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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Tomb in Appio Latino, Newly Discovered

 

The headline reads: "A tomb in via Latina. Valeria died 1900 years ago."

We read in Il Messaggero (a Rome daily newspaper) one morning this month (5/4/22) of an archaeological discovery in the Appio Latino neighborhood, about a mile from our current location, near Piazza Re di Roma. We couldn't resist the temptation to find the site, and headed there on our mid-day walk. We found the excavation at one end of via Luigi Tosti--a cross street along the famous consular road, via Latina--not far, as it turns out, from one of our previous (28 of them) Rome addresses.    

There was a guy there eating his lunch, who turned out to be an archaeologist on the project.  He said he was present when the discovery was made, in the course of very ordinary work on old water pipes a meter or two below the surface.

What the workers found was a portion of a necropolis that exists on both sides of the length of via Latina. More specifically, a funerial altar in marble, inscribed to "Valeria Laeta, daughter of Publio, who lived 13 years and 7 months." According to the archaeologists, the altar and the tomb date to the 2nd century a.d. (CE in woke speak)--1900 years ago. It is not clear if they found Valeria's remains. 


Dianne chatted up the archaeologist, who said the first hint of significant remains was a Roman wall--the one directly in from of him in the photo above. He said the presence of archaeologists was typical (even required) on projects that involved digging at any significant depth. Some neighbors were interested, too. 


The altar has been removed to the care of the superintendent who presides over such issues, to protect against the risk of theft, according to the Messaggero story. The archeologist confirmed to us that is had been removed for "conservation." When it will see the light of day for the public is anyone's guess. Don't hold your breath. 

Bill 



Monday, May 16, 2022

Of Pigs and Boars: Rome's Problem with Cinghiali--and Swine Flu

 


There was a time, not so long ago, when a story about a cinghiale (a wild boar) showing up in Rome  brought a smile to one's face. How unusual. Cute critters. 

A wild board in Piazza Verbano
No more. The boars are more common now. Just in the past week, a boar was seen rooting around in a flower bed and a garbage bin in Piazza Verbano (near where we lived one of our times in Rome), in the heart of the neighborhood Trieste/Salario. Police arrived and closed the piazza for 20 minutes. A woman walking her dog in Villa Glori, in toney Parioli, was threatened by cinghiali (and folks are now being warned to keep their dogs away from the animals). Wild boars have also been sighted in the southern suburb of EUR, on the busy thoroughfare Cristoforo Colombo, in Piazzale Pio XII, in Piazza Vescovio (Trieste), on Monte Mario (one of our favorite close-in hiking venues and featured in our guidebook, #11 on RST's Top 40), and around a children's playground in Prati, near the Vatican. According to a veterinarian expert on the subject, the boars are not generally aggressive but will defend themselves, and they may become aggressive if people have food with them. His advice: drop the food and leave. 

A family of cinghiali at a children's playground in Prati. 

A genuine sense of crisis has emerged only in the last few days, when a boar was found dead with the swine flu virus in the Insugherata Reserve, an enormous, largely undeveloped area northwest of the city center. The disease is highly contagious among wild boars and regular pigs, and deadly 98% of the time (ok, we've hiked there as well - and came out on one of the farms ringing it). Now we're learning that there are some 12,000 small pig farms in the region, with all their 43,000 pigs in danger from the virus, which is lethal for the pigs. Although it seems clear that the virus does not spread to humans (and one always worries about when a virus will "jump" to humans), it is a resistant virus, able to survive for up to 100 days in the outdoors (and several months in salami or frozen meat), and it is spreadable by human contact--on one's clothes, for example. 

Now there's at least one article a day in the newspapers about the "la peste suina" (the swine flu, referred to in the papers here as psa [swine flu africana]). It's no secret that the major cause of the problem is Rome's horrendous, decades-old garbage problem. In every section of the city, the garbage bins in which residents throw their refuse are overflowing, to the point where frustrated citizens put their garbage outside the bins, on the ground, where it often remains for days. The boars love these easy pickings, and come into the city to eat. They eat and multiply. Estimates differ, but it's likely there are about 20,000 wild boars in and around Rome--especially, but not entirely, in the areas to the west and north.


There are plans to deal with the problem. The Lazio regional government (in which Rome is located) has created a "red zone" (see map above) where picnicking and other events, and the feeding of animals, will be prohibited. The red zone is bounded on the west and north by the GRA--a super highway that circles the city, and on the east by stretches of the Tiber River. But there is no "natural" barrier to the south, where the red zone will be marked by city streets, including via di Boccea and via Cipro (see the numbers on the map - we were living 2 blocks from via Cipro last month).  And, as a glance at the map reveals, wild boars have been sighted in many areas of the city that are outside the red zone and on the east side of the Tiber (Piazza Verbano is one example). 

The Commune of Rome will fence off some of the garbage bins. Medical authorities will check the farm pigs for disease (not a simple task). Some of the larger green areas will be closed, though which ones and to what extent has not been revealed. And the plan includes efforts to close off the migratory avenues (the "green channels") that the boars use to come into the city proper. How that will happen is not clear.

Dealing with the boar invasion won't be easy. The last half dozen of Rome's mayors have sworn they'll get the city's garbage collected, and, no matter the political party in charge, the problem has only gotten worse. The city's northwest is the site of several enormous parks. Some are heavily used and cared for, including Villa Ada (the source of some of the boars in that area of the city) and Villa Borghese. But others are quite primitive spaces--Monte Mario, Parco del Pineto, and the Insugherata Reserve among them--and it will likely be impossible to find the boars in these areas, let alone remove them or change their migratory patterns. 

In the meantime, we're thinking of staying out of the more remote parts of Monte Mario--for years, a favorite haunt--and leaving Parco del Pineto to the cinghiali. 

Bill 

P.S. Two days after I drafted this account, the papers reported 16 dead wild boars in the Insugherata, 2 of which had swine flu (only 2? why did the others die?), and that 650 pigs would have to be destroyed to keep the disease from spreading. The day before, it was reported that, because of the small number of cases, pig farmers were not required to register with the authorities. Today, May 11, the word was that a woman in the suburb of Bufalotta couldn't leave her house because there were 20 boars outside; a 4th case of swine flu was reported; and residents who live inside the affected area--presumably the "red zone," were asked to disinfect their shoes whenever they left that area. Good luck on enforcing that one!. 



Saturday, May 7, 2022

"Bella Ciao" comes to Ukraine



"Bella Ciao," Italy's anthem of freedom, resistance, and sacrifice, is now being sung, in translation, by Ukrainians in their epic struggle against the horrific Russian invasion of their country. Here's a link to a Ukrainian rendition, with translated Ukrainian lyrics, posted on Facebook several weeks ago: 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=4989089647852306

and on YouTube with new lyrics, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsJYGzwOhKM



In 2010, Frederika Randall, a dear friend and a brilliant translator and journalist, wrote about "Bella Ciao" for this blog. "Most musicologists," she wrote, "believe Bella Ciao was adapted from a [late 19th-century] work song of the mondine, the women who worked in the rice fields of northern Italy." 

Between 1943 and 1945, the song was adapted by the Italian resistance movement that helped liberate Italy from the Nazi occupation and Mussolini's Fascist dictatorship (although it's not clear it was ever sung by the Partisans). After the war it achieved world-wide circulation. The lyrics, as sung today, were first published in 1953, and the song grew in popularity in the 1960s. Some years later, it circulated within the dissident movement in Iran. The song has been covered some 25 times in Italian and in many other languages. Today it is sung in Italy on April 25, Liberation Day, celebrating the country's liberation from the German/Nazi occupation. 

Here's the link to Frederika Randall's post (republished in April 2020), which focuses on a controversy that developed over students at a middle school in Prati singing a portion of the song. The post includes the Italian lyrics to "Bella Ciao" as well as an English translation.  

https://romethesecondtime.blogspot.com/2020/04/liberation-day-politics-of-bella-ciao.html

It is with great sadness that we must write that Frederika died in May, 2020, a month after publication of the re-post above. 






  




Monday, May 2, 2022

Rome: the thrill of the (righteous) protest


We were curious about the police sirens and commotion about a block from us 2 days after we arrived in our Rome neighborhood--Aurelia Nord--this year, as we were coming home from our morning caffe' coffee ritual. I thought Bill was ambulance chasing, but it turned out his nose for news was right. A trio of protestors was in front of an Eni Energy store on Viale degli Ammiragli (Eni is one of the world's largest oil and gas companies). Two held banners, one saying "Don't turns us into fossils. Join us!" and the other saying "Last Generation" (translations from Italian, mine).  A third was recording the sit-down on her phone. 

The 10 or so police let this go on for a while (the woman holding the "last generation banner" kept up a loud, non-stop anti-fossil-fuel diatribe [she was amazingly good at that]), then took the phone of the woman recording, took the banners and folded them up neatly, and then started taking away the 3 protestors, who went limp in their non-violent action.

Protestor Ugo Rossi being dragged by
police and protestor Laura Zorzini lying down.

The newspaper reports the next day seemed to describe a different event. They spoke of broken windows (we did not see any - but there could have been some - and the photo in the paper was from a different protest months before), violence ("I violenti" - violent persons), and panic in the neighborhood. Well, no - just people like us standing around looking - until the largest policeman pointed at Bill's camera (Bill was taking these photos) and we hightailed it out of there. It seemed to us the news media wasn't at the event and simply parroted the police report.




We have since learned that "Ultima Generazione" is the name of an action organization, And that the outspoken, well-spoken young woman is Laura Zorzini, a 27 year-old from Trieste who is known as the Italian Greta Thunberg. She's been arrested multiple times, engaged in many protests, and been on a hunger strike.  In this case the 3 were held overnight and then released (as we would say, probably "on their own recognizance").

Laura Zorzoni, the non-stop talker and Greta Thunberg of Italy, holding the yellow "Ultimata Generazione" sign. The third protestor is shown filming, while the police - at that point - look on passively.

Never a dull moment in the Rome neighborhoods.

Dianne



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Jewish Catacombs under Villa Torlonia - part of the you-can't-go-there-anyway series

In the you-can't-go-there-anyway series, we explore - virtually - one set of Jewish catacombs under Rome. Yes, Jewish catacombs, which to some - who adhere to the myth (promulgated in films) that the catacombs were where Christians hid their burials from the heathen Romans - is an oxymoron. 

There are 6 known Jewish catacombs in Rome (and something like 70 Christian ones); two of the most extensive sets are these under the popular Villa Torlonia park. The casual tourist could visit those until a few years ago when the precarious condition of the underground tombs made that impossible. (Absent Covid, a few Jewish people apparently are allowed to visit each year.) We didn't make it before the general ban; so we were pleased to participate in Turismo Culturale Italiano's virtual tour last year, as part of its "Roma inaccessibile" (Inaccessible Rome) series (of which the Cloaca Maxima was also one). 

The catacombs of Villa Torlonia are considered to date from the 2nd to 3rd century CE, and lasting until the 5th century; so they are almost 2,000 years old. They were discovered only in the last century, around 1918. We did visit another site underground at Villa Torlonia - Mussolini's Bunker, now closed as well. We wrote about it in our post on Villa Torlonia (link above).


There can be no doubt that these catacombs were Jewish, not Christian, as can be determined from the remarkable wall paintings, including the one at the top with 2 Menorahs, a Torah in its Ark, a Shofar and other markers of the religion.

As with the Cloaca Maxima and the Scajaquada Creek (in Buffalo, New York), you can try to "find" these catacombs from above ground. 

They are in the West corner of the park, at the intersection of via Nomentana and via Spallanzani, underneath the old stables (scuderie vecchie). See the arrow in the bottom left corner in the plan at right.

Their extension is obvious from the plan below, the red arrows showing the two known entrances, the one at left inside the Villa Torlonia park, and the one at right on via Siracusa.


The catacombs of Villa Torlonia are considered in fact two sets of catacombs from different periods ("E" in the plan is later and is 10 meters below the surface), though they are connected. Below are photos from inside Region E of the Villa Torlonia catacombs. Very few human remains are left. There was a market in bones at one time; they were stolen to sell as those of martyrs.






Some of the distinctions from Christian catacombs are that the Jewish catacombs do not contain any centers for worship--the thought now is that, unlike Christian catacombs, they were not sites for visitation and celebration; and that there are no group burials.

Likely there were more than 6 sets of Jewish catacombs in the city of Rome, and some have been destroyed by the enlargement of the city or simply by falling in. The photo at right is of a large vehicle falling into one of them in the Monteverde neighborhood not that long ago. Those catacombs - discovered in 1602 - are now considered almost completely destroyed or swamped with water, although some inscriptions have been preserved - as shown below.


The other very large set of Jewish catacombs that has been open to visitors at times is along the via Appia Antica, those at Vigna Randanini. (Here's a link to one organization - Jewish Roma walking tours - they give tours of these catacombs and [we checked] they are giving them currently - we have not taken their tours ourselves; they have good Trip Advisor ratings.) As were all catacombs - Christian and Jewish - these are along a consular road and outside the ancient city walls.

 

Besides the paintings and etchings of obvious religious objects, there are some paintings of animals in the Villa Torlonia catacombs - likely here a lion (right) and a peacock (below).





We're hopeful of getting into at least one of these catacombs in the future.

Dianne