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.

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