Rome’s Water Crisis Clarified

This morning they shut off the drinking fountain outside where I teach in the Ghetto. Some say the extended drought is making such sacrifices necessary. Sensational photos of Lake Bracciano, at historic low, are tied with claims that the city’s famous water supply is running out. As I pointed out in an interview a few weeks ago on PBS News Hour, this is a great wake-up call, calling attention to the …

A Day in the Dig

Here is a short video I made at the excavation I am working on this summer in the Roman Forum, with ISAR (The International Society for Archaeology, Art and Architecture of Rome) www.isarome.org If you know anyone interested in supporting our fundraising efforts, and leaving a positive mark on ancient Rome,  please pass on the link. http://isarome.org/donate

Rome’s Mixed Metaphors

A couple of months ago New York Times columnist Frank Bruni called me to ask about Rome. On a recent trip he had been struck by the paradox of newly cleaned monuments surrounded by developing world squalor, and he wanted to know my take. His report was published in this article. I told Frank that for decades Rome had survived through compromise, making little deals to get things done. “We’ll turn …

Jane’s Walk Rome

Last Sunday a small group of intrepid walkers, some from La Sapienza where I teach, joined me in commemorating the great urban thinker Jane Jacobs by exploring Rome’s Tiburtino and Nomentana neighborhoods. I had designed a similar walk years ago as part of a series I dubbed “ecological itineraries.” The idea, in keeping with the mission of the annual world-wide Jane’s Walks events, is to walk the city as an act of …

Once in a While, Orvieto

Rome is great, especially in the spring, but once in a while I find an excuse to escape to Orvieto, in southern Umbria, one of the closest cities to Rome that has managed to free its historic center from automobiles. Once was on our honeymoon; although we were directed to Firenze we got a late start and Orvieto seemed a nice town along the way. The last time, a few …

Just Outside Rome: Hill Towns and Aqueducts

The countryside around Rome, while not quite as picturesque as Tuscany or Umbria, is rich with fascinating destinations for exploration — and eating. This weekend I drove out to visit my friends Jenny and Umberto in Palestrina and was rewarded with an in-depth tour of one of the most densely layered towns in Lazio: from prehistoric settlements (now lost),  alleged Pelasgian roots evidenced by massive walls of opus poligonale,  and most importantly the imposing sanctuary of Fortuna, all …

Urban observations: Conversation on Roma

Join us for an informal bilingual discussion about Rome, its resources and challenges, its magic and mundanity,  the hourly headaches and the monthly miracles. Architect Tom Rankin is author of the book Rome Works: An Architect Explores the World’s Most Resilient City and the blog Sustainable Rome sustainablerome.net and former Director of the association TEVERETERNO which realized William Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments.  Images will be show, refreshments will be served. …

Trastevere East: Resolving a Dysfunctional Site

This semester I have tasked my students from the Cal Poly Architecture Program with studying a neighborhood of Rome that has always fascinated me, Trastevere East, opposite Ponte Palatino. After years of looking at unwieldy and problematic sites, from Porta Portese to Testaccio to the Fori Imperiali archaeological park, I decided to move back to the historic center, to focus on the dense urban fabric that makes Rome great. I …

Italy’s Seismic Challenge

Reflecting, after the earthquake in Central Italy, about the country’s ecological risks  Shortly after the 2009 earthquake in l’Aquila I was invited to attend a meeting of the Commissione Nazionale Grandi Rischi, part of Italy’s civil protection organization. The subject was calamities, whether environmental or anthropic, and how to prepare and respond. My take-away from this meeting was that the four phases of calamities are quite clear but our memories are short and …