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

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.


No comments: