It was another rainy and overcast afternoon as we began our walk down Via Dei Fori Imperiali.
Along its wide street and sidewalks, vendors and taxis attempt to catch the eye of a tourist while the locals dodge the hordes of people feverishly snapping pictures. Running from the Colosseum to the north, Palazzo Venezia to the south, and straight through the Fora’s infinite collection of ruins—this is the heart of Rome. Despite the pine trees, street lights, and green spaces that offer some relief from the surrounding monumentality, the street cannot revoke its connection to the Fascist dictator that created it. Previously renamed Via dell’Impero by the not so subtle Mussolini, the street is lined with Fascist propaganda that glorifies the Roman Empire and declares for its resurgence to power. As we pass the statue of Trajan and the stone maps that inscribe the once colossal boundaries of the empire, it becomes clear that Fori Imperiali was a tool of disillusionment. Like many other instances, the Fascist regime made its mark on the heart of Rome. It is hard to believe the street was previously covered by one of Rome’s densest neighborhoods, monasteries, and buildings that dated back to the Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance periods. Besides the displacement of some of the poorest families, the recently unearthed ruins were again buried for the construction of a street that now creates an unrelenting rift between the Fora. Today, infuriated archeologists are still uncovering lost again artifacts beneath the road, and there is a push for the road to be removed due to the harmful vibrations and exhaust from dense traffic. As we wait for the light to turn green, masses of tour buses, taxis, cars, and weaving motorcycles swiftly pass and create a tunnel of endless movement. Is it possible to re-route an artery that has become entangled in Roman daily life? Transforming it into a pedestrian zone would be a step in the right direction, but what about a pedestrian bridge that actually reveals and reconnects the lost ruins of the underground Fora?
More streets to come,
Amy Shell + Tyler Yamamoto