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. Over 800 posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

Exploring Romanina


When we told our Roman friends that we had spent the afternoon in Romanina, one said "that's not even a place." That's a harsh judgment, but not entirely inaccurate. Romanina is a third-or-fourth-ring suburb of Rome, southwest of the Center and flanked on one side by via Tuscolana. It has the feel of an area, rather than a town or village. There's some commerce on the streets that course around it, but there's little to be found on the residential streets. The furniture store in the photo above is "the exception that proves the rule" (one of our favorite phrases, guaranteed to win most arguments). Despite our friends' cool response to our venture into Romanina, we came away once again appreciating what we found--the "Roman" experience.  

We parked our scooter at a McDonald's--here seen from in back--on one of the area's major thoroughfares. 

Down the street was an establishment that could have been in "beautiful downtown Burbank" (as Johnny Carson put it) or in Waco, Texas--or anywhere. The signage on the long building with a classic suburban parking lot reads "Old Wild West," and inside the structure, part of it was (in English) a "Steak House."

Across the busy street was a very Italian-looking building, whose function was impossible to determine.

Within 5 minutes we'd located the area's treasure--a long, thin, slightly curving park: Parco della Romanina. At each end, a painted arch welcomed patrons to (at that time) its parched grounds. Pine trees bent from prevailing winds.

It was mid-day and hot, and not much was happening in the park.

On one wall, a painted sign featured drawings (and names) of two women, presumably from Romanina, and the words "For all the women who struggle against the mafia(s)."

In contrast to the somewhat inviting Parco della Romanina, a small neighborhood park was overgrown to the point of being unusable--not uncommon in Rome and environs. 

We always enjoy looking at housing, including apartment buildings.

And we found an unusual single-family residence with a castle-like turret. Perhaps abandoned. Or they're just not picking up their mail.

The La Mela Hotel, not far from the western entrance to the park, had some interesting high balconies. 

We found an open (and worthy) church to explore and admire.

After combing the neighborhood for some time, we finally came across a compact shopping area. It's a relief to know you can buy stuff in Romanina. Dianne appears uninterested.

Exhausted by the richness and splendors of Romanina, we returned to McDonald's--and our scooter.  


Monday, February 13, 2023

Following Fermi: The Great Physicist in Rome

Traces of Enrico Fermi, one of the world's greatest theoretical physicists, are visible in Rome, the city of his birth and where he was driven out by Fascism.

Fermi, an acknowledged prodigy in math and science, started his work on a street now more known for its night-life, via Panisperna in the Monti quarter. He and his associates were dubbed "I ragazzi di via Panisperna," - "the boys of via Panisperna," and are captured in the photo below:

Enrico Fermi at far right. The
other "ragazzi
from left to right, Oscar D'Agostino,
Emilio SegrèEdoardo Amaldi,
and Franco Rasetti. The photo
 was taken by a sixth, Bruno Pontecorvo.
The background looks very much
like the buildings on via Panisperna
today, though #90, where the institute
supposedly was, is an older church.
As a result, we are not sure exactly where on 
via Panisperna the institute was located.

Fermi's location beginning in 1935 is well-known, and now bears his name, as well as sporting a plaque commemorating his extraordinary research there. And that's in the main campus of Rome's storied university, La Sapienza, or La Città Universitaria, designed by Mario Piacentini and opened in 1935 (the subject of prior posts, including one on Gio Ponti's math building and another on Mario Sironi's "Aula Magna" mural - Great Hall - painted in 1935).

In May 2018 we joined a guided tour of the University's physics department, located in one of Piacentini's original set of buildings. 

Left, the Department of Physics is named for Fermi.

The Physics Institute itself is named for another Nobel-winning Italian physicist (and member of the Fascist Party, as was Fermi at one point), Guglielmo Marconi, as seen here:

The plaque below - inside the building - reads:
"In this institute from 1927 to 1938 Enrico Fermi taught and studied. Here he investigated the structure of materials and discovered the radioactivity caused by neutrons [actually neutrinos], opening new avenues in the world. To the knowledge and power of man." [As noted, the institute was located on via Panisperna until about 1935.]

What the plaque does not say is that in 1938, when Fermi, age 37, went to Stockholm to accept his Nobel prize in physics, he kept going - to the United States, fleeing with his family from the racial laws of Italy that had already affected the lives of many of his colleagues and potentially would affect his wife, who was of Jewish heritage.

The tour included parts of Fermi's lab (left), and a cabinet of Fermi tools and books (below, right).

Besides the photo of i ragazzi di via Panisperna, other photos on display on the tour included the one below of Fermi with two other giants of theoretical physics, Werner Heisenberg and another Italian, Wolfgang Pauli (below, the German Heisenberg in the center, Pauli on the right), at Lake Como (date unclear).

The Nobel Prize website has a good biography of Fermi and lay-person descriptions of his scientific breakthroughs (at least one of which was developed based on Pauli's research).


Thursday, January 19, 2023

A New Stadium for A.S. Roma: a Walking Adventure in Rome's near-in Countryside

Rome's A.S. Roma football club has been looking to build a new stadium for years. One effort collapsed when it became clear that the location--Tor di Valle, to the southwest of the city--would produce traffic chaos whenever there was a game. The latest idea (and at this writing it seems more likely to come to fruition) is to place the new stadium in an area of (more or less) unused land, at the intersection of Tiburtino and Pietralata--and across some railroad tracks and a highway from Piazza Bologna. Here's a map, with the location of the proposed stadium at center left (inserted as if it's there, below the road, just above the red Metro sign and to the right of the large P).

In early May, we set out to have a look at the area--not a place we had ever been. We parked our scooter on via dei Durantini (to the best of my recollection) and it didn't take long to come across a "Centro Revisioni" (for getting your vehicle its yearly test), located in a shack-like building at via del Casale Quintiliani, 115.

Not far beyond, we discovered the isolated Quintiliani Metro station (and bus turnaround). Heading down into the station, we didn't see a single person. Nor did the bus, which turned around while we were there, drop anyone off or pick anyone up. If and when the stadium arrives, the station will be busier--at least during soccer season. See the map above for the location of the Metro station. 

Plenty of graffiti, but no passengers

Up a hill, there's a carrozzeria (a car repair place), in as remote a location as the Metro station. If you can get your car there, it doesn't need repair.

Then, more run-down buildings.

We found lots of open land, sprinkled with roads (some of them of fairly recent origin) that are no longer in use--a project or projects that never panned out.

Some nice views of the nearby "city" (Piazza Bologna in the distance)?

And lots of poppies on the roadsides.

A rusted sign that I later converted into "accidental art." Ala Georges Braque (I know: "he's no Braque")

A few more businesses, including this small iron and aluminum foundry, not far from the Tiburtina Metro and train station:

A tunnel in use, but to where?

Off via dei Monti Tiburtini, a path into the future stadium site (we did not take it). This is a not a street for pedestrians--no sidewalks; we had to run now and then to avoid being on the street. 

Turning off via dei Monti Tiburtini, we found a nice coffee shop, chatted with the owner about the prospect of a stadium nearby, and returned to our scooter. A grand adventure!


Monday, December 26, 2022

Via Casilina Vecchia: the "Funky" side of Rome

If you're searching for Rome's "funky" side, you can't do much better than a stretch of via Casilina Vecchia, running southeast off via Castrense, a street that connects the Tuscolano neighborhood with Pigneto. (We're not talking about via Casilina, a nasty street for walkers that runs parallel with "Vecchia" on the other side of some railroad tracks). 

The first thing you'll see is the massive complex of Casa Santa Giacinta--a Catholic charity serving the poor and elderly

And next to it, tucked in a bit, a cute 20th-century chapel in something akin to mission style. 

Just beyond, as the street narrows, there is (or was just months ago), a mural by Alice, a prolific Rome street artist. Part of Alice's original work (she's known for painting young women) is visible behind the cars that are usually parked there, and part has been covered by graffiti "artists." A portion of her mural is visible upper right. 

The lower left portion of this wall proved fertile territory for this "accidental art"/found art photographer, a portion of it (below) ending up as his business card.

Following the road, you'll come upon an arch, usually highly decorated by the spray-paint crowd. Why it exists we have no idea. Here is Dianne, photographed with the arch, though from the other side. 

Ahead, the centerpiece of the journey, the aqueduct Acqua Felice. It's not ancient. Dating to the late Renaissance, it was constructed under Pope Sixtus V. Still it's very cool, and here are there it utilizes the columns of Aqua Claudia (of ancient origin). "Felice" is over 28km long--and you can see it rise from ground level a few miles out at the Parco degli Aquedotti (Park of the Aqueducts). 

Just as the road looks like it's going to go through an aqueduct arch, it turns sharply left, crossing the tracks--just one lane, and quite a bit of traffic. Not the safest spot for a pedestrian. 

Then the road turns again, runs through the aqueduct--and you'll find yourself walking on its western side. 

Although most of the arches date to the late 16th century, a few--they will be obvious--were constructed at the turn of the last century to allow access for trains.

Further along, you'll find homes on one side of the street, the aqueduct (and apparently some homes and businesses) on the other. 

One of the businesses, located in and through an aqueduct arch, specializes in copies of statues and other ancient and Renaissance pieces:

This staircase seems to lead through the aqueduct to a home:

Inside one of the arches, someone has created a devotional tableau:

When via Casilina Vecchia dead ends, turn left, through the aqueduct, then immediately right onto via del Mandrione. Poet, novelist, and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini spent a lot of time in the Mandrione neighborhood, seeking the "real" Rome.  [D: all signs of inhabitants where he once strolled are now gone. No doubt in the name of "slum clearance."]

About 200 yards ahead, there's a narrow passage-way off right. 

Turning left out of the pass way, a few yards down you'll find another lane off to the right, leading to a staircase--and beneath it, the Tuscolano 'hood. Turn right at the first street and work your way back to  Piazza Lodi--and through the wall to via Castrense, and your starting point. 

Another side of Rome. Sweet!