Tag: Italy (page 2 of 2)



I sketched this out during drawing class yesterday while sitting on the Ponte Sant Angelo bridge. Facing south, the end corner building at the very left is actually where the church I have been attending is located. I generally do not consider myself a good drawer, but am quite pleased with this one and look forward to sketching more and improving. I drew it in my pocket sketchbook so it is actually quite small, about 3.5 x 5.5 inches. I prefer small scale sketching because accuracy is easier and can be done fairly quickly.

History of Contemporary Rome

Today we had another intriguing lecture for ARCH 528 as well as a walking tour discussing the contemporary history of Rome in connection with the modern republic of Italy. Rome became the capital of the unified Italy on December 20, 1870, likely chosen for its symbolic history as a center of power and government. At the time Rome was not much larger than the original ancient city and had somewhat of an agrarian economy. Expansion and transformation from a sleepy town to once again major urban center occurred very rapidly. Modernization had to be quick so many existing buildings were taken over for government use and to house various ministries.

The biggest issue was housing to accommodate the extraordinary growth. Rome was a city of employees, not industry, but construction of course boomed. Surrounding landowners – monasteries and aristocrats – were now developers and there was a building fever. New buildings were eclectic with historical references on facades. A typical new building – becoming common across Europe – was four or five stories tall with all commercial space at ground level. Above on the first floor were located larger, luxurious apartments for the wealthy, and the upper floors became shorter and smaller for the lower classes. This is very interesting, seeming to be the beginning of planned large-scale mixed-use buildings. In general the ancient part of the city was and is still mixed with residential and commerce, but it was much more organic and reactionary.

So much of the city of Rome is not of ancient or even medieval times, but of the 19th and even early 20th centuries. To accommodate automobiles, some new arteries were cut through historic areas. Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II was cut through the dense Field of Mars area (in the thick of ancient Rome). Unlike new straight arteries, this one winds through to minimize destruction and curve around the most important buildings. Otherwise many building facades were cut back. This is still not a particularly wide street by any means, but is certainly an important traffic corridor through the middle of the city. To the east it connects to a new street, Via Nazione which was modeled after radical new radial avenues in Paris that accommodated not only traffic, but various infrastructures as well.

And finally, close to home (studio) in the Jewish Ghetto, major changes also occurred. With striking parallels to the United States’ urban renewal of the 1960s and 70s, whole areas were deemed unfit and demolished to build brand new. A large part of the ghetto, which had been extraordinarily dense was removed and laid over with a modern grid – including the new synagog. The whole area replaces resulted in only four blocks so the juxtaposition against the remaining ancient urban fabric is quite unusual. (See blue blocks on map above.) At one place you can stand in between the ancient ruins of the Portico d’Ottavia, tiny medieval buildings, and large scale block-sized buildings in simplified Renaissance style facades.

While walking around we used Nolli‘s 1748 figure ground map laid over what exists today to understand the great extent to which some places have been altered. Above the map diagram shows the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II artery cutting through the center of Rome (horizontal red line) as well as Via Arenula (north-south) which turns into Via di Trastevere south of the river crossing. It of course terminates at Vittorio, but there was a plan to extend it even further north and split along either side of the Pantheon (located just a few blocks north, off the map). In that proposal, the Pantheon was deemed important enough to preserve, but of course dozens of buildings around it did not have that esteem. Thankfully this extension did not occur.

Additionally on our walking tour, we visited the Palazzo D’Esposizione museum, located on Via Nazione, completed in 1882, so the new state could show its interest in art and culture. There was a new, essentially all glass addition on the back containing a cafe and restaurant. We stopped here first before visiting the gallery, which was seemingly entirely separated (we actually had to go outside and reenter the front of the building). Currently there is a large exhibit with the works of Alexander Calder, who is best known for his mobiles and large (often red) stainless steel sculptures. A group of school children tried to make one of the large mobiles move by blowing at it from afar. How fun.

Beyond Trastevere


Yesterday evening (Friday, Jan 15) I decided to explore beyond my neighborhood of Trastevere (photo above) in a direction I hadn’t gone very far yet. I had purchased five single ride bus tickets (BIT) earlier at the tabacchi so decided to ride the tram line 8 out to the endpoint at Cosatello and go from there. Throughout my explorations I discovered some more neat pedestrian-friendly and happening streets outside of the central city antiquity, and also picked up a few things about the transit system.

The tram ride to Cosatello took about ten minutes or so. As visible on the map, once away from the heart of Trastevere near the river, the urban pattern becomes much more gridded and regular. The area is of course much newer than central Rome but besides a few main thoroughfares, the streets maintain a human scale and the buildings are mixed-use, in many cases more visibly active than many buildings in the older parts of the city. Typical apartment buildings there are five to six stories and stucco with muted colors. Facades are generally plane, but made lively by inhabitants. Autos are much more dominant on the streets, which are certainly more “friendly” to cars. The tram past a Ford dealership, though still extremely tiny by American standards and fully contained within a building. Car lots are non existent here. There were also some larger gas stations along the main roads as well. A lot of places, especially closer to the center of the city, tiny filling stations are located along the side of the roadway and cars simply pull over. I’ve noticed all of them seem to have attendants so perhaps self service is either not customary or legal.

Once I reached the tram endpoint I backtracked a few blocks until I came to Via Edoardo Jenner, a pleasant street characterized by apartment blocks with specialty shops at sidewalk level. I stopped at one complex of four apartment buildings that had a nice entry courtyard in the middle to sketch. As I continued further down the street it turned into a much more active retail district. After a number of blocks the concentration of retail terminated at a piazza so I turned the corner and went a few blocks to another major thoroughfare Viale dei Colli Portuensi.

This street was much wider than the one with the tram, with several lanes and generous setbacks. The scale of buildings were similar, but most were not attached to each other on the sides. In one sense it felt very suburban, but at the same time most ground floors of buildings were active by shops, restaurants, and commercial entities. Aside from the architecture, it somewhat reminded me of the wide avenues in some newer areas in the District of Columbia. In fact I notice a lot of parallels in different parts of Rome to certain attributes of various American cities I’ve visited.

View ROME 5 – Beyond Trastevere in a larger map

Navigating Bus Stops
I originally did not intend to venture to far away from the tram and until one point, even when I had gone quite far, was planning to simply turn around and return along the same route. But once I had been walking quite a distance I decided to simply follow the major thoroughfares I came upon and make a big loop back to tram. You can see my large loop on the map. My turn on to Via Portuense was by a narrow sidewalk along an off ramp. When I reached the next major intersection I began second guessing my direction. However after pondering a map at a bus stop sign for a moment and looking at the route information provided on the sign, I was able to use the bus stop signs to confirm I was heading in the right direction.

For each route serving a particular bus stop, the sign lists every street it goes on and how many stops on that particular street. I noticed the majority of routes at the stops I was passing had final destinations at Stazione Trastevere. At one point I walked too far past a street I needed to turn on, but realized about a block past when there were no more routes listed for Trastevere. Eventually I simply stopped at waited for one of the Trastevere buses – took route 774 – to get back to the tram. Of course once I got on the bus I discovered the tram was only about a block further away.

It was an enjoyable exploration outside of central Rome, but nonetheless a bit tiring. By using the bus stops to confirm my direction, I was able to better understand all the information on the sides and now the system seems much more legible to me. For someone with a broad knowledge of street names in Rome, it’d be quite easy navigating the system simply using the information provided at stops. Unfortunately the Roma ATAC website is not quite as thorough, particularly for buses, which is why it was less clear to me at first. Of course, knowing where you want to go is critical for getting around by transit, which was my main inhibition at first – simply not knowing anywhere to go outside of central Rome. I look forward to exploring more of the Rome metro via transit.

> Photos: (005) Beyond Trastevere
> Photos: (004) Friday urban history walk at Forum and Colosseum.

Musings in Roma

Palazzo Cenci, Roma

It’s been a week since I arrived in Rome now. The past few days since classes began have been fairly routine. We’ve been drawing a couple hours each day – a quick review of the basics of blind contour, negative space and figure drawing – which has actually been quite delightful. My studio meets in a small room in the back of the studio at Palazzo Cenci (photo above) with access to a small terrace. The desk I sit at looks out a side window facing another building facade with many layers of time, materials, and levels. Occasionally pigeons touch down on decorative ledge in the brickwork. Next week we begin drawing out in the city at various sites.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we had an introductory lecture to a weekly seminar course on Italian design spanning art, architecture, and urban – very intriguing. That afternoon we also had an introductory lecture of Roman urban history by Jan Gadeyne, an accomplished historian, who will be giving the first three lectures. In addition to this course will be weekly Friday walks in the city, first of which will be tomorrow.

Today I had a few hours free between drawing in the morning and Italian in the afternoon; I took a walk north of studio past the Pantheon destined for Richard Meier’s very contemporary Ara Pacis Museum. On the way I seemed to discover a large, trendy retail district with several upscale stores as well as recognizable chains …even a Disney Store. The scale of most specialty stores here is so different than in America, several being no larger than a few hundred square feet. During the month of January (Gennaio) every store has large sales (saldi) so one of my tasks this weekend is to do some shopping. See new photos from today’s exploration here.

This evening I went up to Viale di Trastevere (the tram street) to buy a sketchbook for tomorrow’s history walk. I decided to walk further down the street. After a few blocks there was a noticeable shift from more traditional Roman architecture to a good mix with larger scale early 20th century modernism. This made sense as much of Trastevere sits outside the two original city wall boundaries, making this area relatively new for the city of Rome. It was interesting to see how these modern designs have aged and been adapted.

Most were apartment buildings with commercial spaces along the sidewalk. Aesthetically I can’t say any of them were particularly attractive, they are still occupied and respectable locations. Some of the drab, redundant facades have been enhanced with shrubbery and plantings at windows and along balconies. The juxtaposition of these large scale exhibits of modernist residential architecture in the ancient city of Rome is fascinating. Entirely different scales and styles, though likely similar densities. This is something I would like to study more during my time living in Rome.

That is all for tonight. Tomorrow’s history walk includes the ancient Forum, Palatine, and Colosseum. I’m staying in the city for the weekend and looking forward to more exploring. The Pope is evidently coming to the synagog (a block from Palazzo Cenci – our studio) on Sunday so the are is buzzing to get ready for the big event and security is beginning to be increased as well. It should be quite the spectacle.

Also my friend Dana started blogging tonight about Rome as well. He has a good first post concerning the scale of Rome streets and blocks that can be very deceiving when looking at on a map. It is worth a read here.

First Day of Class at Palazzo Cenci

Monday, Jan. 11 – Today was the start of semester classes in Rome. We meet at Palazzo Cenci, a fairly significant 16th century building at Piazza delle Cinque Scole (five schools), where ISU College of Design has space on an upper floor. It is just across the river from Trastevere where my apartment is, in the former Rome Jewish ghetto. (See walking route to studio here.) We began at 9:30 with a brief orientation.

On the walk there I stopped with my friend Jenna at a coffee bar on Isola Tibenna (Tiber Island). The coffee bars in Rome are tiny bars where people come in and drink and eat quickly standing up at the bar and then go on their way. The coffee comes in very small cups. At this particular bar, you pay first at the cashier and take your receipt to the bar. I was unsure how what to say, so I requested the same thing as Jenna ordered before me – espresso e cornetto (crossaint) – for €1.80. At the bar the barista asked if I wanted cioccolato (chocolate) or creme (cream). I asked for creme. Now I know the next time to order cappuccino e uno cornetto.

Following orientation we broke for lunch. I walked up to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (the busier street with the cellphone store) and had a panini and Coke for €3.70. It was fun to be able to try out the few new words I pick up each day. I went to pay and told the cashier I had a “panino e Coca-Cola.” (Amazing, right?)

Back to studio we had a drawing lecture from a faculty member from Ames, then broke into our studios. My studio met in a back room with access to the terrace. We spent the remainder of the day experimenting with different grades of charcoal and other drawing mediums. At the end of the day our instructor Chris took us on a short walk around a few nearby blocks pointing out some noteworthy places and amenities.

On the way home I stopped back at Panella (the first supermarket I went to on day 2) just off Viale di Trastevere (street), to pick up a bottle of bianco vino for the evening and some more pasta sauce for good measure. Once I got back to our apartment I passed the old woman who seems to be sitting at a corner near a vending machine all day everyday. I greeted her “Buona sera” (good evening) and she responded with a smile. Around the corner an old man greeted me and we had a brief conversation. He spoke little English but asked my age and if I was a university student. “” and “Buona sera.”

For dinner another friend made salad and manicotti with the remaining lasagna ingredients from last night. Tomorrow is supposed to be at least partially sunny so I hope to take some photos of the neighborhood and studio. For class we have a language course and another drawing session.

Sabato a Roma

Jan. 9 – Saturday in Rome, today was mostly rainy. I went out first with one other to find pizza and an umbrella for him. The rain had let up and we were only going nearby to Viale di Trastevere so I left my own umbrella at the apartment – which turned out to be a poor decision. We walked a few blocks down Trastevere and went into a department clothing store. This time of year all stores in Italy have sales (saldi so prices were extremely reasonable. We discovered a Standa supermarket in the lower level, where my friend bought a few groceries. On our way back it began to rain so he attempted to share his umbrella with me that he purchased from a street vendor. It’s amazing how easy it is to find someone selling umbrellas on the street once it starts to rain. We stopped at a small pizzeria along Trastevere for lunch. It was not as impressive as what I had yesterday and was more expensive – €6.50 for “pizza” and a can of Coca Cola.

Back to the apartment I played cards with some roomates to pass the time while more rain fell. Later in the afternoon I returned to the household goods store (from yesterday that had no towels) with the same guy from morning to find blankets. He took them back and I continued walking. I headed eastward through winding alleyway streets in search of the Piazza del Campidoglio, or captiol hill. This was one of the few places in Rome I remember from arch history at NDSU so was excited to see it. In the 16th century, Michelangelo was commissioned to design a renovated piazza space. I will elaborate on this is a later post for the sake of getting to sleep earlier tonight.

The church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is adjacent to the square. From the its stairs I could easily see the dome of St. Peters in the Vatican. On the other side the Colosseum appeared just down the road. One thing about Rome is that everything is much closer together than you expect from looking at a map – which is a good thing a suppose.

I continued back toward the river on my way back and walked further south along its banks. The next bridge was at Via Marmorata, which I intended to cross and cut back over the Trastevere. Instead I decided to go the other direction (not cross the river) as it appeared to be another fairly vibrant district with restaurants and shops. Indeed it was, I passed several clothing, shoe, and furniture stores. Most were very tiny and compact. Several tabacchis (tobacco / “convenient stores”) were in the area and I eventually found a Tuodi supermarket where I picked up a few thinks to make lasagna for dinner. As I walked back I passed through Giardino Famiglia di Consiglio (see here) – a small park with a playground for children.

When I returned I discovered our apartments were not furnished with any sort of baking dishes, among other things, so I instead shared pasta and bruschetta with a few other friends for dinner. Tomorrow I plan to go to an English-speaking church with a friend and more exploring of the city. After a few days here the area is becoming much more comfortable and familiar. Hopefully I will have some photos of the apartment and some city shots up in the next day.

Roma Giorno Due

Post for Friday, Jan. 8, second day in Rome. It was cloudy in the morning and lasted the entire day before a hard, but relatively brief rain. I have not really taken any photos yet due to the potential for rain today, and not wanting to look like a total tourist as I still try to orient myself in the maze of inner Rome. I started my day later than usual and went we a half a dozen others to get cellphones. At the TIM store we met several other students from America, some from Dartmouth and some from Cornell University. For lunch we ate at a pizza place nearby. They have a variety of kinds of pizza, smaller in size, and cut off the amount you request. The cost is determined by weight. I had half a pizza, about the size of a very large slice, for €3 and a bottle of Nestea for €2.

To get to the cellphone store we crossed the Tiber River to the north through a fine shopping district to a major road called Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. (I haven’t even began to try to remember street names.) There were several shops and restaurants in this area. In front of a McDonald’s (the only recognizable chain anything I’ve seen so far) there were some young boys smoking. On our way back through the narrow vias we stopped at a household goods store for towels (salviette). No luck so we returned to the apartment. At this point it was near 5:30pm or so. Crossing the bridge we ran into two others, who I continued on with to a supermarket.

The supermarket, Panella is on our side of the river on Via Natale Del Grande (street). To get there we walk from our apartment along Via dei Genovesi, another very narrow alley street, about a five block distance till we hit the major road Viale di Trastevere, that crosses the river and has a tramline running down the center. From there we cross and walk down about two blocks until Via Natale Del Grande, which is opposite from a piazza. The first block of Via Natale Del Grande is wider and limited to pedestrians and is tree lined on both sides. There is an art supply shop along this block. The next block with Panella is much narrower and open to cars. Of course the street is used for much more than that. The sides are full of parked scooters, compact cars, and several portions are built out with patios for restaurant dining space.

The supermarket was very subtle from the outside, as most shops seem to be. The front is very small and contains only a few checkout lanes. Like a supermarket we stopped at earlier near Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, it was made up of several smaller rooms and spaces connected to each other, but probably nearly twice as large. I bought some bread, prosciutto, cheese, some generic Italian cereal, and a liter-and-a-half bottle of Ben Cola for a little over €8. My first “self-prepared meal” here was a sandwhich and cola.

Later this evening a friend Jamin and I went out exploring in the general direction of the Colosseum, not too far from our apartment across the river. We did not take the most direct route, but as always interesting. It was not quite as large as I had imagined, but certainly impressive. Our roundabout exploration ended up being a little under 4.5 miles, or a little over 7 km. (see route here.

There’s so much of Rome I have yet to see and many famous sites I haven’t even thought of yet. Tomorrow is Saturday or Sabato and I look forward to spending another day exploring, maybe even take some photos. I’d like to do some map sketching and some digital diagrams, but likely won’t get to that in the next few days. I believe mapping and spatial drawing will be a major focus of our first few weeks of study, which begins Monday. Rome is certainly a city where maps are critical.

Spring in Rome

I arrived in Rome earlier today (Thursday) for a semester study abroad with about 55 other students from my class. We are staying in apartments in the middle of the city and the College of Design has studio space just across the river at Piazza delle Cinque Scole. The semester goes till the end of April, after which I plan to travel about 10 days and return home from London on May 11.

My flight schedule began in Cedar Rapids and went through Detroit and Amsterdam on the way to Rome. All my layovers were quite short, but Detroit and Amsterdam both have very nice airport facilities. I landed at Rome’s Fiumicinio Airport a little past noon today. The view coming in for the landing was like a painting, seeing rolling meadows spotted with old cottages along the sea line. The airport, at least the part I experienced, was quite unimpressive. My plane did not pull up to a gate, rather we exited far way on the tarmac and took a bus to baggage claim.

I met a couple of my classmates and we took a taxi into the city to our apartment to check in. The ride was a great first look around the city. Most of our apartments, including mine, are in a former convent, now housing study abroad student apartments as well as those for the general public. In the middle is a great courtyard. Every corner there seems to be another nook or passageway to discover. We found a stairwell up a roof top terrace, complete with kitchen and a terrific view of the surrounding city.

I look forward to spending the next four months in Rome, learning and exploring through studio and classes, as well as getting to understand the city. It is an incredible change from the normal urban arrangement in America and the term “old” takes on a whole new meaning. Almost everywhere is remnants of past centuries. The interaction between these ancient structures and and new infrastructures for a modern polis is fascinating.

I hope to post much more as I get to know the city better and report on my work in studio and other explorations. I started a new “Rome” category that will contain all these relevant posts to come. Ciao.

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