History

The hidden gem of EUR

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Palazzo Dei Congressi

 

 

 

 

With the upcoming EXPO I have been thinking a lot about the layout of the would be Rome EXPO of 1942, however as it was never used, there has still never been a World Expo here in Rome, although it has been hosted in Italy four times.

Benito Mussolini, in is hopes of expanding his fascist empire and building a new Rome, as well as in his desire to display the greatness of Italian power to the world, attempted to hold a world exposition here in Rome. It was to be held in 1942, on the 20th anniversary of his March on Rome.  In 1937 construction began to build this new city which would hold this exposition.

The project was called E42 or Esposizione 1942. It was to be built along the Via Imperiale that stretched from the Altare della Patria all the way to Ostia. Today this road is broken into Viale dei Imperiali and Via Cristoforo Colombo.

At the same time as this project, Mussolini worked to clear out the center of historic Rome. He believed this would solve two problems. The first was opening the historic Rome, as an image of italianita and grandeur, the second would solve his problem of necessity for modern buildings and housing.

EUR, as it is known today, was Rome’s first major reinvention. While many other cities continuously changed and renovated, Rome was the same as it had always been. This development was a push forward to bring Rome to the same modern field as all other capital cities.

Mussolini entrusted the design of this new city to Marcello Piacentini, a young architect who was the leading designer of fascist architecture. His work was Reactionary, Imperialistic, and Monumental. EUR became a meeting point for Rationalist and Antique architecture, mixing functionality with ancient motifs.

Everything about this city was to mirror Centro Storico. It included elements that paid homage to ancient structures such as the Colosseum and the Forum of Augustus. The entire message of the city is one of authority. This area has been used in a number of films depicting future societies including Equilibrium.

Although the Exposition never occurred, the area was salvaged around the later 1950’s and was reused. EUR served as presentation space during the 1960 Olympics. To this day EUR still functions as an industrial and office space of the city. Recently Fendi has taken the Palazzo della Civilita as its official Rome headquarters.

Unfortunately, the beauty of this area is not often realized as it is so far out of the city. EUR can be reached through Metro and is definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Although it is filled with Fascist propaganda architecture, the locals have forgotten this heritage, and choose to appreciate the area for it’s beautiful architecture.  “You can’t reject those past 50years because intelligent people made art and it’s still art, whatever its flaws are. It’s not the ideology that matters it’s the art, one cannot forget or cross out history.” Director of the Luigi Piggorini Museum, found in EUR.

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San Pietro e San Paolo, climb up this ramp for one of the greatest views of Rome.

 

 

 

 

Exploring Garbatella

GarbatellaThe last Roman neighborhood, Garbatella, meaning the well-mannered innkeeper, an area that manages to be both incredibly lively and peaceful at the same time. There is a reason it is on the top of every “off the beaten path in Rome” list. This neighborhood will stick with you.

Garbatella is a puzzle of public housing, some made quick and cheap, some designed in the manner of an English Garden, some staying true to the fascist architecture. One of the greatest sites to wander through are the many lotti, apartment blocks which are built around communal gardens.

Garbatella offers many culinary experiences from the classic bars featured in Passolini’s work to the trattorias which offer a different menu every day, depending on the fresh ingredients available. There is also a food market found behind teatro palladium, it is up every weekend throughout the day. One of my greatest finds there was balsamic honey, perfect on bread, or for medicinal purposes as well.

A.S. Roma is the team of choice here, and they won’t let you forget it, murals to the team, tasteful grafiti with the symbol of the wolf. The passion for the team, with the colors of red and orange decorating every corner, holds your attention and inspires you as you walk through.

Lotto of GarbatellaThough not as ancient as centro storico, this  area holds much history. Built up under Mussolini to serve as a suburb to rome, the houses were commissioned by the Public Housing team. different architects worked on them at different times, this is clear in the changing styles, throughout the blocks.

When the allies bombed this area took a small hit, and it managed to stop the clock that stands on top of the “Red Hotel”. No one ever bothered to fix it, so it stands as a reminder to the event.

Also found in Garbatella is Eataly, which I do recommend stopping at for a treat! I also recommend Lavazza Tierra coffee, which I found only there.

The truth is Garbatella’s beauty cannot be described through words, and you ought to see it for yourself. Go get lost, but if you need a little more structure, I recommend the tour found in Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.

Lotto Signs in Garbatella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windows in Garbatella

A Day with Dante

A few weeks ago I was staying in Riccione and had the chance to take a day exploring historic Rimini and Ravenna.  Both of these cities played an important role in the life of Dante, which is exactly why I wanted to visit.

Rimini, though more famously known as one of the best beach vacation spots actually has a fascinating historic center, which houses the Malatesta Temple, the official cathedral of the Malatesta family. The same Malatesta family included in Dante’s Inferno, Paolo Malatesta and his brothers wife Francesca da Polenta who found themselves committing adultery were both murdered by Giovanni Malatesta . The Malatesta family held power over Rimini for hundreds of years, beginning in 1295. They were a family of Guelphs and took power when their enemies the Ghibelline’s were run out of Rimini.

The Temple however was built in 1458 by architect Leon Battista Alberti, and  Matteo di Andrea de’ Pasti. The intent was for this to be a Mausoleam for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and his lover Isotta degli Atti. The temple was to have a dome based off the Pantheon and it would have been the largest in all of Italy, however, it was never built, as the family was running out of money. The building we see today is how it was left in 1466.

I had breakfast just around the corner (with a delicious cornetto based off chocolate rice krispies!) with a beautiful view of the Temple, on my right I could see straight down the street to the main historic square. It was around 9 and the city was busy, yet quite. Everyone rode bikes, in fact there was a three sided bike stand with bikes piled on each other, each bike with a basket that often contained if not a meal, a small child riding around with their family.

Malatesta Temple

Malatesta Temple

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Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

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From Rimini I took the train to Ravenna, about a two hour ride. Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman empire from 402 to 476, the entire city essentially is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best known for it’s amazing Byzantine and Medieval mosaics, it also happens to have Dante’s tomb, where his actual remains rest (as opposed to his tomb in Florence), and be an amazing cultural center. I mainly visited due to the fact I had heard amazing things about the churches and mosaics but then when I found out Dante was laid to rest there, I couldn’t miss it.

Thankfully I was able to see his tomb, just before they closed it for cleaning. I spent some time in the courtyard just taking it all in. Suddenly this experience made me realize how real Dante was, how real all his characters and his words were. We study him so often as an example of literature or of politics but we think of all the characters as figments of a long distant history. Being in the spot he wrote, in and about, and being near to his last resting place suddenly the reality sinks in.

I was very happy to see all the mosaics and early churches, the most beautiful of which was San Vitale, but I was most happy to see the small tomb.

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Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

The entire street Dante's tomb is on is a silent zone.

The entire street Dante’s tomb is on is a silent zone.

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The courtyard of Dante's tomb.

The courtyard of Dante’s tomb.

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San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

The Angels of Ponte Sant’Angelo

The Angels of Ponte SantAngelo

Leading up to Castel Sant’Angleo is what we now call the Ponte Sant’Angelo, however it has had many names. In the past it was known as Pons Aelius, that is Hadrian’s Bridge, as the structure which stands there is actually Hadrian’s Mausoleum. Later it was known as Pons Sancti Petri because pilgrims would take this bridge to read St. Peters Basilica.

Though the bridge looks beautiful today with its many angels draped in flowing cloth, it has quite a dark history. The bridge collapsed once killing many pilgrims who were trapped on it. It was then used a exhibition space for the bodies of executed criminals, much like the Appia Antica once was. Later under Pope Clement IX in 1669 the bridge was cleaned up and decorated with these angels.

Many books may say these angels were done by Bernini, however they were only completed under his school, and the two which Bernini actually worked on, the originals remain in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where they can be seen today.

There are 10 Angels, all holding symbols of the Passion, this includes: Column, Whips, Crown of Thorns, Sudarium, Garment and Dice, Nails, Cross, superscription, Sponge and lance. Every Angel was completed by a different member of Bernini s pupils.

Though Bernini did not personally work on every one, his style is obvious and each Angel is just as beautiful as any original work of his.

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Chestnut Seller

Chestnut Seller

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Chestnuts are a common winter snack here in Rome. Vendors set up a mobile brazier and heat them up to expose the white nut within. They are then served within a paper rolled cone, you can find these vendors on almost every street.

I recently discovered that chestnuts were always a Roman snack reaching back to the Republic where chestnuts were eaten plain or used in porridge. In fact the Romans then brought Chestnuts with them to the Northern Territories, introducing the tree to England, where it then became very popular in landscaping.

 

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Clouds over Barberini

Clouds over Barberini

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The clouds breakng over Piazza Barberini. Piazza Barberini is a 16th century square however the fountain shown here, named the Triton Fountain was done by Bernini in 1642.

The square is named Barberini for the Palace of the Barberini family located around the corner.

 

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Italian Christmas Traditions

Italian Christmas Traditions

Since there hasn’t been much to tell you about this semester, I figured I would tell you a bit about Italian Christmas. I haven’t been able to spend a full Christmas here, but hopefully next year!

Even though Rome is the site of the Vatican, there is surprisingly little in the way of Christmas decoration and events, or at least less than one would presume. Nativity’s are set up in every church, with a large one at the Spanish Steps. Christmas trees are decorated by large companies such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi. There is even one in Milan decorated completely with dildos…. Lights are put up, but not as excessive as America, there are a few decorations but I would expect more. It could be that I am not staying with a very Italian family, or it could really be they aren’t as excited as the rest of the world.

Food: At this time, oranges and clementines are the number one fruit. I have heard Oranges used to be a christmas present because they were so rare. Apparently this has stuck on in Italy. But there are no smells of cinnamon, gingerbread, apple or pine. In fact real Christmas trees are rare and expensive. They don’t really bake Christmas cookies, but there is the traditional Italian Christmas Cake: Pannetone. I finally bought one of these, I was worried it would be dry and boring like all other Italian attempts at a cake, but it turned out to be very good! All it is really is a large muffin, in look and taste, you can get fruit or chocolate ones. Of course there is also lots and lots of chocolate, mainly with nuts. Candied nuts and figs are also big at this time, at least in the grocery stores….yet I never see anyone eat them.

Traditions: Now, let me explain why there is a witch as this photo, rather than reindeer or Santa Claus etc. Well, Italians have two Christmas Characters, Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and Befana, the witch who brings presents.

Befana comes on the Feast of the Epiphany, being the Night of January 5th. She comes and fills children’s stockings with sweets and presents, unless they have been bad, then coal and sticks. She also sweeps the house as she visits, sweeping away the problems of the past year. Sticking with the Italian mindset, rather than leaving milk and cookies, families leave wine and small food, sometimes figs and dates.

Befana was the old lady who sheltered the Magi on their way to visit Jesus, she declined to go with them, then later changed her mind and tried to find him, as she never could , she continues to search for Baby Jesus leaving gifts for all the children she encounters.
Her name really just comes from the Italian accent on the word Epifania.

And of course she is also connected to Pre Christian beliefs, she is connected to the Festival of Strenia and Iannus, as at the beginning of each new year, Romans gave presents to one another.

Babbo Natale used to be simply the character of christmas, however due to large commercialization, he is beginning to be the one bringing presents, rather than Befana.

The Egyptian Collection in Torino

Some pieces of the Immortali exhibit

Some pieces of the Immortali exhibit

The painted dancer

The painted dancer

One of the Book of the Dead collection

One of the Book of the Dead collection

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One of the the first "mummies" from pre dynastic Egypt.

One of the the first “mummies” from pre dynastic Egypt.

Pieces from the pre-dynastic collection.

Pieces from the pre-dynastic collection.

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The Temple of Elleysia

The Temple of Elleysia

The Egyptian Museum of Torino is presently undergoing reconstruction, to make a larger exhibition space for their extensive collection. At the time to show as much of the collection as possible there is a special exhibition titled Immortali, as well as the stable collections of the pre dynastic artifacts, the tomb of Kha and the statue room. The Immortali exhibition will be on display from 2013 until the new museum space opening in 2015.

Upon arrival to the museum the entrance uses mirrors, and angled architecture to appear as if the visitor is inside a pyramid. There are signs as well as very kind ticket takers to direct visitors on the itineraries path. The new itinerary for the museum’s renovation begins with Immortali exhibit.This is located in the basement, the path then takes the visitor through the mummy storage space, where a few mummies are visible through windows, then upstairs to the Predynastic and Kha collections, and finally across the courtyard to the statue room and temple of Elleysia.

There are plenty of brochures in multiple languages for information on both the Immortali exhibit and the regular collections of the museum. However if any individual forgets to grab these at the entrance, information is everywhere throughout the museum, as well as more places to grab these brochures.

The first information sheet, being that for Immortali discusses the plans for the future museum and what its layout will be.The plan is for the museum to confirm the famous quote by JF Champollion “The road to Memphis and Thebes passe through Turin.”.

The aims of the Immortali exhibit are to share the artifacts of the cult of the afterlife. The ideas around the afterlife changed throughout periods in Ancient Egypt, this exhibit shows how it was respected and how it differed through the ages. THe exhibit presents artifacts and great pieces of art which take the visitor through a ” vast chronological path” which includes the New, Middle and Old Kingdom as well as the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

Each piece was chosen to show uniqueness of style or material showing a high degree of knowledge and skill as well as ambition of the nobles to tell of their own greatness.

The exhibition most definitely meets its intended aims. It is set up with different display cases and statue center pieces in chronological order. Each case has a large written plaque with in depth but easily read and understandable information about what that particular case shows. For example one case may describe how religion changed during the Middle Kingdom, then how it can be seen through the use of different gods, in different displays.  Another is how funerary practices changed in Roman and Ptolemaic Egypt, with tombs and funerary items to show this.

Each artifact is included with a small card explaining what it depicts, when it came from, when and where it was found, and how it is unique or different from other items of this type.

Though the artifacts seen are similar to those found in most other Egyptian collections from museums around the world, with a few marvelous exceptions such as that of a painted dancer a weaving display, and books of the dead; the Museo Egizio  presents them in such a way that a visitor  even with prior knowledge still walks away with a load of new information. The museum is a much better source even than most books suitible for non academics.

This exhibit is so well presented with such short yet helpful information, provided in both Italian and English (with the possibility of a French guide) that everyone can walk away with a better understanding of Ancient Egypt.

Tours are offered in many languages, and though Immortali has no special events of displays for children the museum has a whole provides children’s events. The most crowd-pleasing being that of a Halloween event.

The Museum was founded in 1824 under Savoy King Carlo Felice, from the collection of Bernardino Drovetti, Napoleons French Consul to Egypt. This original collection housed 5268 items. When Ernesto Schiapperelli was head of the museum, another 25000 objects were added, either through excavation or through auction.  The exhibit of the Tomb of Kha was provided to the museum upon it’s excavation in 1906, it included another 504 items. The Temple of Ellesiya was rescued with the help of the museum from the rising waters of Lake Nasser in 1965. In 1966 Egypt gave the temple to the country of Italy who then put it in the care of the museum.

The Museo Egizio prides themselves on their massive collection ranging over 4000 years. As well as the fact the make this collection and the ancient civilization accessible to everyone. One of their main aims is to present the entire range of Ancient Egyptian history in a clear and interesting way to all.

The Egyptian Museum of Torino succesfully achieves and even goes further than its aims. The museum is fun for those of all ages and levels of Egyptology knowledge *even those with none!). It provides thoughtful information which is easily read and understood. Providing visitors with much on  Ancient Egyptian life throughout the dynasties.

The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 8:30am to 7:30pm. If you are in the area it is a must-see. The collection is fascinating and I can promise you will leave with a new interest in Egyptology and at least one artifact resonating with you.

If you are further away I do recommend a trip to Torino to visit not only this museum, but the many other attractions in the city. It might even be best to save a trip until 2015 when the newly renovated museum will be revealed.

 

A second snapshot of Torino

Throughout the arch covered walkways of the cities there were many little vendors, most of which were used and antique books.

Throughout the arch covered walkways of the city there were many little vendors, most of which were used and antique books.

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Statue found outside Gran Madre di Dio

Statue found outside Gran Madre di Dio

View from Gran Madre di Dio.

View from Gran Madre di Dio.

Taking a break before the Molle.

Taking a break before the Molle.

An autumn walk along the River Po.

An autumn walk along the River Po.

Castello Valentino

Castello Valentino

This Palace is in the center of Parco Valentino, and is now part of the Polytechnic University of Torino and is another residences of the Savoy Royal family. It was originally built in 1275 but its present state is from 1630. During this time it was home to Princess Christine Marie of France and Victor Amadeus the First.