15
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.

 

  1. Sarah says:

    I loved that reclining statue, despite being made of stone, it looked like you could swish the braid with your fingers. That’s some real craftmanship! And you’re right, the colours are just SO saturated!

    Don’t sweat the schedule – I was initally surprised you didn’t have 12 cities, but now it seems a ok. Gives you breathing room (of course, I think in the logical 1 calendar year ,12 months, totally ignoring all the other things life throws up! like time off, or when you actually went away, or… wanting to see places and not be ‘working!’. Keep it up!

  2. Michael Bargholz says:

    Warm people and warm colours. Well done.

  3. David says:

    Oh those dancers!!!! The first quick pic of Marcella is my choice….she looks natural and beautiful and I can see why you wanted to go back….but the make-up and the light and the loss of the spontaneity make the first pic way better IMHO!

  4. Steve says:

    “Objects of devotion” is my favourite!

  5. Louise says:

    Sarah – He’s lovely isn’t he? If you can’t get a good headstone etc in Italy, you can’t get it anywhere.
    Michael – Grazie!
    David – I do think she looks beautiful in the first pic – but I loved the way she struck a pose in the second, like she was 30 again. But I know what you mean.
    Steve – Ha! Yes, she has good pins that’s for sure.

  6. Lisa says:

    If I’m looking as good as Marcella at 81 I will be very happy!

    • Louise says:

      Agree. But it helps if you’re a raving beauty to start with.

  7. katerina says:

    So glad u went out and got 2 meet MARCELLA !! HOW BEAUTIFUL IS SHE ??? 81 incredibile !! Her eyes r so alive >>>> thanks for sharing her with us.

    • Louise says:

      I couldn’t keep her to myself! She’s suffered from bad health in the past five years but her eyes are still bright. And by the way, I gently chastised her about the ciggies – she told me she doesn’t inhale, that she just likes the flavour (they’re those mint ones).

  8. Clare says:

    I love Debora’s twinkly eyes. I swear they just winked at me!

    • Louise says:

      My grandmother used to tell me I smiled with my eyes. I think Debora does too. Beautiful.

  9. melissa says:

    Marcella is so “bella” she has the bone structure to look just stunning at 81, and look at how lovely her teeth are.. better than many at a third of her age…

    xo
    m

  10. Katie says:

    I love the colour, Louise. I am inspired – I need to make more of an effort over my last few weeks in Paris to spruce myself up and be bright!
    I am very excited to read about Berlin. Happy travels to the both of you xx

  11. matt H says:

    lovely louise; I love the way you capture people… so natural. Have fun in Spain (lucky things) and hope Coco has a great bday!

  12. Kylie says:

    A wonderful post Louise. I loved the story of Marcella and her life. Isn’t Anna gorgeous? Can’t wait for you adventures in Berlin. Ciao!

  13. Louise says:

    Melissa – She has good bones – but maybe all that dancing had something to do with it – doing something you love keeps you looking younger I reckon.
    Katie – Grazie!
    Matt H – Thanks so much. I’ve never been to Madrid so I’m looking forward to it. We’re only there for 4.5 days – it’ll pass in a flash no doubt.
    Kylie – Yeah, all the women we met in San Lorenzo were easy on the eye. I can’t wait to get to Berlin either. Never been and have heard so much about it.

  14. Elisa says:

    You’re succeeding where the most of romans aren’t. You can discover the beautiful where other can’t! Thank you for choose Rome and thank you to show us your job! Xo, Elisa

    • Louise says:

      Grazie Elisa! It’s my absolute pleasure.

  15. JENNY says:

    Another week of a very interesting part of Rome. You certainly find the characters and what terrific photos too. Thank you for bringing it to life for us in chilly Sydney!

  16. Wayne says:

    Molto bene!
    “Marcella” – wonderful.

  17. chris says:

    Marcella is still very beautiful.
    Italy is beautiful.
    Thankyou.

  18. Kah Kit Yoong says:

    Inspiring work. Thanks.

    • Louise says:

      Kah Kit Yoong, many thanks.

  19. Crissouli says:

    I have nominated you for an Illuminating Bloggers Award… you can read the details at As They Were http://astheywere.blogspot.com.au/
    Crissouli

    • Louise says:

      Crissouli, many thanks! I’m so glad you find this project illuminating.

  20. Ellen says:

    I agree marcella is bella

  21. Peggy says:

    Louise, my partner and I met in the piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere! Love these pictures, they bring back so many memories.

    Peggy
    http://www.takingtotheopenroad.wordpress.com

    • Louise says:

      Peggy – Hello! I remember you of course. So happy you checked in here.

Comment

*

52 Suburbs Around the World Book

52 Suburbs Around the World Book

New & improved price of $49.95! Click here to purchase!

Order my first book online

Buy the 52 Suburbs Book online

Find out more about the Sydney book here

Sponsors

Momento_180x150 copy

Advertisers