Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rome Journal VI: Roma Termini

photo: KG Gucwa
 There is something terminal about Rome’s Termini, which is not supposed to be the ending but the beginning of many journeys (it brings to mind New York's old Terminal Bar which used to face the Port Authority and was literally the end of the line for the pre-op transexuals who populated the place). Besides being the central train station, it is also the origin and endpoint of many city bus routes. But there's an air of despair around the whole area. The classy hotels of the nearby Piazza Repubblica lead onto more seedy redoubts on dark side streets and the typical newspaper stands with their overstocked racks give way to kiosks selling used books and then at the very end edgy pornography, including DVD’s and the kind of magazines that are named for proclivities rather than lifestyles. The Termini area includes the Viale Sepember XX, which houses governmental offices (including that of the president) and like federal quarters in most capitals, it's totally shuddered after dark. Soldiers with machine guns guard the entrance ways to buildings and cars and motorcycles speed by effortlessly with nary a pedestrian in site. If the Rome of your imagination is Rossano Brazzi in Three Coins in the Fountain or Light in the Piazza or Audrey Hepburn, playing an Italian princess to Gregory Peck’s rube American journalist in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, get a horse. Termini is not for you, with its warrens of back streets like the Via Salaria which starts at Termini and crosses the GRA Highway and is a magnet for prostitutes. Graham Greene would have been at home in Termini. It’s the kind of place where amongst the hustlers, pimps and thieves you’d find an Italian version of Pinkie Brown, the dark immoral presence who dominates Brighton Rock.

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