Thursday, 30 April 2015

Markets of Rome: Nuovo Mercato Esquilino

Today we'll talk about the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino, located in Turati street, close to the Termini Station.
This market, now a hit with tourists and fans of Asian cooking, was originally placed around the close-by Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, naturally developed around the park due to the presence of the highly populated apartment buildings, dating around the end of the XIX century, built as an attempt to turn the Esquilino quartiere into a residential area for the middle-high class (for further reference check the article about the Acquario Romano).

On the archives of Roma Sparita you can take a peek to how the market looked in the first years of the XX century.

Due to the obvious hygienical and urbanistic troubles, on 2001 finally the administration decided to move the market, that by now was attended also by the many Chinese and Indian sellers who supported the local communities, to the ex-barracks (now partially occupied by the Faculty of Eastern Studies of La Sapienza, too) by the Termini Station, granting a better maintenance of the park and the streets around it and obviously the check of the hygienical conditions of the market.
The area is divided into two sections: on the left is the building dedicated to clothes and fabrics, and on the right is the most interesting area of the market, that dedicated to food.

Famous for its cheap prices and quality of local products, its regularly attended by locals and tourists.

But due to the high concentration of immigrants of the area, it's easy to find really peculiar vegetables and foods, destined the various ethnic restaurants of the area:

There's also meat and fish on sale, but I'm not so sure about the quality of the fish, even if around I read good reviews about it...

In the other area you can find interesting import fabrics at quite the affordable prices, cheap clothes and other interesting bits (I'm a fan of the souvenir tapestries, even if by now that's mere touristic merchandise that can be found everywhere in Italy!)

As this is mostly a proper market for food, it's missing some of the "adventurous shopping vibe" that we can find in places like Porta Portese or Via Sannio, but its genuine melting-pot mood made a place of touristic interest and a symbol of cultural integration of it, so if you happen around the place I suggest you to take a peek and eventually to buy a snack (my suggestion is to try the tasty pickled olives pictured above)!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Popes around Rome: the Reinassance

Walking across the streets of Rome you'd be attacked on various fronts by all kind of monuments, from gates to fountains to obelisks, without mentioning churches and palaces.
If you take a close look to the details, though, you may notice that all of them were more or less sponsored by coats of arms featuring obscure symbols-- Those belong to Popes, that pretty much ruled our precious city with the might of princes and, in some lucky cases, with the tastes of the philantropists.

Those pretty things must be interpreted as pure acts of propaganda, to show the strenght and power, not just of the individual, but of the family behind the Papacy.
Starting 1400s Italy can show its basic difference from the rest of Europe, because it developed some very modern attitude, concerning politics, art and war: what is now called the "Reinassance", the Rinascimento.
As the rest of the continernt was pretty much led by Emperors and Kings, sticking to the feudalism, Italy started to develop its very independent kind of government based on the city.
Cities developed government, treaties and laws of their own, and if it exasperated the fragmentation of the land, erupting in a galore of extremely violent domestic wars, it also contributed to the birth of an extremely modern society, what could be considered an ante litteram Capitalism.
The cities that enjoyed the most this complicated -yet new system were those with strong monetary and commercial inputs, Florence and Venice, for example. This contributed to the rise of extremely influential families, expecially those that enriched themselves with commercial or banking activities.

During this period, Rome was quite messed up by its continuos power struggles with the authority of the Emperor, the Western Schism and the sempiternal domestic fights among the Roman noble families.
The return of the papacy in Rome in 1417 with Martino V Colonna marked a moment of relative political calm, where the Popes could finally focus on the Eternal City, so to turn it into a competitive core of authority and power --The bad side of the deal was that the papacy started to attract influential families and that these families grew more and more focused on "family business" rather than the destiny of Rome!

But let's start to take a tour to get to know these guys better.

The Della Roveres
The Della Roveres were a noble family hailing from Savona and their coat of arms represents the typical "Oak Tree" of their name:
The influence of this noble, yet not so powerful, family skyrocketed in 1474, when a certain Francesco della Rovere was elected Pope as Sixtus IV.
He's one of the first Popes who become "infamous" for his massive nepotism, the struggles of power with Florence and Urbino and the approval of the Spanish Inquisition but he's also the guy who commissioned the most important artists of the time with the beautiful Sistine Chapel, and he also presented to the city the first public museum of Europe, the Capitoline Museum.
Another interesting Pope hailing from this family is Julius II: he's nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" because he spent the most of his life fighting everyone around Rome to follow his dream of an independent Italian Kingdom and he's famous for his harsh rivality with the Borgias.
He was also a friend of Bramant and Raphael, he was the one who started the reconstruction of Saint Peter's and commissioned his favourite Michelangelo with the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Both Sixtus VI and Julius II both belonged to the Franciscan order.

The Medicis
Who doesn't know about the Medicis?! They were a powerful family from Florence, where they reached immense power due to their activity as bankers.
The palline ("little balls") on their coat of arms are frequently interpreted as Bezants, an ancient coin of the Byzanthine Empire, related to the Arte del Cambio of which the Medicis belonged.

Their family sported two Queens of France and three Popes.
The first of them was Leo X, elected in 1513.
He's the pope who got famous for the sale of indulgences, and he's the one who had to face the buds of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, when Martin Luther showed off his 95 theses.
He was famous for his eccentric tastes, he owned a white elephant called Hanno, a present from a Portuguese king-- But he was also a famous patron of the arts and literature. He's the one who reformed the University of Rome (founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII) and commissioned the Stanze to Raphael and his crew.
The second pope of the Reinassance period from this family is another guy with a troubled curriculum, Clement VII.
He's the Pope who allowed the Sack of Rome in 1527 with his idle politics and the Independence of the Church of England in 1534.
Clement VII was the one who commissioned Michelangelo with The Last Judgement, that he managed to see completed right a few months before his death.
Leo X was destined to the clerical career since birth, as he was the second male son of a noble family, and was promoted to the rank of Cardinal when he was just 14 years old.
Clement VII followed a similar destiny, as he was the nephew of Lorenzo. Leo X was his cousin, who promoted him as Cardinal as soon as he was elected Pope.

The Borgias
The Borgias were a family of Valencian descent, and they gained immense strenght and importance after the election of their first Pope, Callixtsu III on 1455. As he wasn't from noble descent, a coat of arms was produced right for him. It featured a "Bull", a humble animal picked as a symbol of the original farming activity of his family.
According to heraldry, the "Walking Bull" of the Borgias is a symbol of hardworking, rather than that of "an untamed soul", as people likes to believe.
The Borgia Pope of the Roman Reinassance was Alexander VI, that, it must be noted, despite his terrible fame (mostly emphatized by his harsher opponent, Giuliano della Rovere, the above mentioned Julius II), the Roman Church got some adequate reform out of his rule and did his best to rule Rome, administering Justice himself on every Tuesday.
He celebrated the Jubilee of 1500, where he started the tradition of opening the gates of the four Major Basilicas simultaneously.
He's not famous for many important artistic deeds but the decoration of the Borgias Apartments by Pinturicchio, but he was indeed a patron of arts and education: he approved the founding of the King's College of Aberdeen and of the University of Valencia.

The Farneses
The Farneses hailed from the fields of the Central Italy, but during the Reinassance they were famous as Dukes of the Northern cities of Parma and Piacenza.
Their surname refers to an "oak woods", but their coat of arms features the "Fleur-de-lis" made popular by French heraldry-- It's a coincidence, though, as the fortune of the Farneses had nothing to do with the French royalties.
The Farneses were an extremely powerful family with or without the support of the Papacy.
The "family Pope" was elected on 1519 as Julius III.
He's the pope who had to deal with the aftermaths of the tragedy of the Sack of Rome on 1527, the promoter of the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation.
He favoured his relatives shamelessly and fathered a good number of heirs when a cleric, but he's still regarded as one of the best pontifex of the Reinassance, as his patronism of the arts was followed by a proper reform of the Catholic Church and a generally balanced political situation, expecially thanks to the intervention of his favourite grandsons, Cardinal Alessandro and Ottavio, both of them quite the decent guys: Alessandro was a skilled diplomat besides a patron of the arts who enriched the city of Rome greatly, as Ottavio was a strong-willed warrior and composed governor.
The sister of Paulus III was the beautiful Giulia, a favourite of Alexander VI, whom influence over the Pope granted him a huge deal of support for his election.
Paul III is the one who commissioned Michelangelo with the Pauline Chapel in Vatican, famous for the enraged look of Saint Peter towards the watcher (= the Pope himself, as it's still strictly for the private use of the pontifex) during his crucifixion.

The Perettis
And here I talk about my favourite Pope of the lot, the caustic Sixtus V!
Felice Peretti came from a poor family without any power of sort, so, as the Borgias, his coat of arms was created once he was elected 227th Pope of Rome.
It represents a lion holding some pears in its paw, a simple reference to his family name.
Felice reached the papacy after he made himself a name as an inquisitor general in Venice and proved his vigor an an untiring man of Church.
Sixtus wasn't a fan of classicity or a collector as his predecessors, as a practical guy he made sure to redesign the whole city and contribute to its urbanistic development: a good number of the huge streets, bridges, fountains and aqueducts, without mentioning the engineering deal involving the re-erection of most of the obelisks that you see around, all of them are his deeds.
Even today, he's not held in great consideration by the locals, but to me he was the perfect kind of guy to close adequately an era-- And this post!

Monday, 6 April 2015

A visit to the Pirandello House Museum

At the beginning of the year I presented myself an adventurous trip to Sicily, where I had the chance to visit the house of one of my most revered authors, Luigi Pirandello.
As I got to know that the Roman residence where he compiled a good number of his masterpieces and met a lonely death in 1936 was open to the public I rushed there for a visit.
The building is currently occupied by the Studio Luigi Pirandello, the center of studies dedicated to the Sicilian author and the modern theatre.

The access to the house museum is free, but the place is open to the public only during certain hours in the morning.

The little villa is located in the refined Nomentano quartiere. The area was destined to the upper middle class, and it was densely developed in an elegant residential area starting 1911, styled after the precepts of Art Noveau.
Pirandello moved right here in Rome in 1933, after his tours around France and Germany.
He occupied the upper level of the villino with his apartment, constituted of the studio/living room, bedroom and bathroom.

Once you enter, you'd be greeted by one of the scholars of the Studio, available for a free guided tour.

The first room that you'd be introduced is, of course, the study of the author.
The furnitures and look of the area is the original of the time.
Looking around for details and stuff is extremely fun!
The furnitures were realized in walnut and ordered by correspondence.
On the walls you could see paintings of Luigi himself and his sons and family pictures.

The most interesting spot is definitely his desks!
There were two of them, apparently without a specific use for each-- The one closer to the window features some interesting bits!

Here are two pieces that caught my attention: a silver box, a present from D'Annunzio, and a little bust of Ibsen:

Next I visited the bedroom, where Pirandello died in 1936.
I wasn't allowed to take pictures there, but you can see a good number of the objects preserved there on the Facebook account of the Studio.

An area of the apartment, probably occupied by a little kitchen originally, is destined to the study of Pirandello's works.
The books and essays preserved in the museum can be checked and studied previous request.
I noticed the huge caricature and asked about the exhibition.
It was dedicated to the caricatures of Pirandello and his friends, and some of them can be viewed on the website.

It was an interesting visit: the silence of the quartiere itself and the serene mood of the garden reminded me of a comment of Corrado Alvaro in the preface of a collection of Pirandello's novels... It became a reality when I presented myself a little stop at the park of the close-by Villa Paganini:

"È strano che questo fruscìo faccia parte dei miei ricordi su quello studio, e questo sfogliare sia trasferito in un parco anziché fra le carte del letterato..."

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Markets of Rome: Via Sannio

If the market of Porta Portese is open only once per week, the street market of Via Sannio could be a convenient alternative, as it's open six days per week, from Monday to Saturday.
This rowdy and noisy place is quite popular with young people low on cash as it offers a good resource for cheap and indie clothes.
When I was a broken Art student I used to come here with my friends to look for clothes that my mother would mercilessly threw in the trash a few hours later after my purchases-- Every Roman would have a fond memory of this place, that turned into a real icon in the '70s.
It became quite popular with tourists because of this, making the usually affordable prices reach those of regular shops-- It's still easy to find some nice deals, though, as long as you're ready to face a bunch of smart-ass sellers and can count on a trained eye for good bargains!

As I reached the place, conveniently placed by the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran and its homonymous metro station, I had the chance to take a peek at the neverending works on the infamous Line C of Rome metro...
I took a pic, 'cause it was quite impressive! Look at that tunnel up there!

The beginning of the street that gives the name to the market, "Sannio street" is usually covered by these random stalls of odds and ends... The quality is as low as the price and it's usually counterfeit items.

The "real" market starts when you see this peculiar roofing: the most of the market is actually covered like this.
The further you walk into it, the nicer and more interesting the stalls!
As I said the market of Via Sannio is popular for the clothing and appareal.
Here you can find cheap used clothes, vintage dresses and bags, disturbing counterfeits and whatever a cool young guy could long for.

As usual, a special mention for my favourite stands, those dedicated to military stuff ♥

So, I wouldn't suggest a visit if you're not particularly interested in clothes and have a very low tollerance on nosy, pressing sellers, but if you're on your way to visit the various churches in the area, it could prove a fun distraction, and a fun bit of urban lifestyle.

On an ending note, I keep reading on touristic websites about the "art of bargaining" that you're supposed to master to approach these places and the various suggestions to use to get an ample discount of your picks-- Well, gave up on it.
Crisis made the sellers (expecially those who are selling good stuff) very little flexible on prices! The most you could aspire to is a discount of 5 or 10 euros on the original price... So, keep your feet on the ground! They are not going to call you back if you act as leaving ;)