I’ve left Rome for three destinations this summer, each time coming back with newfound appreciation and newfound frustration for my adopted home.
A week in Abruzzo, leading a summer school in the village of Castelvecchio Calvisio, was a pleasant retreat from the noise and heat of the city. Walking from the nearly empty village out into the countryside was a joy, but the lack of broadband internet grew tiresome quickly. One of the aims of the Borgo Abruzzo Project is to resolve that. Returning to Rome with its diversity, complexity and stratification was a like shot of adrenalin.
The next short trip was to Copenhagen. This was an architectural research outing aimed at answering the question: are all these cool-looking green-seeming urban projects nice or not? To get a first hand view my son and I stayed in a flat in the Mountain Dwelling by Bjarke Ingels Group. We also visited a lot of BIG projects and I confess I emerged as much a fan as before. Sure, some of the detailing isn’t perfect but if they had waited to perfect it they probably would still be designing. I was impressed at the sheer quantity of construction going on in Denmark, and the absence of demolition. I was impressed by the almost total absence of motor vehicles. The Mountain Dwelling which is based on a concept about parking sits on a near empty parking garage, so few people own cars to use it. Returning to Rome I was struck by the cars — almost literally — and the ineffective and rare public transit system. It is such a fixable problem with such enormous benefits that I can’t believe there are only a handful of people talking about eliminating cars from the city. It was car free for the first 2500 years for crissake!
The rest of the summer has been on-and-off on the coast at Terracina, south of Rome. Here one finds stratigraphy to rival Rome, and a historic center which is structurally inaccessible to cars for the most part. There are even some new public spaces which are not bad, and a beach front bike path which has replaced most of the car traffic there. The city could be much better, better beach access, better public transit (especially train!), more bike-friendly, and more design-oriented, but I’m not complaining. When I come back to Rome from Terracina I soon start day-dreaming about a return to the coast.