It’s time for a different street of the week. Instead of looking at the urban context surrounding a particular street today we are going to look at the human nature of this street which eight of us live on. I feel like it is the perfect way to wrap up these blog posts by talking about the street with which I have the most experience. I will just cover a standard day living on this street starting from the beginning and going to the end of the day.
In the morning seemingly everything would be ok, you’re laying there sleeping and enjoying a morning when you don’t really have to get up early or do anything important. Suddenly a cacophony of noise arises from outside the window. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that it is 8 in the morning, not necessarily early by any kind of normal standard but still a bit early to do what these people do. The list of noisy occurrences is almost endless, there could be a bunch of kids playing kick your best friend’s shoes right outside your window while slamming their faces against the wall or the dog across the street barking as loud as it can at any given time because its owners aren’t kind enough to know how to treat it properly. Recently there has been pretty heavy construction going on either below us or above us; it’s really hard to tell sometimes. The sound of a ship docking outside your window during heavy fog on a Saturday is certainly a great way to start your weekend.
Around noon time, things start to calm down as people settle into their normal daily routines and go about their business away from their homes. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of noise to go around; the dog continues to bark, a what sounds like a herd of cattle stampede across the floor above us. We gather our local news of Rome not from our own televisions or computers but from the gentleman down the street who insists on listening to his TV with the volume as loud as it will go and then falling asleep to it. His musical taste cannot go without mention either, it is truly impeccable, if you like anything from rap to classical he’s got it and will be more than happy to share with you.
At night, I’ll be lying in bed minding my own business when jet planes start taking off or returning to base on our street. I realize conducting nighttime sorties is a standard practice by any nation’s air force but what I failed to realize was that our street was to be used as their designated airfield. This continues throughout the night and when you’re tired enough you can manage to sleep through it. Occasionally the night train will scream down the tracks and send echoing noises up the road without any additional traffic to help dampen it.
Granted not everything is bad here, there are plenty of times that are quiet and peaceful. I also know that we have contributed our fair share of noise to the street because it just wouldn’t be fair to our neighbors and everyone else to not leave our mark and lasting impression on the street that has made experience the life of the everyday Roman like nothing else in this town could. Honestly I’m not bitter, I just find these observations of my home here in Rome too great to not share with everyone.
In a departure from the street we normally talk about in this blog, from being in the heart of Rome, today I’m going to talk about Via Litoranea. The only real thing that makes this street so special is that it runs directly parallel to the coast and what is better than that? I was riding my bike with Aaron Pilat to the coast. Getting through the Roman traffic was a little bit difficult but as long as you pay close attention to what is going on around you it is not all that bad. People generally pay more attention to traffic around them then they do in the United States. We took Via Cristoforo Colombo to get out of the city and this took us all the way to the coast. When you initially get to the coast it is visually different from what you would normally see in picturesque postcards of exotic beaches but the beach is the beach and in the relaxing and mild afternoon air nothing is really more pleasant. I mean is there really any better scenery in which to suffer in than that of the coastline? This blog post may not provide any kind of usable information in regards to what the importance of this road is but it is the story of the experience that makes the road special.
There is not much located on this road, it is primarily used as a connection along the coast to connect towns situated on the shore line. The road runs almost dead straight and basically completely flat with a few bends here and there while the continuous view of the coast is momentarily interrupted with stints through the vegetation of the Riserva Naturale di Decima Malafede, also a very nice area to ride through full of lush greenery. Via Litoranea runs basically unaltered into Anzio and Nettuno, the name does change to Via Ardeatina when it meets with Viale San Lorenzo at Marina di Ardea-Tor San Lorenzo but other than that it continues to roll gently along the coast line. This coastline road is basically left barren except for the occasion town you roll through or the various restaurants that line the road along the entrances to the public beach areas. Nevertheless, there is much along the road that is part of what makes it so special to either ride of drive along for a leisurely weekend spin. More than the sums of its parts this road is about that experience of being on the road with the top down and then wind in your hair that makes it special. Enjoying the scenery either alone or with another person is something that is unforgettable and definitely worth the time. to do.
Like every other street in the city of Rome, Via Nazionale is busy with constant traffic from pedestrians, motorists and other forms of public transportation. The business is to be expected considering it is one of the more important streets in the city and is in very close proximity to the Termini train station, the main thoroughfare in and out of the city. Nazionale runs between the “Wedding Cake,” like so many other streets, to the southwest and the Piazza del Repubblica to the northeast. Other than those two main landmarks there is the Palazzo dell’Esposizioni, which houses exhibitions and the church Santi Vitale e Compangni Martiri in Fovea which is actually set down below street level and is accessed from a large, main staircase in front of it. Other than those few sights there are not too many other sights on the street besides the abundance of shops and restaurants, similar to the Via del Corso.
Nazionale is a wide, cobbled street with sidewalks on either side that are around 15’ wide each. The street goes through a pretty wide change in elevation rising from the southwest end to the northeast and when standing at the northeast end it provides nice views down the street and towards the “Wedding Cake.” Even with the entire street, including the sidewalks, being pretty wide the street still maintains a level of intimacy about it due to the fact that the buildings that flank both sides of the street are tall, rising between six and seven stories, and create solid boundaries for the road. Even though the weather was not so great and it was cloudy, the amount of traffic both on the road and on the sidewalk was still high and as the day progresses the amount of traffic seems to increase. At night, though, Piazza del Repubblica is a nice and interesting place to be because when the sun goes down the building that encloses about half of the piazza lights up, providing nice views that compliment the piazza space and give the building a certain regal quality to it. Bottom line, if you are out shopping and you cannot find a store on the Via del Corso chances are that you can probably find it on Via Nazionale. It is definitely a street worth visiting just as so many other streets in the city of Rome are as well.
A brisk morning stroll down the Corso makes for a pleasant way to begin ones day. Running north and south from Piazzo del Popolo to the base of the Capitoline Hill, respectively, the Via del Corso forms a perfect axial relationship between two of the city’s key features in the heart of Rome. The Corso is typically a major tourist destination due to the abundance of shopping and hotels in combination with its close proximity to, more or less, all of the primary points of interests in Rome. Despite the crowds that fill its sidewalks throughout the day, the Corso makes for an excellent place to walk around to get yourself a coffee and enjoy the morning before all of the stores open and the tourists awaken from their jetlag slumber. Although the street is still busy in the morning with people getting to work and opening their shops the street does not feel crowded because of the large width of the street and sidewalks, especially compared to the typical Roman street. Due to the high number of pedestrians and endless locations to shop the north section of the road is closed to vehicular traffic. Shopping is not the only thing the Corso has to offer. Various churches line the road for those who live and work in the area, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj provides a quiet area with gallery space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the street. Galleria Alberto Sordi sits across the street from the column of Marcus Aurelius and is a shopping arcade constructed in the Art Nouveau style. Also, if you want to pay the Italian president a visit, he lives in the same piazza as the column. The Via del Corso gives you an excellent opportunity to spend both time and money in the city center to Rome.
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