Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The 6-legged dog: the story of Eni's famous logo

Eni's 6-legged dog, on a gas pump at a station on Rome's tangenziale, 2014

If you've motored around Italy for any length of time, you're familiar with one of the nation's most well-known logos: the 6-legged dog--part dog and dragon, actually--that breathes fire.  It's the logo for Eni--Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi--the enormous Italian oil and gas company, founded in February 1953 and headquartered in Rome.

A bit of romance while filling up
The story of the logo is well known, but too good not to tell again.  In 1952, with Eni's founding just around the corner, the company's CEO-to-be, Enrico Mattei, was convinced that the country needed to be sold on the idea that the oil fields of the Po Valley were sufficient to fuel Italy's industrial boom.  To find the right symbol for that effort, he offered 10 million lire as the prize in a competition to design logos for two products: the gasoline known as Supercortemaggiore, after the best known of the oilfields; and Agipgas, the company's gasoline outlets. The jury was composed of some of the most creative artistic minds of the generation: Gio Ponti, Mario Sironi, Mino Maccari and Antonio Baldini.  

The winner of the Supercortemaggiore contest, chosen from over 4,000 entries, was the 6-legged dog, the vision of sculptor, artist, and designer Luigi Broggoni.  Within months it was widely disseminated, appearing in magazines and newspapers, on billboards, and on the company's gas stations.  

An Agip station at Cortemaggiore, mid-1950s
Indeed, it quickly came to stand for a new type of gas station, high modernist in design and offering restaurant services as well as "powerful Italian petrol."  

Ettore Scola--soon to be directing some of Italy's best known films but then writing copy in Agipgas' advertising department--invented the slogan "il cane a sei zampe fedele amico dell'uomo a quattro ruote": the six-legged dog, loyal friend of four-wheeled man.  Eni has suggested that the 6 legs represent the sum of the automobile's 4 wheels and the driver's 2 legs.  

The dog inside the square, 1972

Broggoni's design has been modified at least twice and probably several times.  In 1972, the Unimark agency, working on turning the logo into a trademark, put the dog into a yellow square with rounded corners, a solution that required shortening the dog somewhat.  In a 1998 or later treatment, the dog came out of the box.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Walking the (Aurelian) Wall (III): the Tame and the Wild Sides

A handsome portion of the wall, near the Pyramid, with a tropical look
This section of the Aurelian Wall, running from Porta San Paolo and the Pyramid to the Tevere (and Porta Portese), has two faces: one quite touristy and civilized, the other rather odd and possibly even a bit dangerous.  It is noted by some as one of the longer, intact stretches of this third century wall, once encircling all of Rome.  But the stretch has its limitations, as RST discovered.

To the left of the Pyramid, a short section
 of the wall, extending toward - but not to -
Porta San Paolo; here you also can see
where the wall  has been removed for traffic.

The tame, or civilized phase begins at the Pyramid (here, a part of the wall - another "existing structure" used to build the wall quickly in 271-75 AD).  Because this area is well known for armed resistance to Nazi occupation of Rome in 1943, the wall here is a resource for memories of that moment.

Remembering the dead

The pillar (photo right) remembers 471 people who died defending the city.  Just beyond, between the Pyramid and the wall proper, volunteers who care for the hundreds of cats that live in a special facility here, were closing up for the day.

And beyond that, the wall itself is impressive (see photo at the top of this post), even if the grounds on the outside of the wall are unkempt and full of evidence that a lot of drinking is done here: not only bottles but dozens of bottle caps embedded in a stump.  Though we're on the outside here, the inside of the wall is accessible in this area through two cemeteries: the well-known Non-Catholic Cemetery, which contains lots of important bodies, including that of the Italian intellectual Antonio Gramsci, and the haunting (British) Commonwealth Cemetery just across via N. Zabaglia, just ahead (both, again, inside the wall).

Mailbox for wall "address"

Now things get a bit funky.  As we continued beyond the small turnabout/piazza, following the outside of the wall, we passed a man relaxing in the weeds, then came upon a locked gate to which was attached a mail box, as if someone had once (or still did) live inside. 

Street-cleaning/garbage truck facility restricts access to wall

At this point the wall continues as part of an Ama (trash-collecting, street cleaning) facility.  We decided we would not have been welcome inside.  So we tracked back, hoping to follow the wall from the inside, past the front of the Commonwealth Cemetery, then a bit downhill onto the road that curves (clockwise) around Monte Testaccio, with its cool collection of late-night bars.

The Aurelian wall is somewhere ahead.  To the right,
the wall of the ex-Mattatoio

Following the curving road, in a couple of minutes we ended up at the long, straight road that fronts the ex-Mattatoio (literally, Killing Center, what we call a slaughterhouse, once a stockyard).  Heading left, toward the Aurelian wall (not yet visible), graffiti covering a portion of the ex-Mattatoio, then right--there's just a glimpse of the wall here--along a row of houses occupied, we think, by new and poor immigrants, Romanians and others, perhaps Roma (Rom, "gypsies").

A glimpse of the wall, between the wall of the ex-Mattatoio (left) and housing (right)

NO TAV graffiti, inside the ex-Mattatoio
Dianne would go no further.  Bill took the first right, then a quick left, quickly observing a row of about ten home-made shacks and a big barking black dog (which was fortunately chained).  Bill, too, retreated--from danger and likely embarrassment--and our not-so-intrepid couple retraced their steps to one of several open entrances to the yards, heading to and beyond a heavily graffitied tower at the center of the complex (of the graffiti on the walls to the left, note the nice train with
the NO TAV sign: in northern Italy, especially, there's strong opposition to a proposed new high-speed train (Treno Alta Velocita) through the French and Italian Alps.

The wall ends--or appears to end.  Photo taken from train.
Despite the sign, we are still in Testaccio, not yet across
the Tevere in Trastevere.
At the far end of the large open area of the ex-Mattatoio there's another road, inside the complex, leading left.  Not useful, we decided, in locating the wall.  So we left the complex, ahead and just to the right, through an exit onto the Lungotevere Testaccio that wasn't open a year ago.  Walking left, the road ends abruptly after about 200 meters, at a railroad bridge over the Tevere.  We still can't see the wall, and-- from a train several days later--we saw why: the wall, too, ends abruptly before it reaches the river.

Along the Tevere.  If not part of the wall, what is it?

We're thinking that the wall planners didn't see any necessity for a wall along the river--a sort of natural barrier--but there is an existing wall-like section, including a tower, along the road that runs above the river here, and some - but not all - maps show the wall was indeed here.

Tent housing, along the bank of the Tevere

But (we're trying to think this through) if the Aurelian wall had been built along the expanse of river from the railroad bridge (to the south) to Ponte Sublicio/Porta Portese (to the north), then surely there would be visible remnants of the wall.  And there are none--except, possibly, that tower and related remains--or none to be seen from the road, anyway. Another theory - that the remnants of the wall became part of the now-high river embankments.  But, back to our trek: below the road, near a path that runs along the river bank, people are living amid weeds in tents and huts.  Not for tourists, not even us.

A favorite bar, at corner of via Galvani and via
N. Zabaglia.  Time for an aperitivo.  

Today's search for the wall at an end, we turned back into the ex-Mattatoio,  past the old stockyards and the giant Bambu' installation that is part of MACRO Testaccio, along the bars and clubs built into Monte Testaccio, to the next corner and one of our favorite bars.  We were lucky.  It was 6:05 p.m., and five minutes earlier happy hour had begun: an aperitivo and plenty to eat, a photo show of historic Testaccio, and all for Euro 4 per person.  What a city!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reading Rome's Walls: the Tragedy of Vincenzo Paparelli

Except for the occasional bit of wall writing--we found "Paparelli Vive!" on a wall in the neighborhood to the south of via Gallia in San Giovanni--the name Vincenzo Paparelli is now all but forgotten, his tragic story all but unknown.

At 33, Paparelli was a dedicated fan of the Lazio soccer team, and on the last Sunday in October, he took his seat with other Lazio "tifosi" on the Curva Nord--the North Curve--at Stadio Olimpico
for the annual "derby," the inner-city competition with arch-rival AS Roma.  He was enjoying the game, and eating a panino, when a flare launched by a Roma fan from the Curva Sud--the South Curve at the opposite end of the stadium--hit him in the eye.  He was DOA at Santo Spirito Hospital.  He left behind a wife and two children.

The death was the first Italian soccer fatality due to violence.  In 2001, his memory was honored with a plaque placed under the Curva Nord.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hiking the Prenestini: from San Gregorio da Sassola to Spina Santa

Dianne hard at work.  The convent is at right center.  In the distance, the Colli Albani (right half, yielding to
Rome's basin) and the Monti Lepini (the slight rise, left of center).  Part of the town is visible center left.
We're about 1/3 of the way up at this point. Note the hillside above Dianne is being intensively cultivated.  
Our second hike of the season.  Somehow, Dianne found a place we hadn't been: a ridge in the Monti Prenestini, with a trail head near the small town of San Gregorio da Sassola.  The town is pretty much straight east of Rome, out via Prenestina (i.e., in ancient times, led to the now-called town of Palestrina), then on some other roads best negotiated with an iPad or iPhone, about half of it on curvy country roads tailor-made for our Malaguti (and entertaining too, we think, even in a car).

We pulled into the main square at half past 9--1:20 from Rome--had a 2nd coffee at the only bar (a male hangout, as it happened) in the piazza, while admiring the astonishing castle that towered

Hi-tech entrance to the medieval section
above and marked the entrance to the medieval city, though with an electronic info board.  We had with us little information--the starting point, near the convent on the hill above the town; and a CAI map (see below the post) marking the trail with a red line.

Concerned about a possibly torturous road up to the convent, we decided to walk--down the road a few hundred yards, then up the hill near the convent (about 100 meters vertical, about 1/2 mile). Here, and from this point on, the trail is marked in red and white--very frequently and, with rare exceptions, clearly. See the map below.  The first mark is on the pole opposite the restaurant, and it refers to the asphalt path on the left (not the one on the right). We had feared--and the asphalt at first confirmed our fears--that the "trail" might turn out to be nothing but a road or, at best a mulattiera--a dirt road once used for hauling stuff with, yes, mules.

Up the fenceline
But not far ahead, at the gate, the trail turns into the woods--and it remains in the countryside, except for a few brief asphalt stretches.  For a while it follows a fence line, then moves up the side of the ridge, traverses a small, rocky hillside before emerging into a more open landscape, above. There are a few (and unavoidable) very narrow and very muddy sections where even straddling the mud was only partially successful--so wear good boots and carry at least one pole.

High country
Splendid views of the town, the monastery, Rome's basin (note Calatrava's sail-like, never-used swimming pool in Tor Vergata) and, as we climbed higher--eventually about 680 meters or 2000 feet above San Gregorio da Sassola--panoramic views of some 7 mountain ranges, including the snow-covered Gran Sasso. Our goal was to reach the nob-like Spina Santa, where our CAI trail 516 meets 500, and we almost made it, choosing to defer the conquest and do it the Italian way: have lunch and forget the peak--otherwise known as hike-to-eat.  So we had our sausage, cheese and bread within a few hundred yards of Spina Santa.

Those guys followed us
It's horse country up there, and we saw four or five bunches of 5-7, each with one or two foals. Unaccustomed to contact with humans they don't know--and we did not see another person on the trail or tending to the herds--these high country (at 3000 feet and above) horses are usually skittish, and that was our experience on this hike, too.  So it freaked us out a bit when several horses started following us across an open grass bowl, as if we had apples and sugar lumps.  There are cows, too, on most Italian hikes, though we saw only two: one on a road we were crossing, and another--just a carcass--near the apex of our journey.

Well maintained older buildings
The descent was swift and gorgeous, with spectacular views to the east and, to the north, of handsome Monte Gennaro and the Monti Lucretili, every peak familiar.  Reaching the restaurant on our return, we decided to take another road down to the town: the one just above the restaurant.  It curls clockwise and takes you through the newer section of the town--past the town park, an esedra-shaped apartment complex, past some very old but nicely maintained residences, and into the piazza--about 4:30 from the start.

 As is our habit, we shared a large bottle of beer at a table outside the bar (embedded in rock, Disney-like but real), admired the castle and the range behind it once again, and toasted to our fine day in the mountains. Good pick, Dianne! Then on the scooter, and home.
Town bar, carved from the rock,

Horses scamper away
The darker red line at top tracks the trail, ending (for us) at far right.  We started at the (red) center of San Gregorio da
Sassola and took the road (not clearly marked here), up to the convent.  We returned by the thin red
line that comes into the town at its northern end.    "AV" means the "alta via" - or crest road (literally "high way")
 of the Prenestini.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

EUR: the Church of Saints Peter and Paul

In our new book, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler, one of the "great" walks is in EUR, the mid-century model city/suburb to the south of Rome's center.  But we had never been inside EUR's signature church, a structure sited prominently on the area's western hill and one visible from the trains that ply the airport route and from a variety of places in Rome proper.  Had we missed something?  Should we have included the Church of Saints Peter and Paul on our EUR excursion?

Evoking the aqueducts
No, and no.  Without a doubt, the church is beautifully sited.  A prominent, tree-lined street of shops and cafés leads directly into an enormous, broad flight of shallow travertine stairs, each decorated with geometric inlays: the circle, the square, the diamond.  At the top of the stairs, at the intersection with the piazza that fronts the church, enormous statues of Peter (on the left with keys), Paul (on the right with a sword), look out over EUR and, beyond it, onto the Alban Hills--a view unfortunately--and unnecessarily--disrupted by a multi-story post office building.  To the left and right of the church run concrete constructions that evoke the ancient aqueducts.  So far so good.

Spectacular view, but who authorized the post office, right?

Front door panels, from inside 
A second set of stairs (on the day we visited, a photographer was taking cheese-cake photos of a fashion model, much to the delight of 3 boys observing nearby) leads up to the church, whose entrance is dominated by colorful stained-glass panels--nice, if not elegant, from the inside. 

Suspended "crown" 

The interior of the church is interesting, but ultimately disappointing.  The design plan was based on Michelangelo's original idea for St. Peter's--a Greek cross.  Its essential roundness is emphasized by a suspended circle of lights--a sort of elevated crown--over the nave.  And the dome, referencing the Pantheon, is high, graceful, and impressive.  Even so, the height of the dome (at 72 meters, the 3rd highest in Rome) alone cannot yield the grandeur or power of the Pantheon, and the effort at roundness--so magical in Santo Stefano Rotondo--is checked on all sides by short, squared-off areas for the entrance, the chapels, and the apse.

Side chapel, with mosaics

Mosaics decorate the side chapels, but neither they, nor the bas relief stations of the cross, have
the refinement or quality to rescue the edifice from ordinariness.  At bottom, the building's failure to produce the sense of "awe" that all good churches have stems from its structure and size: a small structure, neither round nor square--a bit of both, in fatal compromise--with only height to evoke the infinite. 

Work on the Church of Saints Peter and Paul was begun in 1939 and completed in 1954.  It became a parish church in 1958.  It was designed by an architectural team; six architects are mentioned in some sources, and three prominently: Arnaldo Foschini, Tullio Russi, and Alfredo Energici.  Too many cooks, perhaps. 

Fashion shoot in progress on church steps