Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Rome Journal II: Sunday in the Piazza With Giorgio
photograph by Hallie Cohen
It’s a cool Sunday in January and you want to get from Via
Marconi, at the edge of the EUR, to the Piazza Tommaso de Cristoforis. You walk
down to the Marconi Metro stop of the B line whose last stop Rebibbia is one of
Rome’s prisons. Laurentina is the last station in the other direction. Unlike
most of Rome’s Metro system, which is underground, Marconi is outside like the
els running through the Bronx and Brooklyn. But as you look up you don’t find
the counterpart to New York’s tenements, but remnants of the Mussolini style
fascist housing which is now occupied by its own well-heeled class of
inhabitants. Huge trees seem to sprout up out of nowhere; it’s a little like
Stuyvesant town where once modest dwellings now attract wealthier residents.
You stay on the B for eleven stops, Basilica s. Paolo, Garbatella, Piramide,
Circo Massimo, Colosseo, Cavour, Termini, Castro Preforio, Policlinico, Bologna
and finally Tiburtina F. s (which is one of Rome’s train terminals).The names cite familiar tourist
attractions, but it’s Sunday and the train has its own demographics which
includes a priest with a loosened collar champeroning a group of teenaged girls
and a young woman attending to her two dogs. At Tiburtina you switch to the
545, five stops in the direction S. Luca Evangelista, through an industrialized
section of Rome to the dramatic archway overlooking a housing complex in an
otherwise more modest part of town. Rome’s subways are clean and
punctual, unlike the MTA and even their engineers occupy spacious compartments.
But, though cozy, the buses on Sunday can be few and far between and you shiver
in the cold as darkness falls and you wait in a shelter craning to look for
headlights on the deserted streets. You stare up longingly at the chinks of light
coming through shuddered windows with their intimations of a protective warmth that now eludes you.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.