Sunset with a grain of salt

One of the best things to do in Rome is walk from the Colosseum to the Piazza Venezia at dusk.

Though the beauty of the walk must also be taken with remembrance of the Via dell’Impero’s violent history. The road was constructed under Mussolini’s command in 1932, just seven years before he signed the Pact of Steel with Adolf Hitler. The road was symbolic of the Fascist regime’s self-proclaimed connection to ancient Rome. This tie was illustrated throughout the city on propaganda posters in an attempt to unify the Italian people. Mussolini sought legitimacy for his newborn ideology through suggesting it was the natural descent of the Roman empire. He paralleled himself to Caesar and Augustus and rallied the people in the hopes of returning lost riches to a fallen nation.

Despite Mussolini’s claimed reverence for history, the construction of this road lead to the demolition of many ancient churches and parts of the Roman forum, as well as many tenement buildings– displaying thousands. The road additionally negatively contributes further to Rome’s chaotic and tangled traffic routes. The road begins at the Colosseum and ends at the Piazza Venezia, the symbolic center for Fascist power during WWII.

The beauty of this view is undoubtably tarnished by its dark history but cannot be completely eclipsed, especially when looking out over the Roman Forum with Palentine Hill rising against the setting sun. Fortunately, these ancient sights still remain to be appreciated today; despite Mussolini’s widespread destruction and terror.

 

My sunset walk through a small handful of photos:

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Heading the Piazza Venezia is the Victor Emmanuel Monument which holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This monument celebrates the king who gave the city to Mussolini who later gave the city to Nazi forces, murdering over 8,000 Italian Jewish people. It is difficult to stand in awe of these places while knowing what they stand for and the people who suffered as consequence. Rome is an ancient history that has seen Emperors, Kings, death, innovation, defeat and conquest. Mindful thought must always be taken when you are surrounded constantly by thousands of years of conflict and visual history. While never excusing or applauding the atrocities that took place under Mussolini’s rule, it is still pleasant to appreciate the sunset from the top of Piazza Venezia as the Italian walls that have seen it all soak in the luscious last rays of sun.

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Trastevere, Roma

On January 6th I moved to Rome for a study abroad program with three of my closest friends. Our seven person, tiny Italian apartment was in the heart of Trastevere on the West bank of the Tiber River. The neighborhood has a rich history having first been populated by fishermen and migrant communities– it’s peripheral proximity to the heart of the ancient city making it an ideal melting pot for rich communal ties to bloom. Away from the tourist center, Trastevere bolsters hearty supplies of traditional Roman cuisine: suppli, trapizzini, cacio e pepe, and fried artichoke are among my favorites.

 

Each morning we took the tram over the Tiber and got off just before Pizza Venezia. We then walked through the alleyways North towards campus. The cobblestones are ancient and uneven and due to Roman reluctance to pick up after their (adorable) dogs, you always have to watch your step. We walked past boutiques, mini-marts, art studios and restaurants while trying to avoid getting hit by speeding mopeds. Right before we would exit out of the cramped alleys onto the large street that lead to school, we would cross through the Piazza Campo di’ Fiori.

This Piazza hosts a daily open market selling everything from flowers, dish towels, assorted balsamic vinegars, fresh fruit and spices. The name translates to “field of flowers,” the market filling the square daily with that precise image. The salesmen are quite aggressive and when paired with the restaurant salespeople pacing the piazza perimeter, it can be too overwhelming to actually delve in amongst the tents. Throughout our time living here though, we made friends with some of the regulars and they began to recognize us each morning and afternoon on our walks to and from school. Once our appeal of “newness” had worn off, the harassment eased as well.

Just down the street from school is Piazza Navona (left) and the Pantheon (right). During a gap in between classes I would sometimes walk over with my lunch to sit and people watch in the sun. It is mind-boggling how something so massive and ancient could be so undisturbed and yet completely incorporated into the everyday routine of modern life.