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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

TAV or NO TAV: 30 Years of Conflict, and Counting

NO-TAV Leftist Wall Art, Pigneto
TAV--Treno Alta Velocita'--refers generally to high speed rail corridors, but more specifically to a planned high-speed, 170 mile rail line between Turin, Italy, and Lyon, France.  The project has been a contentious one from the first days of planning, in 1990. Recently, a parliamentary vote split the governing coalition, with Matteo Salvini's northern-industrial based Lega party in favor, and Luigi Di Maio's 5-Star Movement, with its anti-government ideology, opposed. In a non-binding vote, TAV was approved. Some of the tunneling had already been done. In the poster below, opponents suggest that the project will produce environmental devastation, strikes, and evictions. Probably all true.

Italian proponents of the new line, most of them in the country's industrial north, argue that the TAV to Lyon will increase trade; that the travel time by train from Turin to Paris connection will be roughly equivalent to air travel; that truck pollution would be significantly reduced--and, anyway, the EU has agreed to pay for about 40% of the cost, and maybe more.

Opponents, aligned under the NO TAV movement, are especially numerous in the many small towns that would line the non-tunnel portions of the track, and especially in Italy's Susa Valley. Because much of the work would involve tunneling through the Alps (one tunnel alone would be 36 miles long), in areas where the rock may contain asbestos, opponents also raise environmental and health concerns. Others are concerned about the inevitable cost over-runs and the corruption that typically attends large infrastructure projects in Italy. And there's doubtless a small-town, rural concern with quality-of-life issues (proponents would call it NIMBY-ism).

NO TAV emerged with the first planning, in the early 1990s. Opposition intensified after 2000, with demonstrations, squatting, trade union actions, and flash mobs, all of it linked, if superficially, with the Partisan opposition to the Nazis in the last years of World War II.

The fire burns. No Tav. 

The Italian part of the project was officially approved in 2011, though not much work has been done on the line since then, and opposition continues. Beppe Grillo, the 5-Star co-founder, has described the project as "a crime against humanity."

In back of the old slaughter house, in Testaccio. Mourning animals, the train driven by death. 
Although most of the hostility to the high-speed line has centered in the rural and small-town north, the issue appeared on Rome's walls as early as 2012 (when RST first began photographing evidence of opposition. TAV continues to be an issue in Rome, though perhaps an increasingly minor one--especially compared with immigration.


Saturday, August 17, 2019


You can't be in Rome long without knowing that the suffix "ia" refers to a shop or business that does what the prefix says.  Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, but not much.  Hence the Caffeteria Porta Furba refers to a place where you can get coffee near Porta Furba, out Tuscolano way. (And, unlike English, which puts the accent in the related word, cafeteria, on the second e, the accent in caffeteria in ALL these words (including trattoria, please) is on the 'i', but it's pronounced 'ee'.)

The same place is a Cornetteria (referring to the most common Rome pastry, a cornetto) and a Gastronomia (you can get food there; the prefix "gastro," seldom used in English except for doctor's appointments, refers to the digestive tract and now the trendy name "gastropub").

Everyone knows that an Osteria is a low-end restaurant, but may not know that the word actually defines an inn, where there's a host (an old-fashioned "ostia").

A trattoria is usually a step above an osteria.  In this case, the establishment is also a pizzeria and a birreria (beer, "birra" in Italian, is available).

Food shoppers will likely be familiar with the local "salumeria" (which sells salumi (salami, which may or may not be a related word, and which also describes a delicatessen or a pork-butcher shop, as the logo suggests).  A "norcineria" is more specifically a place where butchered pork is sold - pork in the classic style of Norcia, the Umbrian town whose name is given to this method of traditional pork products.

A "sartoria" is a tailor's shop (and the sign "sartorie" suggests there's more than one person doing the sewing).

The local tabaccheria sells tobacco products and matches and may recharge your phone.

But here's the thing.  It's OK to make up new words with the "ia" suffix, even if the prefix is in English.  Here's an example, from the town of Rocca di Papa in the Alban Hills. At the Jeanseria, you can buy....JEANS!


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Calatrava's swimming pool: viewed from Rome's mountains

This post is about a swimming pool.  It's in the photo above, but you were probably looking at the Alban hills, or the moon, or the city at dusk.

Rome is circled by mountains on 3 sides: to the southwest, the Colli Albani--the Alban Hills--beckon with a set of charming small towns, including Frascati and Rocca di Papa, sitting below the highest mountain in the chain, Monte Cavo.  To the north and east, Tivoli provides  access to the higher mountains in the Monti Lucretili, a group that includes Monte Sterparo and, beyond it to the west, the highest of Rome's nearby mountains, Monte Gennaro. Then, much closer to the city--indeed, right in it--there's a low chain of mountains (hills, really) that includes Monte Mario (about 400 feet vertical from the river), with its close-up views of the Vatican and one of Rome's great bars, for its view: Lo Zodiaco.  And to the south of Monte Mario, and in the same chain, the Gianicolo.

We've been all over these mountains--walked every trail and been to every peak in the Colli Albani, done most of the major mountains in the Lucretili range, and walked the length of the Monte Mario complex more than once. Each hike has its pleasures (and, we should add, its irritations).

One of the minor pleasures is catching a glimpse, from any of the summits and many of the trails, of one of the outstanding architectural features of Rome's periphery: a swimming pool.

But not just any swimming pool.  To be seen from a distance, of course, the pool has to be a big one, and this one is.  Up close it's a soaring, curving, triangular hulk of a building, set in the far suburbs to Rome's east, near Tor Vergata, the newest of Rome's universities.  It was designed by starchitect Santiago Calatrava for the 2009 World Swimming Championships, and construction began in 2007.  But before it could be completed, Rome's right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, cancelled the project. Here's what it looked like a few years ago:

And here's how it looks as we journey around Rome's horn of hills and mountains, beginning with the Alban Hills and moving counterclockwise.  In the photo below, Monte Cavo is to the left--with antennas--and the pool can be seen on the right, just above a dark set of lower hills.  The photo was taken from a mountain to the north and east of Monte Cavo.

Frascati is only a few miles from Monte Cavo, and set lower in the Colli Albani.  Here's the pool from Frascati.  Surprisingly close:

Tivoli is on the edge of another range, the Monte Lucretili, further north.  Here's what the pool looks like from the hills above Tivoli (about 600 vertical feet from the town).  Charming Tivoli is in the foreground, the white triangle of the pool about 1/4 from the right edge and near the horizon.

Below, the cross on Monte Sterpara--about a two hour hike from Tivoli, which is out of the photo to the left.  The pool, near the horizon, is to the left.

Monte Gennaro is the tallest mountain in the Lucretili range, with a hike up of from 2,000 to 3500 feet, depending on where you start.  Because Gennaro is high and further away, the pool gets smaller.  Below, we've cropped and modified the photo to make the pool more visible (if barely, at far upper left).  Don't complain.  In the foreground is the concrete platform atop the mountain.

Now, as we move back into the city to its west, the pool gets closer and, thankfully, more visible--though not much.  Below, photographed from the path up Mont Mario (near the Foro Italico), the pool is at left, against a backdrop of the Colli Albani:


We've raved before about the views from the top of Monte Mario, at the Lo Zodiaco bar.  Here's proof.  That's Rome, the Colli Albani, and the Calatrava pool, at dusk:

You don't have to climb even Monte Mario to see the pool.  The photo below is from the terrace of the American Academy in Rome, during its yearly open house showcasing the work of its fellows.  Put that June event on your calendar--if only to see the Calatrava pool.