Great Beauty and Great Ugliness

Fontanone dell'Aqua Paola

Fontanone dell’Aqua Paola

Not far from where we live is the fountain above, which was featured in the opening scene of La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) which just won an Oscar. The fountain was actually built by Pope Paul V, the Borghese Pope who was also responsible for the completion of St Peter’s Basilica and who (as was the tradition in that time), made his nephew Scipione Borghese a cardinal. The latter was only 26 years old at the time and subsequently embarked on a career as patron and collector of the arts, so thanks to him we have the magnificent Villa Borghese. The fountain is fed by an aqueduct which brings in water from Lake Bracciano around 50km from Rome.

Viiew of Rome from Gianicolo Hill

View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill

Anyhow, in the opening scenes of the film, we see a Japanese tourist either fainting or dropping dead when he views the vista of Rome (see above), from the vantage point of the fountain which is on Gianicolo Hill.

 1394913618222It is interesting to hear what the Romans have to say about the movie. Many just hate it as it portrays a rich and decadent Rome which is a very far cry from how ordinary people live. People claim that it gives non-Romans a false picture of what life is really like in the city. The images of the city of Rome as portrayed in the movie actually do exist and and I have to say that central Rome really is very beautiful. However, most people can’t afford to live in the centre and just a couple of miles out of the historic centre are apartment buildings cheek by jowl and not what most tourists would see when they visit Rome. The ones built at the turn of the century and in the early 1900s are charming but the ones built in the 50s and 60s are positively ugly and I’m referring to middle class housing. 1394913454402In the periphery, it gets even uglier with concrete blocks side by side. Life in Rome is getting harder for many people with the present economic crisis. Many young people, even those who have completed their university education, can’t afford their own space and still live with their parents. The cost of living has gone up and even our friends who have jobs or pensions say that their money does not stretch as far as it used too. I really hope that the new government can bring about some change but the bureaurocratic wheels grind slow here so nobody is holding their breath. The movie shows a Rome that might be a reality for perhaps 1% of the population but many people are just surviving or actually struggling to make ends meet.

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