office), Piazza Verdi
Coppede'. Focus on gate, unfortunately.
Nice lion. Otherwise leaning into modernism. 
And the Sicilian town of Noto:




Richard Peterson said...

They are consoles, or just brackets.

Roberto said...

Great topic!

I think the general architectural term for these features is corbel. (See the wikipedia article) When they take human form, women supporters are known as caryatids, and may become columns or pilasters. Male would be atlas (plural atlantes). In Rome I have heard the term telamon/telamones.


Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

ciao a Roberto e Richard - we think "corbel" is the word. Thanks so much, and sorry for the delay in posting your comments. D and B