I’ve been back in Rome for a couple of weeks and it’s still more or less summer here with temperatures in the mid-20s. The first Sunday I was back, I was invited to join a tour to a less well known neighbourhood of Rome called Quadraro. Organized by a small publishing company, Ponte Sisto, the same one that did the ‘Bridges of Rome‘ tour, it was to promote a new book called ‘Mamma Roma a Colori’ by Fernando Acitelli. The editor is the sister-in-law of a friend of mine and she invited me to join her.
The book is a bit in the style of James Joyce’s Ulysses in that it is stream of consciousness writing and I will say right now that I have no intention of reading it in Italian! It is set in a neighbourhood of Rome called Quadraro which is in the more peripheral part of the city in the south, near Cinecitta. The tour was led by Fernando Acitelli himself who was very entertaining and obviously knew the neighbourhood inside out since he grew up close by. (He’s the one standing in the middle in the picture below with a paperbag in his hand.)
Quadraro is a fascinating neighbourhood, a mixture of rundown and restored houses and an area that is increasingly attracting contemporary artists whose milieu is wall murals. I only saw a few as we were busy following Fernando who had his own preferred points of interest.
In the years preceding the war, Quadraro was an upcoming neighbourhood with two cinemas, lots of restaurants and bars, small villas, gardens and was frequented by actors and film makers who worked at the nearby Cinecitta. There are some fine buildings that have maintained their grandeur including the school.
Some of the houses are somewhat rundown but you can see how they were repaired over the years with new bricks interspersed between the original stones while still maintaining the decorative aspects around the window frames.
We saw a house that still had its original water tank on the roof. All the houses of that era had such a tank which would be connected directly to an aqueduct for their water supply. Often, there would be a shop attached to the larger houses which the owners would either operate themselves or rent out.
During the war, the Germans referred to Quadraro as the ‘nido di vespe’ or hornets nest as it was famous for hiding antifascists and partisans. Apparently, antifascists trying to flee the occupying Germans would be told to either go to Quadraro or the Vatican. It is a charming neighbourhood and seems to have a strong sense of community. The residents were gawking at us utterly amazed that we were ‘touring’ their neighbourhood.
After the tour, we retired to the local hostelry for lunch. Since we were with the editor, the author came and sat at our table and regaled us with all sorts of stories so of course more wine had to be called for. My only regret was that I didn’t get a chance to check out the murals but I will, so more on that another time!