23

Trastevere

T intro

 

For the fourth and final Rome installment, I wanted to venture further afield, into the real suburbs of Rome. But neither Coco nor I have been 100%, and the days have been too short to stray far – with temperatures hitting 36-38 degrees C, you only start thinking about going out after 5pm.

When I reviewed my shortlist of potential Roman neighbourhoods, I decided to choose one that I’d previously dismissed – Trastevere. Just west of the River Tiber, it’s within the Aurelian Walls and is one of the rioni of Rome. Jam packed with history – and tourists.

But as much as I feared it would be too postcard perfect and lacking in depth, I was pleasantly surprised; unlike much of Rome, Trastevere manages to transcend its tourist hordes.

Some facts… Name comes from the Latin trans Tiberim, ‘beyond the Tiber’. Isolated for a long time due to its location across the river. It houses two of the most ancient churches in Rome, Santa Maria and Santa Cecilia, as well as a multitude of restaurants and bars. Today, it’s still a maze of narrow, winding streets paved with the distinctive cobble stones, sampietrini – the enemy of the stiletto.

Okay, for the last time, andiamo!

 

Part 1: Santa Maria

One of the oldest churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere is tucked away in a corner of the neighbourhood’s main piazza. Not particularly grand or imposing, your eye is drawn more to the central fountain and the restaurants and bars that line the square.

But its interior is impressive – as are the events that take place here. On one day, a prayer vigil for the African boat people, the next, a glamorous wedding. Santa Maria may be a thousand years old but she’s still very much alive and kicking.

 

 

entering Rione XIII, place of many churches

entering Rione XIII, place of many churches

 

 

 

 

Santa Maria, outside and in

Santa Maria, outside and in

 

 

 

 

ripples

ripples

 

 

 

 

in her dreams she swam free

in her dreams she swam free

 

 

 

 

water water everywhere but not a drop to swim in

water water everywhere but not a drop to swim in

 

 

 

 

please God, turn the temperature down

please God, turn the temperature down

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Tourists aren’t the only people who love Italy

Italy is one of the countries that many North Africans and others are fleeing to, in search of a better life. But many don’t survive the journey across the seas. In 2011, 2,200 people died trying to reach Italy’s shores.

We happened to be in Trastevere when a prayer vigil was being held at Santa Maria – Morire di Speranza, Dying of Hope, ‘in memory of victims of voyages to Europe’.

It’s complicated of course; not everyone in Italy wants more immigrants.

It reminded me of the tragedy of the boat people who try to make it to Australia – and the wars they cause amongst the politicians and the populace.

 

 

Morire di Speranza - Dying of Hope

Morire di Speranza - Dying of Hope

 

 

 

 

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 1

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 1

 

 

 

 

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea

in memory of Africa's boat people who've lost their lives at sea :: 2

 

 

 

 

they fled their homes in search of paradise - but ended up in heaven

they fled their homes in search of paradise - but ended up in heaven

 

 

 

 

life is beautiful - and precarious

life is beautiful - and precarious

 

 

 

 

compassion

compassion

 

 

 

 

something needs to change

something needs to change

 

 

 

 

These are hard times in Europe – you can feel the desperation on the streets, far more so than in Australia. As a result, the tensions over immigration are worse than ever. Yet Rome is probably as multicultural as it’s ever been. All the immigrants we met had jobs and felt life in Rome was pretty good. They are the lucky ones.

 

 

Rome is multicoloured - Khan Asi from Pakistan

Rome is multicoloured - Khan Asi from Pakistan

 

 

 

 

and then she hopped on her scooter and drove off - Bernadeth, Sri Lanka

and then she hopped on her scooter and drove off - Bernadeth, Sri Lanka

 

 

 

 

one of the lucky ones - Ignatious from India

one of the lucky ones - Ignatious from India

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Wedding bells

The next day we visited, Santa Maria was hosting an altogether different kind of ceremony – a wedding. Coco and I watched from the back of the church then hopped outside once it was over to take some shots. Kids tearing about the piazza, grandfathers blowing bubbles, kisses everywhere – it was chaos. But I did manage to capture one of the flower girls, Ginevra – well, I tried anyway. Everyone else seemed happy to have me in their midst – but not Ginevra.

 

 

not amused - Ginevra

not amused - Ginevra

 

 

 

 

please Ginevra, turn around so Louise can take your photo

please Ginevra, turn around so Louise can take your photo

 

 

 

 

one angelic, one not

one angelic, one not

 

 

 

 

I gave up in the end. Actually, that’s not true. I never give up. Ginevra and her family drove off so I had no choice. Her mum asked me to send her a photo – didn’t she see that her little darling hadn’t played nice?

Defeated by a four year old I took two more snaps and left. At least the bride smiled at me. Sort of. (Yes, I know, I crashed a wedding, what did I expect?)

 

Sopranos-esque?

Sopranos-esque?

 

 

 

 

I don't remember you being on the guest list

I don't remember you being on the guest list

 

 

 

 

Part 4: The mix

Trastevere is populated by a mix of locals and tourists from all over the planet. You can tell who’s who by  looking at the clock – those eating at the restaurants before 8pm, well, that’s your tourist. No self-respecting Roman would even consider sitting down to dine before then.

First up, a few locals…

 

summer palette - Carlo :: 1

summer palette - Carlo :: 1

 

 

 

 

summer palette - Carlo :: 2

summer palette - Carlo :: 2

 

 

 

 

Carolina and her grandfather, now and in a few years time

Carolina and her grandfather, now and in a few years time

 

 

 

And my favourite, Ferruccio. When I asked to take a photo, he said, one?, why not take two – and proceeded to assume the pose below.

 

'leave the gun, take the cannollis' - The Godfather

'leave the gun, take the cannollis' - The Godfather

 

 

 

 

And then there are the tourists…

 

from freezing Finland to steamy Rome

from freezing Finland to roasting Rome

 

 

 

 

Spanish gals

Spanish gals

 

 

 

 

different walks of life - the busker and the beauty

different walks of life - the busker and the beauty

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Different types

Trastevere has a handful of interesting typefaces and signage from different eras spotted around the place. My favourite, the lettering outside a now derelict 1950s cinema; it was almost demolished a few years ago to make way for apartments but the community loved it so much they resisted the development and won. So far so good anyway.

 

now starring in its own love story

now starring in its own love story

 

 

 

 

dear mum, I met this Italian guy at dinner and I'm staying for the summer

dear mum, I met this Italian guy at dinner and I'm staying for the summer

 

 

 

 

graphics, old and new

graphics, old and new

 

 

 

 

sigh

sigh

 

 

 

 

and its Fiat Bambinos

and its Fiat Bambinos

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Of the cities we’ve visited so far, Rome seems to be the one that’s most infused with tourists. I suspect in fact that all the ancient pillars and ruins are only remaining vertical for the tourists; were the backpack-wearing, map-toting mobs to evaporate, I think the old stones would take a long last breath before crumbling to the ground. What would they have to live for without the tourists?

But Trastevere seems different to me. Yes it’s touristy, but the place has so much soul that it rises above the masses that come to eat, drink and be merry down its narrow lanes. Were the tourists to evaporate in Trastevere, life would go on here perfectly fine. Just ask Ferruccio.

 

 

the piazza that makes everything glow red

the piazza that makes everything glow red

 

 

 

 

Coco Gelato

Coco Gelato

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

As I said, both of us haven’t been 100% this week, not helped by the debilitating heat. But Coco was well enough to enjoy her umpteenth gelato so things can’t be too bad.

I, on the other hand, felt much improved after meeting our neighbour. One night this week the power went out in our apartment. Pitch black, no torch, no candles. Both Coco and I on our hands and knees to get down the stairs to the front door to fiddle with the fuse box. After flicking all the switches and nothing happening, I went and buzzed the other apartments – and who should answer our cry for help but this handsome man. He takes one look at the fuse box and flicks a switch I didn’t see – and hey presto, light! The perfect excuse to plant a smoocher on him, on the cheek of course. Just as we were leaving Rome… Agh, he’s probably married anyway.

(Oh, and then I met this incredibly sexy priest in Trastevere. There was definitely chemistry between us. I think. Not sure if you can have chemistry with a priest – Thornbirds anyone? – but I think we did. Yikes.)

Clearly the heat is getting to me and it’s time to head north to cooler climes. So, Rome, arrivederci! Your famous old bits are impressive but it’s your people and your neighbourhoods that I really like. And thanks to everyone we met for their ‘suburb’ suggestions and general encouragement – Lisa, Elisa, Simone and Ana, and Ilaria and Luca. Grazie mille!

This suburb has been brought to you by Chrissy Griffin

We’re heading over to Madrid for a few days to meet up with friends so we’ll see you in Berlin in two week’s time – the first Berlin post will be on Monday July 9. Can’t wait.

 

22

San Lorenzo

SL intro

 

Rome may be all about the old, but it’s also populated by an energised, politicised, often pierced and tattooed youth. Which is why I chose a neighbourhood this week that surely must have more than its fair share of bright young things – San Lorenzo.

Not far from Pigneto, San Lorenzo is literally a stone’s throw from Rome proper – if you can throw a stone high enough to get it over the Aurelian Walls that separates it from the city centre that is.

Some facts: First buildings shot up in 1884, only to have some of them shot down in WWII, making San Lorenzo the only area in Rome to be badly bombed (they were aiming for the nearby Termini Railway Station and freight yard but missed). Originally working class, it’s now youth central because it’s next door to Rome’s largest university. Name comes from the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura which is right alongside the sprawling Verano Cemetery.

 

Part 1: Living on the edge

San Lorenzo hasn’t had an easy life. First, the bombing in 1943 that demolished some of its buildings and killed 1,500. Then in the 60s it was angst ridden with student activists and left-wingers agitating for change. And today, if you’re jobless, pissed off or have any sort of cause whatsoever, this is still the place to vent your fury. Except now you can do it while knocking back a boutique beer for much less than you’d pay anywhere else in Roma.

 

 

even God couldn't stop the bombing

even God couldn't stop the bombing

 

 

 

 

today, San Lorenzo still needs its prayers answered

today, San Lorenzo still needs its prayers answered

 

 

 

 

beer o'clock, wherever you choose to have it

beer o'clock, wherever you choose to have it

 

 

 

 

watering holes - the bar and Big Nose the fountain

watering holes - the bar and Big Nose the fountain

 

 

 

 

aperitivo then walk the dog

aperitivo then walk the dog

 

 

 

 

sacred places - church and pizzeria

sacred places - church and pizzeria :: 1

 

 

 

 

sacred places - church and pizzeria :: 2

sacred places - church and pizzeria :: 2

 

 

 

 

vroom vroooooom

vroom vroooooom

 

 

 

 

there'll be lots of sleepy heads in San Lorenzo tomorrow

there'll be lots of sleepy heads in San Lorenzo tomorrow

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Footie

Last week Italy faced off Croatia in Euro 2012 and the pubs and bars around Rome were filled with footie fans. We happened to walk past a bar in San Lorenzo just minutes before Italy kicked a goal. The only goal as it turned out but still a goal.

 

 

go you good things - Italy vs Croatia, Euro 2012

go you good things - Italy vs Croatia, Euro 2012

 

 

 

 

small TV, large crowd - Valeria and friends, maths students

small TV, large crowd - Valeria and friends, maths students

 

 

 

 

Italy scores and the crowd goes wild - Francesco and friend, maths students

Italy scores and the crowd goes wild - Francesco and friend, maths students

 

 

 

 

half time - Andrea and David, architecture students

half time - Andrea and David, architecture students

 

 

 

Before leaving San Lorenzo that evening we met another university student, Debora, walking home with a friend. I’m not sure if she’d just seen the goal being kicked but she had the most beautiful smile.

 

twinkly eyes - Debora

twinkly eyes - Debora

 

 

 

 

what an interesting tattoo she has

what an interesting tattoo she has

 

 

 

 

Debora

that smile

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Dancing girls

Breaking my rule never to venture out in the heat of the day, we visited San Lorenzo last Saturday at around 10am. I’m so glad we did because if we hadn’t, we would never have met Marcella Ruffini.

Walking slowly along a street near the main piazza, I noticed an older lady with her head out her window on the first floor of her apartment block, enjoying a morning cigarette. She was beautiful despite her years so I stopped to ask if I could take her photo. I really thought she’d decline but this is a woman who is used to having her photo taken. Or at least was, when she was a famous dancer, singer and actress.

Until her son Angelo appeared, we couldn’t really communicate but she kept passing down old photos for Coco and I to look at. When Angelo popped his head out the window, I learned that his 81 year old mum had had a long and successful career, kicked off by working with one of Italy’s legendary stars, Alberto Sordi in Un Americano a Roma. She danced alongside him and never looked back.

She later married Mario Molino, who also became a famous musician, and together they had a son, Anglelo, a lovely man who also happens to be a mover and shaker in the music world, spending much of his time in the US.

I would have known nothing of all this had Marcella not happened to stick her head out at the precise moment we were walking past.

 

 

then and now at 81 - Marcella

then and now, at 81 - Marcella :: 1

 

 

 

 

Marcella and son Angelo

Marcella and son Angelo

 

 

 

 

I was keen to photograph Marcella again so we met at 7pm that night at the bar on the piazza. While Angelo ducked away to do something, I quizzed Marcella all about her interesting life, aided by the fabulous Lisa, an Australian blog follower who lives in Rome and speaks fluent Italian. So there we sat, Coco sipping a succo d’arancia while her mother fired questions at an 81 year old Italian star who was more concerned that Coco didn’t have a straw for her juice than she was with talking about her famous career.

 

 

then and now, at 81 - Marcella :: 2

then and now, at 81 - Marcella :: 2

 

 

 

 

And did Marcella think she was still bella? No way. She told us that five years ago she had beautiful skin and hair; major illness and a botched heart operation since then had robbed her of her looks. I can understand – growing old ain’t fun for anyone but perhaps especially so when you’ve been a real beauty all your life – but I think she’s wrong.

 

star

bella

 

 

 

 

In between our two meetings with Marcella and Angelo, Coco and I met another dancer, Giuditta Sin. Aside from being a third of Marcella’s age, Giuditta Sin dances to a very different beat – burlesque. We noticed her while she was being interviewed by half American, half Italian Anna, who’s doing a project on burlesque dance.

 

the interview

the interview

 

 

 

burlesque dancer, Giuditta Sin

burlesque dancer, Giuditta Sin

 

 

 

 

objects of devotion

objects of devotion

 

 

 

 

the dancers, 50 years apart - Marcella and Giuditta Sin

the dancers, 50 years apart - Marcella and Giuditta Sin

 

 

 

 

fantasy made real

fantasy made real

 

 

 

 

Giuditta Sin travels all around Europe with her act. And guess where she’s going next? Berlin, when we’ll be there. Coco has been promised a backstage pass and Giuditta Sin assures us she’ll be fine to get in despite her tender years. “Berlin is cool like that.” Hold on to your feather boa, Coco!

Before we left them, Anna hopped in front of the camera for a few poses too. All the world’s a stage in San Lorenzo.

 

strike a pose - Anna

strike a pose - Anna

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Colourful San Lorenzo

Everything has a little more edge to it in this neighbourhood, including colour.

 

verde

verde

 

 

 

 

arancione :: 1

arancione :: 1

 

 

 

 

arancione :: 2

arancione :: 2

 

 

 

 

a modern priest for a modern era

a modern priest for a modern era

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Ending on a sweet note

San Lorenzo has the usual sugary fare – gelato, Italian biscuits etc. But it also has bocca di dama, a ridiculously pretty cake/biscuit shop that appears to be channeling Martha Stewart, filled as it is with artfully designed dolci per comunicare – ‘sweets to communicate’.

Most surprising in gritty, edgy, angst-ridden San Lorenzo.

 

little Mirella would've loved these

little Mirella would've loved these

 

 

 

 

minimalism

minimalism

 

 

 

 

decorative edging

decorative edging

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Like Pigneto, San Lorenzo is most well known among locals for its exciting night life. Apparently the place explodes with small bars and music venues hidden during the day behind unassuming garage doors. As interesting as that sounds, I found more than enough to keep me entertained during the daytime thanks to two dancers, a soccer game and a colourful community.

 

 

 

hexagon, star and diamond

hexagon, star and diamond

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

One more week in Rome and then we’re off to Berlin. Well, we’re actually going to spend five days in Madrid before we hit Berlin to meet up with one of Coco’s best school friends and her family. I really thought Coco deserved some ‘time off’ and she is so excited to be seeing her great buddy. It’ll also be Coco’s birthday on July 2 so we’ll celebrate a few days early with our friends rather than on our lonesome.

I will probably take the time off too despite the fact I really don’t want to get any more behind. Every week I miss extends the project timeline – and we need to be back at the latest by the end of January 2013 for Coco’s school. Mmm, school.

This suburb has been brought to you by John Swainston

See you next Monday for the fourth and final Rome installment.

 

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