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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Walls of Rome: 4 Hours in the Life of a Poster

Not all posters dealing with immigration are negative.  This one, found
in the immigrant-heavy (mostly Bangladeshi) suburb of Torpignattara, is critical of the
local government for its failure to make documents available to immigrants.
It's no secret that many Italians are concerned about immigration; under EU rules, the country where an immigrant first makes land must make provision for that immigrant.  There is no plan for dividing up immigrants equally.  This is a particular problem for Italy, which has a long and vulnerable coastline and is a short (but often deadly) boat ride from troubled Tunisia. As elsewhere in Europe, there are those in Italy who identify immigration with terrorism--and, those who don't.

These issues were brought home forcefully on the day we "landed" in Monteverde Vecchio, an upper-middle-class neighborhood on the hill above what is commonly thought of as Trastevere.  Here's the poster we found:

Stop Terrorism, Stop Immigration..  Not sure what "Fdl" is.
 There is an anti-immigration Facebook group known as Patria e Liberta
Four hours later, when we passed that way again, the poster looked like this:

  In the weeks that followed, we found other posters dealing with immigration:

This political poster was part of the 2016 mayoral election.  "Let's Stop
the Alien Invasion
CasaPound's poster, in Casal Bertone: Defend Rome/Enough Immigration, Enough "Welcoming"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bar Names, Part I: Il Mio Bar and....

We "collect" bar names, and here we offer two: Il Mio Bar (My Bar) and Il Tuo Bar (Your Bar [singular, familiar]). We have yet to find Il Vostro Bar (Your Bar, plural) or Il Nostro Bar (Our Bar). If you spot one of these...or have a favorite bar name, let us know--and send photos.    Bill

Casal Bertone
Monte Verde Vecchio

Monday, August 15, 2016

ATAC's Playground

It isn't the gardens of the presidential palace.  It isn't where the Pope takes his morning tea.  It isn't even the Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) Golf Club, off via Flaminia.

What we have here is the entrance to the ATAC Dopolavoro.  ATAC is Rome's Transport Agency, and dopolavoro means "after work." This is where ATAC employees go to have fun, after work. There's a long history of dopolavori in the transportation sector of Rome; the railroad dopolavoro is storied and quite elaborate.  And we have nothing against workers having fun.

But ATAC is the agency Romans love to hate; it brings one sciopero (strike) after another, causing residents and tourists untold grief.  Its subway system closes earlier than it should.  And its buses are notoriously undependable.  What is dependable is the dopo lavoro--lots of tennis courts and other play spaces, right up against the east bank of the Tevere.  Workers' kids can take a class in canoeing. They may do croquet on that trimmed lawn. You can have a look--from the street--if you're in the area.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Vision on Largo Ascianghi: an Inquiry

We happened upon this large and intriguing paste-up one evening while walking in Largo Ascianghi, opposite Nanni Moretti's cinema, near Porta Portese.  The building in the background of the paste-up, well known to followers of Rome's modern architecture, closely resembles one of four modernist post offices built by Mussolini's regime in the 1930s.  This one is located on via Marmorata, not far from the Pyramid, and it's still used, as are the others, as a post office.  The building haunts the scene in a way reminiscent of Giorgio de Chirico's urban 'scapes.  The mural is by RomaBolognaCooperazione, or RoBoCoop.   
The via Marmorata Post Office, Life Magazine, 1940
Curiously, though, the figures in the foreground ride horses rather than drive cars, and they're engaged in tasks that could be described as pre-industrial, including sawing logs with a 2-man hand saw.  At center, four people carry what might be a coffin.  At left, goods are moved by a primitive cart, with thick and possibly wooden wheels, drawn by an ox.  In front/center, the capital from an ancient column suggests that the glories of that period--and, indeed, any interest in it--are in the past.  In the right foreground, a woman rides behind a man on horseback, one dressed in an animal skin tunic of the sort normally identified with cave men.  The number of people in the scene suggest a community, engaged in construction, or reconstruction.

As it turns out, the Ascianghi mural is a redoing of a late-15th-century work (picture below) by Piero di Cosimo, known as an "eccentric" artist.  The workers in the foreground--the same in both works--are engaged in constructing the building in the background. 

What might RoBoCoop have had in mind?  On the one hand, the artist(s) could be suggesting that as much as everything changes, everything stays the same.  Yes, the nature of work changes, but construction goes on, and with some resemblance in the buildings, even though they are some 450 years apart.  Or the RoBoCoop piece could be a comment on the apocalypse, on a post-nuclear world in which humanity has lost all but its most basic skills, a world marked in time by the survival of at least one 20th-century building, a remnant of a pre-nuclear world.

We welcome members' thoughts and ideas.

PS - We realized only later that we met a couple of the RoBoCoop artists during the Open House Roma weekend - another plus for that spectacular event.
And thanks to Jess Stewart for helping us figure out the artists here.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Walking in Rome "Safely", or "You Can Walk but They Can Kill You"

You can't.  Walk in Rome safely, that is.  But there are some things you can do, and information you need to have, to improve the odds of your staying alive in the Eternal City.

Parked in a crosswalk
1.  Cross the street at lights and crosswalks (with white stripes).  That would be sensible advice anywhere, but it's especially relevant to Rome, where Rome drivers are conditioned, more or less, to stop for, or avoid, pedestrians in white-striped crosswalks.  In theory, pedestrians have the right-of- way in crosswalks, but as Dad told me, "there's no right of way in heaven."  Many motorists will stop for a crosswalk pedestrian only if the ped is aggressive--that is, steps into the crosswalk, thereby indicating that he/she is determined to use the crosswalk, even if a car is coming.  And that's not something everyone will feel comfortable doing, or should.,  Older persons--older women, especially, it seems to us--use the crosswalk as if it were 1960, not even looking to see if there's a vehicle approaching.  Perhaps they imagine they're still in a rural village.  Today, in Rome, this is insanity.  Be aware, too, that the stripes of many crosswalks are faded, sometimes badly faded, and may be difficult for drivers to see.

And of course, sometimes vehicles park in the crosswalk. Worse still, in the Flaminio piazza where we lived, vehicles--cars, trucks, scooters (we do it, too)--routinely use the crosswalk to make u-turns up the adjacent street.  Keep you eyes peeled.

2.  Even when crossing at lights there are hazards.  Cars seldom go through red lights, but about 1 in 10 scooters pay little attention to the color of the light. Often scooters will approach a red light, slow down, then accelerate through it.  Moreover, traffic in Rome is such that when the light turns green, vehicles--especially scooters--move away rapidly.  Therefore, be sure you have plenty of time to get across the intersection; don't get caught in the street when the light changes. In the words of a 1970s blues tune, "stop on the red, go on the green, don't get caught by Mr. Inbetween."

3.  Understand that Rome motorists are distracted in a way they were not only a few years ago.  Today, many  motorists and scooter drivers are listening to music, on the phone with a spouse or lover (maybe having an argument), or otherwise not paying full attention to the road.  Some of those driving scooters will check their cell phones, and even text, while they're in motion (it is possible, though ill-advised, to drive a scooter with only the right hand, which covers the accelerator and one brake).  Not long ago, on the fastmoving Muro Torto, a woman on a scooter, on the phone (tucked into her helmet) was driving with the right hand while gesturing dramatically with the left.

4.  Watch out for Smart Cars.  Rome's Smart Car population is growing rapidly.  Two problems arise.  First, Smart Car drivers are among the most distracted in the city.  Why?  Because, unlike most automobiles in Rome, Smart Cars shift automatically.  Hence drivers do not have to use two hands, leaving one free to a) smoke b) eat c) use a cell phone d) gesture.   Second, Smart Car drivers, feeling liberated from the big cars they used to drive (and that had trouble navigating traffic), now act like scooter drivers, weaving in and out of traffic, often dangerously.  But they're not scooters.  They can't turn as easily as scooters or stop as fast as scooters.  It won't take long for Smart Car drivers to learn they're not scooters, but as for now the lesson hasn't sunk in.

5.  Scooter drivers vary in their behaviors.  Some will brake for pedestrians (no matter where they are), others will swerve to avoid them without stopping, and still others will avoid them, but barely--as if the pedestrians were cones in game of skill.  So beware.  Most scooters, thank God, can stop on a dime. But--this is really important--scooter drivers may be on the phone or listening to a favorite tune and hence somewhat distracted.  Even so, driving a two-wheeled vehicle without falling requires having eyes on the road at all times.  You can pretty much guarantee that a scooter driver will see you in the crosswalk and will be thinking about whether to stop or how to avoid you. Not so with cars.

6.  There is no right on red in Rome, and it's uncommon.  But some do it, anyway.

7.   "You can walk but they can kill you."  That's been our motto the past few years.  Unlike in the States, where a pedestrian walk light indicates that pedestrians can expect the intersection to be clear of vehicles, in Rome a pedestrian walk light is often coupled with a green arrow for vehicles that signals the right to move through the area you';re about to walk in.  If that seems crazy or wrong, get used to it.  To be safe, expect it, especially at complex intersections.
"You can walk but they can kill you."  Crosswalk, pedestrian OK, but cars turning right over the crosswalk,
in front of you.  That's Monte Mario in the background.  

Heavy traffic?  Scooters now and then use the sidewalk.
8.  In the city, use available protections.  In Rome's center, many streets have no sidewalks.  Some have poles in the street providing pedestrians with protection from vehicles.  Use them.  If the street has no poles, duck in between parked cars when vehicles pass.

9.  Sidewalks normally provide protection against getting run over.  But scooters often park on the sidewalk, and to get there they drive ON the sidewalk, sometimes for most of  a block. If traffic is very heavy, scooters may use the sidewalk as if it were another lane.  Be aware.

10.  While crossing one-way streets, look both ways.  Rome isn't London, where driving the wrong way on a one-way street would earn a quick ticket.  Scooters, especially (including this driver) will sometimes go the wrong way to find a parking space--or whatever.  Be conscious.

For more on scooters, see our posts on renting a scooter in Rome, riding a scooter in Rome, parking a scooter in Rome, getting a ticket in Rome, preventing scooter thefts, and junking a scooter in Rome.