Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Amanda Knox and Rome




This post was first published on April 6, 2013


It’s not easy to find a connection between Rome and Amanda Knox, the Seattle college student accused of murdering her housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007.  But, since I was determined to write something about it - and Bill was equally determined that there be a Rome connection for RST - I finally found the link.

The decision in the last week of March to overturn Knox’s and her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito’s acquittal was issued by Italy’s Supreme Court, called the Corte Suprema di Cassazione. That Court of Cassation is located in Rome’s Palace of Justice, a turn of the last century building most Romans think is comically bad. Of course, Bill finds things to love about it, and will do a post on it some day.
The Palace of Justice from the Piazza Cavour side (that's Cavour on the column)


From the Lungotevere side - it looks its best in this photo


There will be more pronouncements in the Knox/Sollecito case coming from Rome, too, when the Court issues its explanation – which it has not yet – within about 90 days.  That explanation should be fascinating, because the lower court, an intermediate appeals court, threw out Knox’s and Sollecito’s convictions on the grounds there was NO evidence.

I must admit we were not initially fascinated with the Knox case, perhaps because it all seemed too full of extreme claims and positions.  And we also assumed Knox would get a reasonable trial under the Italian system, whose differences from the U.S.'s we appreciate and had no intention of derogating. It wasn’t until I read the Afterword in Douglas Preston’s book on murders in and around Florence, The Monster of Florence, that I became intrigued by the Knox and Sollecito cases.  I didn’t even want to read The Monster of Florence, but someone gave it to me for Christmas and I felt obliged to at least look at it. 
Preston




I still wasn’t that interested in murders around Florence, but Preston's and co-author Mario Spezi’s treatment by the prosecutor in the Florence cases was astounding.  The prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, had Spezi jailed.   Preston can’t go back to Italy.  And they were simply journalists investigating the murders.  It reminds one of Egypt or Syria or Russia, not Italy.  And, when the Afterword tells us that this abusive prosecutor who accused Spezi of the murders at one point is the same one who cooked up the stories about Knox and Sollecito, that was riveting   Mignini has since been charged with multiple counts of abuse of office.  Most of the charges were thrown out, but one remains and is on appeal.  He remains in office nonetheless and has risen in profile to an English Wikipedia entry:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuliano_Mignini). 

And, I should point out, Mignini also sued the West Seattle Herald.  Having been born and raised in West Seattle, I can attest that this little neighborhood newspaper (births, deaths, prom queens, grocery coupons) is not exactly into cutting-edge journalism.  Stooping to sue the Herald would make me laugh, if the entire affair weren’t so tragic.

It’s interesting to us, too, that Italians and Americans seem to have two very different takes on the Knox case.  Most Americans think she is innocent.  Most Italians think she is guilty and that only Hillary Clinton (!) got her out of jail and back to the U.S.  The Italians are disgusted at the Americans’ portrayal of their judicial system – but they should take a hard look at Mignini, in my opinion.  One dual citizen friend of ours, Don Carroll,  who is about the most measured person I’ve known, wrote a piece I recommend in 2011 about the Knox case in the online magazine, The American/inItaliahttp://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?feature=law&column=101&article=2997.   

Dempsey
Douglas Preston is interviewed regularly on the Knox case, and wrote an article for USA Today when the latest verdict came down.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/03/27/douglas-preston-on-knox-and-italian-crime-system/2025167/.  For an account by a Seattle journalist, who has covered the case from its beginning and wrote an award-winning book about it - and is admittedly pro-Knox, see Candace Dempsey’s blog:  http://blog.seattlepi.com/dempsey/2013/03/31/amanda-knox-the-carnival-ride-continues/ 

Dianne

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Freud in Rome (II) : The Psychoanalyst Engages the Eternal City

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                            Part II of "Freud in Rome."  [Part I was published March 13]

After years of doubts, fears, anguish, and excuses--money and Rome's unhealthful climate among them--Sigmund Freud finally made it to Rome in the late summer of 1901, accompanied by his brother, Alexander.  He was 45 years old.  Adapting Freud's story of Hannibal--told in a March 13, 2015 post on this blog--the analyst's biographers, as historian Adam Phillips notes, perhaps too readily bought into the image of Freud's entry into Rome as a military-style "conquest," a triumphant "conquering" not only of his own neuroses, but of the Eternal City itself. 

It was not that.  Surprisingly, there isn't much information on this, the first of a number of Freud Rome sojourns.  What we do have suggests something less than "conquest." Writing from Rome to an
At work in his Vienna study
old friend (about to be a non-friend) Wilhelm Fliess, Freud characterized his experience as "over-whelming"--hardly the way to express a conquest.  Indeed, it was "slightly disappointing," Freud wrote, "as all such fulfillments are when one has waited for them too long," athough still "a high-spot in my life...."

Inevitably, he did the things most first-time tourists do.  He tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain, stuck a hand in the Bocca della Veritá, stood in awe before the Pantheon, and marveled at Michelangelo's Moses
But having brought himself with him, as cultural critic Alain de Botton would put it, he could not help but interject and interpret his own, more complex, feelings.  Dividing the city into "three Romes," he found only two of them pleasurable.  One was the "Italian" Rome, undefined, but the late-19th- century city presumably, which he found "hopeful and likable."  The other site of pleasure was the ancient city--he mentions the Temple of Minerva, "humble and mutilated."  What he could not abide was medieval Rome, a reminder of "my own misery" (as a Jew, that is, victimized by Christians).  "I found almost intolerable," Freud wrote, "the lie of the salvation of mankind which rears its head so proudly to heaven."  One can imagine that he loathed St. Peter's--if, indeed, he ever saw it.

A conquest, no.  A Jew in the heart of Catholicism and Christianity, yes.  Picking and choosing his pleasures, Freud survived.

Although Freud had not conquered Rome--and who does?--he had triumphed over powerful anxieties and inhibitions that had heretofore kept him out of the city (explored at length in that earlier post). The 1901 visit would be the first of many.  If not a catalyst for personal change, it was surely a sign of an emerging "new" Freud, more self-confident, more independent, more willing to share ideas in group settings.  Not long after returning from Rome he secured a university promotion to professor, disengaged from an increasingly unproductive and irritating relationship with Fliess, and founded a discussion group for psychoanalytic ideas.  He had emerged from what one scholar has labeled a "mid-life crisis," entering into "full maturity."

The more "mature" Freud would experience Rome in new, if not necessarily more mature ways.  His next trip, in 1907, is by far the best documented, richly described--and, of course, as one would expect from Freud, analyzed--in a series of letters to family, friends, and colleagues, including Carl Jung.

To be sure, Freud remained to some extent a tourist, visiting the Baths of Diocletian, the Vatican Museum--again, no mention of St. Peter's--the Villa Borghese and its museum (admiring the "loveliest of all Titians," Sacred and Profane Love, and Canova's Pauline), Christian and Jewish catacombs, and doing some shopping, which he had always found a burden.
Titian, Sacred and Profane Love, 1514
Canova's "Pauline"
For Freud, unfortunately restored
He bought marble bowls.  In a long letter to "the family," he reveals a craving for authenticity: the bowl marble is "genuine and not painted"; the Borghese Gallery's collection of sculpture is "restored, which makes it difficult to form an opinion"; the gardens contain "artificial ruins and reproductions of temples."  To Jung, a work companion of sorts, he reveals a concern that his contributions to "science" may have run their course, but that he is making an effort to "produce something out of myself.  This incomparable city," he writes, "is the perfect place for just that."
Perhaps. But to his family he confesses that "in Rome one is continually oppressed by self-imposed tasks and one doesn't get around to anything." In short, Freud wasn't sure that Rome was a good place to accomplish things.

Piazza Colonna, 19th-century print

Freud's letters from this 1907 trip contain three rather lengthy analytic descriptions, in the vein of cultural anthropology, a calling that was just then in the throes of being born.  One is of the Borghese Gardens: "barren ground," "noble trees," "stone tables and benches," peacocks and monkeys, and a citizenry both "comfortable" and not very law-abiding. 


Another describes an evening in Piazza Colonna, not far from his Hotel Miliani (probably the correct spelling): "awful advertisements"; a boring yet compelling program of slide entertainment; an easy mixing of "foreigners and natives"; the "townspeople sitting around the monument--Freud's effort to conjure a community; "breathless" newspaper boys; beautiful Roman women ("even when they are ugly"); observations on Roman drivers. The third, and in most respects the least interesting, is an account of an evening at the Teatro Quirino for the opera Carmen: a very late start; amateurish, disorganized musicians; the curtain covered with ads; smoking everywhere; the observation "very fat people usually have little snub noses." 
Teatro Quirino

What comes  through in each of these accounts is Freud's desire to apply his analytic abilities to Roman culture, to penetrate Rome as he would the mind of a patient in Vienna. To listen, to observe, to record, to analyze.  At one point, in a bit of meta-analysis, Freud returns to the scene to check an earlier observation--trolleys passing by Piazza Colonna--only to find his memory was flawed (they were horse-drawn buses).  "This shows how difficult it is," Freud writes, "to observe correctly." Better take notes.  One of Freud's life lessons, playing out in Rome.

Freud had spent his adult life pretty much chained to a desk--reading, thinking, and writing--and all gladly.  Hence traveling posed a challenge, or a series of challenges: what to see?  what to observe? what to report? how to behave?  Something of what was going on inside him on these trips is revealed in an October 1910 letter to Sándor Ferenczi, a distinguished Hungarian psychoanalyst who had been his traveling companion on several occasions, including a recent trip to Italy that apparently included Rome. The letter begins with Freud recalling several very different travel experiences, including picking papyrus in Syracuse (Sicily), confronting the railway staff in Naples, and purchasing antiques in Rome.

While some would celebrate the variety of these experiences, for Freud they produce an uncomfortable state, akin to dissembling.  "The identity has been reestablished," he was pleased to write to Ferenczi. "It is strange how easily one gives in to the tendency to isolate parts of one's personality."  There is tension here--Freud's fear that his self may be less than coherent--and more to come.  Clearly Freud was angry with Ferenczi for the expectations placed upon him during the recent trip.  "You were disappointed because you probably expected to swim in constant intellectual stimulation, whereas I hate nothing more than striking up attitudes and out of contrariness frequently let myself go.  As a result I was probably most of the time a quite ordinary elderly gentleman, and you in astonishment kept measuring the distance between me and your fantasy ideal.  On the other hand I often wished that you would pull yourself out of the infantile  role and place yourself beside me as a companion on an equal footing, something you were unable to do....you were inhibited and dreamy."  One of Freud's nastier letters, and not simply because his friend had failed to take sufficient responsibility for the itinerary.  At bottom, Freud was using travel to experiment with his personality--to be something other than the brilliant, in-depth analyst--and it caught Ferenczi by surprise.

Despite the talk about letting go, Freud found it hard--nay, impossible--to relax in Rome, to be anything other than the driven analyst.  He wanted to be something else but couldn't.  During his 1913 trip he had found a way to get real work done in Rome, using his "free hours" to draft an introduction to a book about totem and taboo, to correct proofs for an essay, and to draft an essay on narcissism. Rome, as a consequence, was now at arm's length.


Michelangelo's Moses (1513-1515)
He had experimented with this new approach to the city the previous year. Years earlier he had admired Michelangelo's Moses and now, in the fall of 1912, it became his obsession. For what he described as "three lonely weeks," Freud spent a portion of every day in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, studying, measuring, and drawing the statue, which featured Judaism's seminal prophet holding the tablets of the law--the 10 commandments handed down by God. He would often refer to the art work as a "love child"--and, in 1933, with some unintended irony, as a "nonanalytical child."  His non-analysis would be published, anonymously, in 1914 in the journal Imago.

To be sure, the statue was an breathtaking piece of work, and Freud was not the first to examine it closely.  What interested him, according to his biographer Peter Gay, was the precise point at which the artist had captured Moses.  "Had Michelangelo portrayed Moses the eternal emblem of the lawgiver who has seen God," asks Gay, "or was this Moses in a moment of rage at his people, ready to break the tablets he has brought from Mount Sinai?"

After much internal conflict and debate, Freud concluded that the statue was about self control, about "Moses subduing his inner tempest" (in Gay's words)--and, ultimately, about Freud's struggle for self-discipline, for control of his anger at those--among them Fliess, Jung, and Ferenczi--who had disappointed him or failed to follow his lead. There's much truth in that view of Freud's obsession with the statue, but it fails to account for Freud's deep interest in Judaism and, more importantly, his discovery that the central principles of psychoanalysis could be read into artifacts found in Rome.  "I was astounded," he wrote in 1937, recalling his days with Moses, "to find that already the first so to speak embryonic experience of the race, the influence of the man Moses and the exodus from Egypt, conditioned the entire further development up to the present day--like a regular trauma of early childhood in the case history of a neurotic individual."
Rome artist Dana Prescott captures the
city's layered complexity. 
Indeed, Freud had been aware of the analogous relationship between antiquity and psychoanalysis long before he got to Rome.  In an exuberant early letter to Fliess, he noted with joy his success with a patient, having covered "a scene from his primal period (before 22 months)....I still scarcely dared to believe  it properly.  It is as if Schliemann had dug up Troy, considered legendary, once again."  Freud concluded that the ancient world, whether Troy or Rome, flourished in a state of naturalness and freedom, before the repressions of western civilization were imposed.  Rome was the infant.  Modern civilization the (repressed) adult. The psychoanalysis/antiquity "analogy," then, is at the core of Freud's experience with Rome, both his fears of it and then, a few years after the first visit in 1901, his embrace.

Freud knew, as most everyone understands intuitively, that Rome was an enormously complex, layered city, one era buried beneath the next.  It was, Freud could see, a puzzle as intricate, fascinating, and compelling in its way as the human mind. While some tourist destinations beckon with repose and relaxation, Rome, especially, speaks to those with the courage and intellect to interrogate Rome's layers, to peel the onion, to engage with something nearly unmanageable.

Not everyone can handle that aspect of Rome, and Freud was no exception.  Freud detested biography and, as his biographer Adam Phillips suggests, he suffered from a "sense of being buried, of being suffocated by the past."  Rome was nothing if not a massive urban biography, a suffocating past waiting to envelop Freud.

Was there a solution?  In 1901 he did the tourist thing, and found it less than fully satisfying.  In 1907 he toyed with Rome's outer layer, playing the cultural anthropologist.  And in 1912 he gave in, though rather narrowly, to Rome's essential temptation, compulsively studying Michelangelo's Moses to reveal the history of Judaism, the shadows of psychoanalysis, and his own anxieties and desires.

Bill


The Complete Letters of Sigmund Feud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, translated and edited by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985), contains numerous references to Freud's Rome fears.  The Interpretation of Dreams, parts I and II (volumes IV and V in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmumd Freud, James Strachey, ed. and translator, 1900, 1901, (London: the Hogarth Press, 1953, 1954) are valuable.  Also important are Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (New York: W.W. Norton, 1988); Letters of Sigmund Freud, selected and edited by Ernst L. Freud (New York: Basic Books, 1960); Peter M. Newton, Freud: from Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis (New York: The Guilford Press, 1995); Ellen Oliensis, Freud's Rome: Psychoanalysis and Latin Poetry (NewYork: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Jonathan Siegel, Haunted Museum: Longing, Travel, and the Art-Romance Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); and Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), a fascinating, readable book that got me started on this topic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Marilyn Horne: Masterclass with an Opera Diva

Among the pleasures of Rome are the world-class musicians and artists it attracts, often in unusual venues.  We were treated this past year to a masterclass by Marilyn Horne, the celebrated American opera singer.

World-renown opera singer Marilyn Horne encouraging a 35 year-old tenor  - at her masterclass in Rome - to get on with his career before it's too late.
Thanks to a note by Joie Davidow (www.inromenow.com), we discovered one could purchase a 20 Euro ticket to hear and watch Horne at the American University of Rome.  Not only had we never heard Horne, we had never set foot in AUR.  

The nondescript walls of the American University of  Rome;
one can see why we didn't know it was there.
AUR is tucked in, behind high walls, on the Gianicolo, near the American Academy.  We had walked by those walls many times, and didn't even know AUR was there.  Stepping inside, we realized it's an island of a US campus on the Gianicolo.  Usually eschewing all things American, we would - perhaps more so in the past - be aghast that students are so ensconced.  But this island of calm seemed totally appropriate, as AUR no doubt takes its in locus parentis seriously.  And we were warmly greeted by Timothy Martin, AUR professor and its Summer Vocal Institute Director, who seemed happy to see a couple of opera novices clamoring for the tickets.  
AUR's inviting, very California-looking patio.

At 80, Horne remains an imposing presence. She put four international singers through their paces, and I mean through their paces.  We thought she was very hard on them:  "Do you think THAT's what's going on in this piece?" "You are singing in so many different voices; which one do you want?" To a 35 year-old:  "You don't have a lot of time left; you better get on with your career."  And she ended by saying her classes the next day would be private, and then "I can really say what I think."
Horne, seated right, putting a soprano through her rigorous class.  The
masterclass was held in the American Academy in Rome's Villa Aurelia.

Horne knew every line and note the students sang.  She let them sing a piece all the way through, and then started to pick it apart note by note, syllable by syllable.  What sounded good to us didn't necessarily sound good to her.


One of her main lines of criticism was singing like one thinks an opera singer should sound - too far back in the throat. She coached the students to sing more in the front of the mouth. After a tenor tried it for a few bars, she said, "What do you think?" And he said, "I like it, but I'm not sure I can do it for the whole piece!"  I should point out, Horne did all of this with grace and a sense of humor.

Horne with AUR professor Timothy Martin - both were born in
Pennsylvania - who knew it was a hotbed of opera singers?
When we left this fascinating two-hour session, we wanted to run immediately to the nearest opera house (and one of us did). Since then we've seen a couple operas in Los Angeles, with its excellent opera company, feeling much more knowledgeable about opera - and enjoying it more -  thanks to Marilyn Horne.
Horne in 1961 with her husband, conductor
 Henry Lewis.  They lived in Echo Park, Los
Angeles, California












Dianne
More information on AUR, Horne, the masterclass at this link.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Michael Graves: The Rome Connection

Graves's studio at the American Academy (#9)
We've never met Michael Graves, the famous architect.  But we have had a close encounter, or so it seems, looking back fifty years into the early 1960s.  We were Stanford students then, doing the current version of the European tour: undergraduates on a "junior year abroad" (actually my sophomore year), thinking that Europe would always be dirt cheap.  Our base was Florence, but they insisted on taking us to Rome, and in the fall of 1962 we got there, astonished by the Coliseum and the Forum but also confronted with the city's excursion into modernism: Pier Luigi Nervi's Palozetto dello Sport, which had recently been completed.  We had no idea what we were seeing. 

The Portland Municipal Building (1982)
And we had no idea, of course, that we had just missed Michael Graves, who had months early departed, having spent much of 1960, 1961 and early 1962 (we arrived in the fall of that year) at the American Academy in Rome and elsewhere on the continent, absorbed in his own European tour.  He was not famous then.  He had not yet designed the Portland Municipal Building--one of the founding works of "postmodern" architecture--nor the Humana Building, nor the Denver Central Library, nor dozens of other important structures, and it would be decades before he became one of the world's foremost designers of commercial products, producing designs for Alessi (teapot, 1985), Steuben, Target, Dansk, Disney (the Swan and Dolphin hotels), and Delta Faucet (I was repairing a Delta faucet this afternoon--perhaps one that had its origins as a  Graves sketch).  While in Rome, he was already thinking about product design.

Graves, sketching in Rome, 1961.  He sold some
to tourists for $50. 
No, at the time of our near-crossing in Rome, Michael Graves was mostly an intense 28-year old full of expectations and dreams, a Harvard M.A. in Architecture (1959), and good enough to win the Rome Prize at the American Academy, but not yet really an architect--not yet really anything.  I wish we had met him then, before he became, well, "Michael Graves."  We could have shared our drawings. 

A Graves sketch of the Villa Borghese, c. 1961
It is not too much to say that Michael Graves was made in Rome, transformed by that year or two (however long it was) at the American Academy and by the tour of Italy and Europe that followed.  Nothing gets written about Michael Graves that does not emphasize that formative Rome moment, and Graves has fed the myth with his own words.  In the introduction to a recent book that recounts and fixes the architect's Rome experience with his drawings, sketches, and photographs, Graves begins right there: "The extraordinary experience of two years at the American Academy in Rome in the early-1960s transformed how I looked at the world around me.  In that rich and marvelous city, I came to understand architecture as a continuum from antiquity to the present day, and thus as a language.  I discovered new ways of seeing and analyzing both architecture and landscape.  I also developed an urgent need to record what I saw and created hundreds of photographs and drawings." 


A Graves-designed school building

Enrico del Debbio building, 1931-33
The Rome drawings that fill the early pages of Brian M. Ambroziak's Michael Graves: the Grand Tour (2005) are mostly of ancient Rome--the Coliseum, the Basilica of Maxentius, the Arch of Constantine--or of Renaissance/Baroque Rome--the Aqua Paola Fountain, Santa Maria Maggiore, Villa Borghese.  He was particularly taken with the buildings and ornamentation of Francesco Borromini.  But Rome's monumental and rationalist architectures of the 20th century were there to be seen, too, and it seems to us that some of Graves's later works draw as much on these buildings--essentially, the aesthetics of the Fascist era--as they do on earlier periods.  (See comparison in photos above).   

Graves,  the Denver Public Library
By 1967 Graves had emerged from obscurity, joining Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and John Hejduk (with Philip Johnson as mentor) in The New York Five.  He was mostly a house designer in the 1970s.  1982 was a breakthrough year.  With the Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky, the Portland Building, and two major museums, he quickly became an exemplar of the movement known as postmoderism.  He came to terms with Alessi in 1985, agreeing to design the whimsical tea kettle for 1.5% of each sale; over 2,000,000 have been sold. 

Rome transformed Graves, but that experience was iconic in a larger way, too.  By 1960, existing movements in architecture and the arts had reached a point of exhaustion.  In painting, abstract expressionists had reduced the form to an extreme of simplicity: a canvas painted in one color.  There was nothing beyond, except perhaps not to paint the canvas at all.  The rectagular glass box had done the same in architecture, showcasing a rigid and extreme modernism that suggested that the form, having been perfected, was untouchable.  They ran out of ideas in Detroit, too, desperately attaching huge, space-like fins on the new models in an awkward, failed effort to tap the future. 

Rome gave Graves--and, in the larger sense, architecture--its new direction: it would draw on the past, the collective past, on the buildings of Rome and Athens, on Egypt's pyramids, on the monumentalism of the ancients, on the towers of medieval Europe, on English furniture of the 18th century, on the fascist aesthetic, on the colors of Italy.  The past was complex and seemingly limitless and, for better or for worse, it would fuel the architectural resurgence of the late-20th century.  What Graves found in Rome was the raw material of the postmodern aesthetic experience. 

Why Graves would start thinking about designing commercial products while in Rome is less clear, but he was hardly alone in connecting the artistic and commercial.  In 1962, while Graves was wrapping up his European sojourn, Andy Warhol was having his first important solo exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York, featuring representations of Campbell's Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles.  Graves designed products; Warhol used products to make designs.  Both understood the limits of modernism; both had a playful side; both drew on the unparalleled dynamism of American consumer culture to revitalize aesthetic forms.

There was one big difference--well, surely more than one, but one that's especially relevant here.  Warhol cared little about the past, and he had not been to Rome--at least, not that we know of.  Where Graves discovered the a glorious past that could be fashioned into the future, Warhol imagined only irrelevance.  "They call Rome 'the Eternal City,' he wrote, "because everything is old and everything is still standing.  They always say, 'Rome wasn't built in a day.'  Well, I say maybe it should have been, because the quicker you build something, the shorter a time it lasts, and the shorter a time it lasts, the sooner people have jobs again, replacing it.  Replacing it keeps people busy." 

Bill

We highly recommend Brian M. Ambroziak's lovely book, Michael Graves: Images of a Grand Tour  (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005).  Foreword by Michael Graves.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why you don't have to go to Rome in the Spring

It's April, May, or early June, and airfares to Rome are high.  Too high.  You're worried you can't afford the trip.  Relax.  You don't have to be in Rome to know what's going on there.  Without opening a newspaper or checking online, you can be sure that the following will take place:

--Romans in one section of the city or another will complain about the "movida"--that is, late-night public partying by large groups of young people.  These complaints are especially likely to come from residents of San Lorenzo, Testaccio, Campo de' Fiori, Pigneto, and the area around Ponte Milvio.

--A young tourist will have used a tool of some sort to gouge a piece out of a public monument, carve an initial, or otherwise deface one of the city's treasures. 

Rome garbage is eternal. The photo was taken
in Tor Bella Monaca.
--Citizens will be outraged that once again the city has failed properly to collect garbage, allowing it to accumulate in large piles around city bins and elsewhere.  The mayor will issue a vague statement that he's working on the problem.  Mayors will come and go, but Rome's garbage is forever.


--Romans will be on holiday most of the time, or so it seems, celebrating every aspect of their long and complex history: unification, the Republic, the day when Rome was freed from German occupation, various canonizations, and so on.  When these holidays fall on a Thursday or Tuesday, the Friday after or the Monday before - or both a Friday and Monday - will also be holidays, resulting in a long weekend of play called a "ponte"--that is, a "bridge."  In common parlance, a "ponte" translates as "long weekend." 


--There will be complaints and newspaper stories about the high cost of going to the beach--mostly about renting a space and an umbrella.


--Romans will become sick of tourists, even before the peak of the season, loathing especially the big, ugly tour buses that clog the narrow streets, pollute the air, and park in large numbers where they shouldn't.  At the same time, and without a hint of irony, there will be gnashing of teeth over the decline of tourism in Rome. 

--Alitalia, the national airline, will be in the news, grappling with its decline.

Neighbors complained about this "abusivo" sidewalk sale near
San Giovanni in Laterano.
--Various forms of "abusivo"--basically, illegal--stuff will come under attack: abusivi street vendors, abusivi restaurant tables that extend into narrow streets, abusivi additions to the roofs of buildings, abusivi homes in the countryside, abusivi advertising panels, abusivo parking, especially by "i big"--that is, people who drive, or are driven in, expensive cars and think they're privileged. Not too long ago, at a meeting on via Nazionale, about a dozen bankers used the street for their Mercedes and BMWs, their cars jutting out at a right angle--into a critical thoroughfare where parking of any sort is absolutely prohibited.  Nothing, or almost nothing, will be done about any of this. 


"Prati, the abandoned city: 'a bazaar of street sellers invade streets
and sidewalks'"

--Lots will be written about corruption, at all levels.  This year, a postal employee who drove a delivery truck was found to be carrying mail not delivered for four years.


Anticipating a June 6 strike of thousands of government
workers
--The unions will go on strike, creating "caos" in the city.  The newspapers will describe the city as "in tilt."  It will, indeed, be hard to get around during these "scioperi"--strikes--that seem to occur several times a month.  It will be impossible to determine if those behind the strikes are really getting screwed, or if the unions are screwing everyone else.


So stay home.  You know what's going on.
Bill



According to the story, some large, abusivi advertising boards had already been torn down, and four thousand more
were going to be.  We recently noticed that a long string of cartelloni on the Gianicolo, at the side of Acqua Paolo,
had indeed been removed.