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Monday, May 31, 2010

Torpignattara: Neighborhood on the Verge of....


We were intrigued by Laura Serloni's story in La Repubblica on the outlying neighborhood of Torpignattara, which lies east of the train station and the closer-in, now-hip community of Pigneto. The headline for the piece described Torpignattara as "dimenticata" (forgotten), and Serloni's story labeled its outdoor market "degrado" (degraded) and mentioned that the zone had no parks and that its 1930s movie theater (the only one in the area) was in disrepair, having long ago closed its doors.

We had been through the neighborhood many times, but only on the thoroughfare of via Casilina (the cross-street at top left), with a tram running through its center that cramps traffic in both directions. Until now, Torpignattara was for us a neighborhood to get through on our way to the campagna Romana.

So we went out there and walked around. We found the boarded-up movie theatre--perhaps no gem even when new--and ambled through the metal-shed market, which at 12:45 (some of the stands may have closed up, and the fish stands don't operate on Thursday) was occupied only here and there.
But we would add that older markets of this kind often have a forlorn appearance--one might as well use the words "rustic," or "authentic," or "comfortable"--and otherwise petty capitalism seemed to be thriving in this 'hood, sustained on some streets (e.g., via della Marranella) by communities of dark-skinned new immigrants, whose place of origin we failed to identify.

Although the oldest buildings in the neighborhood appear to date from about 1900, Torpignattara's architectural plant is also sustained by a number of structures built, like the theatre, in the 1930s, and datable by dates on the buildings,
sometimes presented in the Fascist system, which starts with 1922, the year of the March on Rome. Some of these buildings could use plastering and a coat of paint, but others have been nicely redone. The school at the corner of via dell' Acqua Bullicante and via Policastro has the solid, decent design of Fascist-era rationalist architecture.

The area will also benefit from the new "C" Metro line, now being built just a few blocks to the north under via Maletesta, once a lovely parkway but now a massive cantieri (construction project). The new Metro line is actually in Labicano, but it will provide reliable transportation to most of Torpignattara's residents. And given that, it may not be all that long before the word "gentrification" rears its ugly head and those nasty wine bars appear (there are none now).
We found what may be the early signs of that sort of redevelopment along the alley-like street of via Auconi, where smaller homes are being renovated (right).

We did find one small, usable, functioning park, off via del Pigneto at via dei Zeno (if we recall correctly).
It was being mowed, apparently for the first time this year (below right), with an actual power lawn mower (one of several in Rome; they are as rare here as Velveeta).

The problem with the parks, we think, is related to the city's program of underground parking lots. Once built, the lots are supposed to have parks at ground level.

But one of these parks (below left)had gone to tall, unmowable weeds, as if the city had been preparing the site for drug traffic and crime. In the circular entrance to that park's underground garage someone had fashioned a creche out of concrete, perhaps to offer comfort to those intrepid enough to use the facility (lower left).

The other, pictured in Serloni's article, had been fenced off. It would take an American neighborhood, with the help of the Lion's Club, about two weeks to have such a place up and running, with swing sets and redwood walkways and the like. But there is no Lion's club in Italy, and no tradition of voluteerism. And the government has failed to do anything but build the parking garages. Here it's all about cars.

Bill