Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hiking near Rome: Tivoli, Train to Trail

Hard work to get here, but great views.  Tivoli at left.  Colli Albani in the background.
We're hikers, and until now we've used our scooter almost exclusively to get to trailheads outside Rome.  But recently, we've been taking the train to destinations that promised too long a scooter ride--Carsoli among them. Having gotten used to trains, a short while ago we took one to Tivoli for a hike we thought would be ordinary.  It wasn't.

In the morning, trains for Tivoli leave from the station at Tiburtina every 20 minutes or so.  You can purchase round-trip tickets at the station, at kiosks, and in some stations, like Trastevere, at the newsstand.  The train we caught was a milk run--it stopped everywhere--and even then only took an hour and ten minutes to reach the famous hill town.  About 3 Euro each way per person.  Hard to beat that price.

At Tivoli we exited south from track 1 (past the cool eagle fountain), turned right on the street, had a coffee a couple of blocks down at a bar (where we also bought a sandwich for lunch), kept going down to the traffic circle, turned 90 degrees right with Villa Gregoriana on the left (the road to Marcellina), and followed the road--the most dangerous part of the whole exercise (no shoulders)--about 3/4 of a mile, past the bridge and around two other curves to the other side of the gorge.  The road then curves sharply right, goes around still another left curve, and there, on the right side of the road, you'll find the trailhead.  It looks like a small stone driveway that ascends in the direction you're traveling. There should be a sign put up by CAI (Club Alpino Italiano) naming the trail for "Paolo Fantini."  Have a drink of water and begin the climb, following the new, and very frequent, red and white marks on trees and rocks. This may be the best-marked trail we've ever been on.
This section of the map contains the start and finish of the hike.  The train station is very near the "T" in TIVOLI.  The trailhead is just beyond this section of the map, on the blue line (the road), upper left.  If you can get your hands on this map,
- "Riserva naturale Monte Catillo" - it's excellent.  It features, of course, the long-horned white bovine on the cover.

After a brief standoff with us, this long-horned bull
bailed out and took off down the hill.  
Trail "C" (see map below) ascends through a lovely forest of pine and scrub, turns right (east) after about 20 minutes, crosses some more or less open ground, turns a bit toward the northwest, then east again and down into a wooded fosso (a small valley or gulley) where we encountered, and skirted, bulls and horned cows on the trail as well as some "new age" orchestrations, including a set of wind chimes strung near the trail (below).




Wind chimes, upper left/center.
The trail then turns sharply west and, in a few minutes, begins a rather difficult, very rocky traverse/ascent of Monte Sterparo.  You'll use your hands here to climb some of the rocky pitches.  At the end of the ascent there's a lovely spot--a cross, a madonna, and a superb view of Tivoli and the valley in which Rome resides (photo at top of post).  You may see a white sail-shaped structure in the distance; it's an unfinished swimming pool designed by the world-famous architect Calatrava.
This map contains the entire course of the trek (C to F to E to A)

From here you'll take a DIFFERENT trail, just to the north of the one you came up.  Follow it for a minute or two, where it forks.  Take the LEFT fork ("F" on the map), to and through the nondescript actual top of Monte Sterparo (you won't know you've been there, although there's a good pile of stones at one point - not the highest point), and beyond for about 20/30 minutes to Colle Lecinone, where you'll find an abandoned building on your right and a barbed-wire boundary fence for the
Easy walking through nice forest.  Here, the trail markers are all on trees.  
"reserve" on your left.  The trail ("E") turns east and downhill from here, abandons the rocks, enters a sublime forest planted perhaps 60 years ago, and emerges--another 20 minutes later--into an intersection with trail signs galore.  The road to your right goes downhill and spills out at the bridge you walked a couple of hours ago; you can take this if your need to get back is urgent.  Instead, we recommend the trail to the east--the sign says something about a picnic area (i.e., "Area Pic-Nic") - it's still marked "E" on the map.  It goes through the woods, emerges on the east side of the mountain (great views to the East!), traverses the side of the hill for a few minutes, then heads downhill, more or less toward Tivoli.
The center portion of hike, including Monte Sterpara (middle left), up to Colle Lecinone (top left) on the F trail, and across on the E trail to lower right, until it meets up with trail A, which you follow.  
Through the cork oak forest.
And here it gets a little tricky.  As you come downhill and the countryside opens up, it is important that you follow the red and white markers, for there are several unmarked and tempting trails, mostly trampled out by cows and horses, we think.  Descending, you'll enter a divine forest of cork oak trees--the bark is special.







Near the end.  Tivoli center left, Monte Catillo, with
cross, in distance at right
Soon thereafter you'll come upon a lone tree, just to your right.  The correct trail is just to the right of the tree. Follow it, and it will take you down, past an athletic field on your right and around the small but iconic mountain above Tivoli--Monte Catillo, with the cross on its peak--onto a road (turn left, downhill) and then onto the road on which your hike began.  Turn left, and you're about 20 minutes from the train station.

Should you want to ascend Monte Catillo on the way down, you'll find a path on the southeast side of the mountain that will take you to the top, about 10 minutes away.

If you're eager to have a meal on your return, we recommend crossing the bridge at the circle, toward Tivoli proper.  About a hundred yards beyond, on the right, is L'Ape 50°, with tables inside and outside.  The kind and informed waiter explained the name to us (that little 3-wheel truck one sees rarely now, and usually only in the countryside, is called "l'ape" (the bee), and he revealed that travel guru Rick Steves had eaten there and lists the restaurant in one of his travel guides.  We're not Steves fans, but in this case he offers good advice. We especially enjoyed the weekly off-menu artichoke lasagna and the artisanal beers, a specialty of the house.  Keep in mind that L'Ape 50° keeps typical restaurant hours; so it's unlikely to be open between 3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.

We are fans of the two great gardens of Tivoli - the 16th century Villa d'Este and the 19th century Villa Gregoriana (#6 on RST's Top 40).  You might want to take in one or both of these as well. They are not open on Mondays.

Total ascent, a modest (for true hikers) 1650 feet.  Time: about 4 1/2 hours from and to the Tivoli station.  Hiking boots a must, and at least one hiking pole is highly recommended.  Bring one large bottle of water for each hiker and (assuming there are two of you) a knife to divide the sandwich or cut the cheese. Sometimes we buy a bottle of wine (at a bar, where they'll open it for you and provide plastic cups) to drink on the train, but the ride's a short one, and on this occasion we did not.  Trains back to Rome in the late afternoon and evening run about every hour, and the last one is about 10 p.m.

Bill, with Dianne's help. 

Rome the Second Time features a Tivoli hike and the marvelous duo: villa/gardens of Tivoli - Villa d'Este and Villa Gregoriana.  The hike we did this day incorporates part of RST's hike, which goes up the more famous Monte Catillo with its cross.  The hike described in this post is much more interesting in its terrain and flora, and also more difficult.
At right and beyond the buildings, that's Monte Sterpara, as seen from Villa D'Este, looking rather ordinary from this distance and angle.    

Thursday, May 19, 2016

La Dolce Vita gets a little less sweet - the City closes down some via Veneto outdoor cafes.

"Alex," part of the Hotel Alexandra, on via Veneto near Piazza Barberini, advertises you can "live the 'Dolce Vita' life"
The Dolce Vita life on via Veneto is getting tough for some of these "outdoor" restaurants.  The City recently cracked down on what it termed "abusivo" or illegal cafes.  The Trevi police (yes, as in the Trevi Fountain) taped up some of the outdoor spaces. We couldn't figure out why some were still open and some - very obviously - were not.  Apparently those closed by the city had not obtained the proper permits to build and run their enterprises on the sidewalk, which most of them do.

The photo below is of one of the closed-down outside spaces on the "upper" part of via Veneto, nearer Corso d'Italia.  The 21st- century saga of this restaurant is a sad tale.  The cafe' to which the outdoor space belongs is Cafe' de Paris, the inspiration for Fellini's 1960 film.  Cafe' de Paris was supposedly run by mafia; the anti-mafia task force closed it down in 2009 and the court case is coming to fruition now.  In 2011 the government reopened the cafe'.  But apparently the mafia had the last word - the cafe' was destroyed by arson in 2014 and hasn't reopened.  The outside space has been inhabited since then, however.  It looks like a cell phone company set up shop there - perhaps without any permits at all.  Ah, Roma.

The restaurateurs - at least the true restauraeurs, not the cell phone companies -  have cried "foul" and stated the city should have at least negotiated with them.  And perhaps it will.  To be continued.

 Dianne

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Alone in the Rome Modern Art Gallery, with Cataldi and Marini

Galatea by Amleto Cataldi, 1925
We first discovered sculptor Amleto Cataldi (1982-1930) "in the weeds" in the Olympic Village (Villagio Olimpico) in Rome.  We later learned that his sculptures of athletes--placed seemingly haphazardly in green space (also known as weeds) in this athletes' housing built for the Rome 1960 Olympics--came from the 1911 Flaminio Stadium that was torn down to make way for the new Olympic stadium by Pier Luigi Nervi.

But... recently, on a visit to one of our favorite, lightly-visited museums in Rome, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale (the city's - as opposed to the state's - modern art gallery) we discovered a Cataldi sculpture virtually headlining the current exhibition on 1920s and 1930s Italian art, originally purchased for what was then called Galleria Mussolini.  Unlike his muscular athletes, Cataldi's Galatea here - a late, 1925 work -  is smooth and modern (note the hair-do).  The fish in her hand is appropriate because the statue was designed to be part of a fountain.

And, we can't resist another preview of this exhibition, "Fragment" by Marino Marini (1901-1980), who lived past the Fascist era.  This piece from 1929 is an excellent example of the artistic desire to replicate a ruin - to layer the past and the present.  It fits with the importance the Fascists gave to hearkening back to ancient Rome.  This fragment nude is a nice contrast to Cataldi's modern female nude.
Frammento by Marino Marini, 1929

 And when we stepped outside of the museum, we saw this creative courier and his "sculpted" vehicle.



The gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. - 6.30 p.m.  Euro 7.5 for most of us.  via Francesco Crispi, 24 - between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, up the block from the Gagosian Gallery.  There won't be any crowds.  In fact, you may be the only one there.
Dianne

Friday, May 6, 2016

Casal Bertone: Tantalizingly close, yet nearly Unreachable



Casal Bertone.  A stone's throw from bustling San Lorenzo. Closer to Stazione Termini than the Vatican or the tourist mecca of Trastevere.  But no one goes there, and hardly anyone (even Romans born and raised) knows about this quartiere, which is sometimes referred to as Portonaccio, after the wide street that spans the area's western flank.

Always start with coffee
So close to the heart of Rome, yet so isolated. Ringed on the west and south sides by multiple rail lines, the Verano cemetery, and an old freeway, the Tangenziale, from which the Autostrada plunges east/southeast, right under Casal Bertone.

So it's hard to get to, and had to get out of. You can access the place from via Prenestina, but it's a long walk.  Or--as we did one morning on the scooter--from via Tiburtina: south (right) on via di Portonaccio, right at the big fork onto via De Dominicis, where we found a fine coffee bar, equal to any in the more upscale neighborhood of Monteverde Vecchio, where we've living for the month of May.


Underneath, the Autostrada


Turning right (south) out of the bar, the first sight is a large roundabout--almost a piazza. Moving counterclockwise, a massive metal screen hiding the Autostrada entrance as it passes beneath the town.








The building in the distance is a prize - and has a "legend" to go with it.

The centerpiece of the piazza is a housing project on its south side, graced by two striking bronze deer on pedestals to each side of the main entrance. After some 70 years, it's a wonder they're still there. Glorious. The story goes that the deer once had horns, and that the people who live in the building, so the story goes, had been called "cornuti"--meaning you're being cheated on, by your spouse.  So, one day, one of the residents sawed the large horns off the deer.  And now, no one can call them - or the residents - cornuti.


Inside the project a young man was weeding the stones (an uncommon sight) around a fountain, guarded by two eye-catching, snarling wolves.  Down a ways, a large fir tree on one side, and, on the other, a Madonella giving thanks for the survival of the building's inhabitants during the allied bombing of 1944 that took over a thousand lives in nearby San Lorenzo--and the rest of the war (below).  Note, too, that the stairways to sections of the buildings are differentiated, marked with letters, creating interior communities.


We also should mention that the intellectual filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini set the most iconic of Rome films, Mamma Roma (1962) with Anna Magnani, in this housing project.

The Madonella





A bit further to the south, there was a lot going on along via Casal Bertone: a very old building, holding out against the future; the construction of a new public market (or so we thought); some interesting urban graffiti; a leftist poster (Se Non Ora Quando, left) enjoining youth to take action, as right-wing thugs toss a person off a building balcony--an event that actually happened many years ago, in another part of Rome.  YouTube has several videos on the confrontation between right- (Casa Pound) and left-wing groups in Casal Bertone.








Shades of Hadid!
And, near the eastern end of the street (above), a stunning modern housing development in the latter phases of construction, elements of it reminiscent of Zaha Hadid's MAXXI.  We were surprised to see it here, in Casal Bertone.

Baptismal by Ugolino da Belluno, 1995
East on via Casal Bertone is the Piazza Santa Maria Consolatrice.  A public park with large play areas for children fills the square, and across from it, a church, vintage 1940s.  The column-work inside is
worth seeing, as is a side chapel in mosaics accomplished in 1995 by church artist Ugolino da Belluno.  The apse mosaics, of 1960s vintage, are also interesting, as are the columns on each side, decorated with repeating phrases. In the left side aisle there's a bronze statue of Padre Pio, both his outstretched hands revealing stigmata.














Casal Bertone has some tree-lined shopping streets, on which we found clear signs that the community's soccer team is AS Roma, as well as evidence of the poster presence of the right-wing organization, Casa Pound (photo right).  Ghoulish stuff.  Makes one wonder what they have in mind.


On the southeast side of the quartiere, an industrial building--above, center--has been re-used as artists' studios.  You can go inside and poke around--even talk to the artists.

Just one morning in the "real" Rome--Rome the Second Time.

Bill


Friday, April 29, 2016

William Kentridge's "Triumphs and Laments": A Spell-Binding, Ephemeral Work on Rome's Tevere River

One of the two processions along the Tevere in front of Kentridge's wall drawings, with enormous projections of iconic Rome figures of history - and of triumph and lamentation - against those drawings.  The "puppeteers" were colorfully dressed and highlighted as well, giving a sense of the making of the performance (see close-up below).
A must stop on anyone's visit to Rome from now (April 2016) until about 4 years from now must be William Kentridge's artwork on the right bank (Trastevere side) of the Tevere between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini.  What can we say besides just don't miss it?  Head down to the river level at one of the stairways and walk the 500 meters slowly, drinking in the great work South African artist Kentridge created on these massive river bank walls.

If there is a repeat of the performance that opened the artwork on Rome's 2,769th birthday, April 21, 2016, don't miss that either.  The music and "projections" were spell-binding.

The theme of "triumphs" and "laments" is presented by Kentridge in his main mode:  the drawing of people and animals in black and white.  We were fortunate to see a few of Kentridge's videos, in this same style, in the path-breaking 2015 video exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo). Here in Rome, the marrying of Kentridge's style with the subject matter of 2700 year-old Rome and the blackened 57-foot high walls of the Tevere (Tiber River) are quite frankly a thing of beauty.

Rome's lupa or she-wolf... here, instead of the infant twins Romulus
and Remus, Kentridge presents amphorae, or water jugs.
Kentridge draws on themes familiar to Romans - from the lupa (she-wolf) who suckled Rome's founders, Remus and Romulus - to the deaths of Rome martyrs such as Giordano Bruno (the "heretic" monk, burned at the stake by the Church in 1600), Aldo Moro (moderate politician murdered in 1978 by radical leftists) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (filmmaker and artist killed mysteriously in 1975 in the Rome seaside town of Ostia). He also uses iconic Italian objects like the Vespa, the moka coffee pot, the Necchi sewing machine, and the bicycle (from DeSica's neorealist film, The Bicycle Thief).  He also brings the successes and tragedies to the present, with references to the migrants landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa.  Persecution and migration is a strong theme in this set of drawings.
Kentridge's interpretation of La Dolce Vita.
Marcello Mastroanni and Anita Ekberg
are in a bathtub, under a shower, in place of the
Trevi Fountain.  Kentridge also makes heavy use
of carts and wheels (as here), perhaps signifying
travel through time.

 A 10-Euro booklet provides a guide to the 1/3-mile wall of art, as well as explains the techniques for making these enormous figures.  If that isn't available, hopefully some of this explanation will be online. Even without it, the work is tremendously powerful.

The iconic Vespa is at the center of this procession.
As we watched one of the opening performances on the left bank, looking across at Kentridge's drawings, we were captivated by the music of triumph and lamentation and the enormous puppetry or projections. The large shadows moving across the great walls, with the colorfully dressed puppet masters (if we can call them that) also visible, was mesmerizing.
Giordano Bruno, represented by Kentridge
through his statue in Campo de' Fiori

The music for these opening performances, composed by Philip Miller, used a variety of music types, from liturgical songs of the late Renaissance to West African slave songs, to ancient Southern Italian songs.  Frankly, the 4 of us (we and 2 of our good Roman friends) could not truly "understand" the music, and I'm not sure we were supposed to, but we did pick out the religious music, the African music, and the Italian folk music - we knew there was a confluence of musical types.  The sounds of triumph and lamentation were superimposed on each other.  It's an experience one was immersed in, rather than must or should have comprehended in its entirety at the time.

Hopefully the music too will be available in some form in the future.  Meanwhile, we will leave you with a link to our video of 30 seconds of the April 22 performance.

The making of the wall art, if we can use such simple words to describe it, is fascinating as well. We were in Rome in 2005 when Kristin Jones first presented her "lupa" - actually several "lupe" on the walls of the Tevere in this spot. She created them by erasing the background to produce the white, leaving the dirty walls to provide the figures themselves.  This same technique was used by Kentridge, who was inspired by, coached by, and encouraged by Jones, who is billed as the Artistic Director of the project.  We also need to give a shout-out to "Tevereterno", the non-profit organization that presented this as well as Jones's work in 2005, and has been working hard and long to reclaim the Tevere, under the direction of architect Tom Rankin.

Because the work depends on the erasure of dirt from the walls, the walls will in time become dirty again, and the black figures will appear to fade into the darkening walls.  That's the reason we suggest you might have only about 4 years from now to see this magnificent, ephemeral, work.

Joggers using the Tevere's bike and walking path, with Kentridge's
art as a backdrop.
Will "Trimphs and Laments" be received as great art?  We have yet to hear from establishment art critics in that regard. We do know the crowd on April 22 was wildly enthusiastic, cheering, whistling, and clapping for the performers and the art.

Dianne

Some of the hundreds of observers of the April 22, 2016 performance, from the left bank of the Tevere.