20

Pigneto

P intro

 

Benvenuti a Roma!

It seems fitting since we’re in Christianity’s HQ to begin with a confession – I’ve never been crazy about the place. It’s partly because the two times I’ve been weren’t exactly a load of laughs. The first time was as a kid, when I spent most of my Roman holiday in bed with glandular fever and acute tonsillitis. The last time was around 10 years ago, with my then partner. It was meant to be a break from a particularly tough time. Instead he and I fought like cat and dog.

Aside from that, the other reason I’m underwhelmed by what most people find to be an overwhelmingly beautiful city is my complete lack of the tourist gene. I know I should be struck with awe when I visit the Colosseum et al. And maybe, if I didn’t have to queue for hours, I would be. But any time I attempt to do the tourist thing I get really stroppy. In short, it ruins the ruins.

So, much like Paris, I’m hoping that by stepping off the tourist trail and exploring lesser known neighbourhoods, I’ll finally ‘get’ Rome.

Confession over, let’s get on with it. Rome – famous for the Colosseum, St Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps etc etc etc. Less so for Pigneto, our first neighbourhood in the eternal city.

Sitting just outside the Aurelian Walls that enclose Rome’s historic centre, Pigneto isn’t one of Rome’s 22 rioni but rather a quartieri urbani – one of the 35 districts that surround the historical centre.

I chose it on the recommendation of Lisa, an Australian blog follower who lives in Pigneto. She said it wasn’t charming or postcard pretty but worth a look.

Some history: While much of Rome is almost 3,000 years old, Pigneto is mostly a mix of low rise and high rise apartments from the 30s and 70s. Name has something to do with the curiously shaped ‘Umbrella’ pine trees in the area. Was working-class and dangerous, now trendy with an edge – pushers live on the same street that sells the best gelato I’ve ever tasted.

Andiamo Pigneto!

 

Part 1: Day one, a wander through the neighbourhood

Pigneto is only a 15 minute bus ride from the tourist trail but so far it’s escaped the spotlight. It helps that it’s not on a metro line (they’re building one, line C, but it’s delayed every time they discover yet another thousand year old bit of Rome) but the main reason is, there’s nothing much to see. Not a ruin in sight and aside from some lovely weathered buildings, pretty charmless.

Which is just fine with the locals. The ones we met were more interested in the low-key vibe of the place and the creative community that hangs out here…

 

pedestrians only on Via del Pigneto

the heart of Pigneto – the pedestrian only strip, Via del Pigneto

 

 

 

First up we meet Mauro, a choreographer who’s lived here for 10 years. He liked Pigneto better when it was full of old people instead of the young crowd of today. “Too trendy now”.

 

Mauro the choreographer

Mauro the choreographer

 

 

 

Coco shows Mauro her dance routine – as you do when you meet a choreographer – then we wander around the back streets until we notice an open door – Francesca, busy at work fashioning pieces of wood into whimsical sculptures.

 

artist Francesco

artist Francesca

 

 

 

 

recycled into art

recycled into art

 

 

 

Around the corner from Francesca is architect Azzurra, who enlightens us about the extreme challenges architects face in getting anything done in Rome. Not only because of the ancient ruins but also the different approach to time – “It’s the eternal city after all”.

 

architect Azzurra needs divine intervention to get anything done

architect Azzurra needs divine intervention to get anything done

 

 

 

Later in the day we meet a beautiful family on a bike ride around the neighbourhood. Simone and his wife, Ana, live in Pigneto with their two year old son, Yago. While Ana loves it for its authenticity, Simone is concerned it may not be the best place to bring a child up.

 

bella boys - Simone and Yago

bella boys – Simone and Yago

 

 

 

 

bambini - Coco and Yago

bambini – Coco and Yago

 

 

 

By early evening Pigneto is picking up pace. On the pedestrian-only main street the food markets from the morning have been replaced by tables and chairs for the crowded bar/cafes. Someone’s giving a book reading, kids are running around, people are coming home on their bikes.

We meet Greta outside one of the bars. Originally from southern Italy she’s lived in Pigneto for years. To her it still feels like a little village, but one that’s more exciting than her home town.

 

Greta and Marilyn

Greta and Marilyn

 

 

 

 

burnt sienna

burnt sienna

 

 

 

Coco demands gelato so we finish the day with two scoops of fragola, per favore. Right near the gelato bar is our last Roman for the day, Roberta, a photographer. I comment on her look of senza reggiseno – bra-less. She says they don’t really get it in Rome but in Milan, for sure.

 

dreamy - Roberta

dreamy – Roberta

 

 

 

 

to wear or not to wear

to wear or not to wear

 

 

 

Part 2: La dolce vita

Life is sweet, particularly when you have some of the best gelato in all of Rome on your doorstep. Its maker tells me it’s because of the love he pours into it. Well, what he actually said was that he uses the best ingredients – but I reckon one of them is love.

Hanging around outside the bar we meet Adiba, from Bangladesh, and her mate, Chrisler, from the Philippines. Just two of the many nationalities that call Pigneto home.

 

 

Adiba, hanging out in front of the best gelato bar in town

Adiba

 

 

 

 

fragola

fragola

 

 

 

 

la dolce vita

la dolce vita

 

 

 

 

melone

melone

 

 

 

 

mmm, yum - Chrisler

mmm, yum – Chrisler

 

 

 

 

cioccolato

cioccolato

 

 

 

 

after gelato - play time :: 1

after gelato – play time :: 1

 

 

 

 

after gelato - play time :: 2

after gelato – play time :: 2

 

 

 

While we’re talking pink…

 

 

Pigneto's feminine side :: 1

Pigneto’s feminine side :: 1

 

 

 

 

Pigneto's feminine side :: 2

Pigneto’s feminine side :: 2

 

 

 

 

green and pink

green and pink

 

 

 

Part 3: Aside from fabulous gelato…

Eating and drinking well is a national pastime in Italy and Pigneto is no different. Whether you’re after pizza or an aperitivo, there’s a handful of cafe-bar-restaurant options, from the classic unadorned to the hip retro-inspired and more chic.

 

life is beautiful

life is beautiful

 

 

 

 

pizza run

pizza run

 

 

 

 

where coffee is a religion

where coffee is a religion

 

 

 

 

and a cool pair of shades - bar/cafe Necci

and a cool pair of shades – bar/cafe Necci

 

 

 

 

strong Romans

strong Romans

 

 

 

 

a fish out of water - Primo

a fish out of water – Primo

 

 

 

 

aperitivo time :: 1

aperitivo time :: 1

 

 

 

 

aperitivo time :: 2

aperitivo time :: 2

 

 

 

Part 4: Inked

Pigneto may have a healthy mix of different groups, but they seem to hang out in their separate corners. There are the African guys (who politely refused my camera) on one corner opposite the laid back crowd that hangs outside “the cafe with the plastic red tables”. And then there are the tattooed all-in-black dudes outside the beer bar.

 

freshly inked - Lidya

freshly inked – Lidya

 

 

 

 

cherries and Frida

cherries and Frida

 

 

 

 

Frida would've liked that

Frida would’ve liked that

 

 

 

 

Mattao

Mattao

 

 

 

 In fact, Pigneto in general seems to be tattoo central.

 

golden light

golden light

 

 

 

 

jungle girls

jungle girls

 

 

 

Part 5: Older Pigneto

Where we met two Marios and a Gina…

 

Mario - his past and present

Mario – his past and present

 

 

 

 

old Pigneto

fading

 

 

 

 

classic Italy - another Mario

classic Italy – another Mario

 

 

 

 

coffee at Gina's

coffee at Gina’s

 

 

 

Part 6: You gotta have faith

There are hundreds of churches in Rome but I could only find one in Pigneto, and not a very memorable one at that. But there were quite a few street chapels and madonnelle, small shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

 

roadside flowers

roadside flowers

 

 

 

 

a modern day madonna

a modern day madonna

 

 

 

 

maybe Saint Giacinta could hurry the metro up

maybe Saint Giacinta could hurry the metro up

 

 

 

 

children, time to go home

children, time to go home

 

 

 

 

a prayer for Pigneto

a prayer for Pigneto

 

 

 

The Wrap

Call me strange but I got so much more out of our time in Pigneto than I ever did in previous visits to the famous stuff in Rome. While the neighbourhood ain’t much to look at, it houses a diverse and interesting crowd that is mercifully tourist-free. But a word of warning – if you take the 105 bus there from Termini, hold on to your valuables – I almost had my stuff nicked by a sleazy little man I hope never to see again. Shame on him.

 

 

Coco, last day in Paris

Coco, last day in Paris

 

 

On the ‘home front’

As promised, a photo of Coco in Paris. She looks happy then but you should see her now – she’s landed in a world of pizza and gelato and she’s permanently beaming.

This suburb has been brought to you by Mackenzie Pronk Architects

See you next Monday.

 

Order my first book online

Buy the 52 Suburbs Book online

Find out more about the Sydney book here

Sponsors

Advertisers

EnglishItalianChinese (Traditional)GermanFrenchHindiTurkish
Site Meter