Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Monte Mario Alto: the Suburb that's Nowhere near Monte Mario

In our latest effort to escape the powerful gravitational pull of central Rome, RST got on the scooter and headed out the heavily trafficked and not-too-safe via Trionfale to an area known as Monte Mario Alto, which we had never heard of and on our map had some curvy streets that we thought might yield this or that pleasure.

The first thing you need to know is that Monte Mario Alto is nowhere near Monte Mario, the 500-foot hill near the Olympic Stadium.  The second is that you don't have to drive (let alone risk your life on a scooter) to get there; there's a train station in the center of "town," and it's clearly labeled Monte Mario (not Monte Mario Alto). More information on using the train to get to Monte Mario Alto is at the end of this post.

Anyway, we parked the scooter and headed slightly uphill on via Vicenzo Troya, arriving a few minutes later in what appeared to be the town square: Piazza Nostra Signora di Guadalupe.  There are a couple of businesses in the square, including a comfortable coffee bar, run (and owned) for many years by a Filipino woman, with whom we had a nice chat about, among other topics, being a decades-long immigrant and how long it had been since she'd seen her adult children in the Philippines. We were the only ones at the bar, but there were the usual several men at tables outside, smoking and chatting in the wide piazza.

Across the way there's a newspaper stand amply graffitied, and a sign in the red and yellow of the Roma soccer team: La Curva Sud non si Divide!  PGU Roma.  Curva Sud  (literally "south curve") refers to the section of the Olympic Stadium (in US football, it would be the end zone) where the Roma fans sit, and the sign appears to suggest that the curva (the fans there) are united.  We have no idea what PGU stands for.

At one end of the piazza is the church for which the piazza is named: Parrochia Nostra Signora di Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe parish), built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, originally to serve Mexican nuns.  The parish priest was outside talking with his flock.  We admired the heavy metal doors of the church (below).

Gorgeous doors that feature the agricultural themes and stylized Art Deco design,
popular under Fascism. We couldn't figure out the artist, but the work
resembles that of Duilio Cambellotti (described in a future post). These types of
decorated doors are on many churches in Rome and hearken back to
 Ghiberti's doors on the Baptistry in Florence.
Turning a bit north and then left (vague, yes, but this isn't an itinerary, really), we came upon Monte Mario Alto's public marketplace, on Piazza Pietro Thouar.  We were a bit late to observe it at its mid-morning best, but even so, it seemed clear that the market had seen better days--perhaps the victim of several supermarkets in the area.

But the side of the market had some interesting "graffiti"--what Bill calls "found art."

You'll find this piece on Bill's website:

Back to via Trionfale, we noticed this building, a once-handsome structure from the late 1950s, now housing a technical training facility.

The sign reads "60 years of quality technical instruction." The degraded state of the building and the weeds don't exactly
underscore the slogan.
We crossed via Trionfale and made our way around the back of the station.  We passed this industrial building.  Note the new-ish bike path.  This is no podunk.

We soon came to the rear of another church, Parrocchia S. Luigi Maria di Monfort, built in the 1960s, a nice contrast to the 1930s church and an indication of the expansion of Rome's population into the suburbs. The graffiti on the walls between the church and the bike path reflect the left- and right-wing sloganeering around Rome.

"Attention: No racism."

Not everyone in Monte Mario Alto is on board with liberal progressivism.  This graffiti translates: "With the Syria of Assad, forward to Victory."  
And the following poster, with its slogan, "Tomorrow Belongs to Us," is put up by a right-wing organization. Chillingly prescient of the Salvini government.
"Tomorrow Belongs to Us!"
Around the front of the church, the courtyard was open--but the church closed.  However, our interest in the structure was noticed by a cleric who let us in and walked away, telling us to close the door behind us!  (Life in a small town?)  We enjoyed the interior with its 1960s art reflected in the liturgical furnishings and stained glass window behind the altar.

Always interesting to us is the addition of "homey" touches to modernist features in contemporary churches.
Satiated with church stuff, we followed via di Torrevecchia westward, into the more upscale side of Monte Mario Alto.  We imagine that middle-class people live here and commute to Rome.

We found a café with a sidewalk tent, and had a forgettable but surely tasty lunch, complete with our regular Coca Lite.  There are several other cafés and restaurants on this more modern side of town, the 'sides' being fairly clearly demarcated by via Trionfale..

Back to the scooter, and home to Salario--and we're still alive!


Re: arriving/departing by train. Regular trains leave from the Roma Ostiense station and the trip takes less than 30 minutes. Here's a map showing the station in the community:

1 comment:

Rufus said...

PGU refers to Piazza Guadalupe Ultras. Ride safely, your blog is a treasure.