Discovering the Prati-Trionfale Neighborhood

The Prati-Trionfale neighborhood is a bustling European-feeling part of Rome. Apart from the ever-present Vatican City (technically not in Prati or even in Italy) and Castel Sant’Angelo, there is not much in the way of cultural highlights to attract people here. Instead, Prati thrives on business and daily life and this can be a welcome respite from the Stendhal syndrome which strikes the visitor exhausted from seeing a famous monument at every …

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 …

Rick Steves and Rome’s Bridges

Rick Steve’s End of Year message, illustrated with my sketches of the bridges of Rome’s Tiber river, launched a hopeful message about the importance of building bridges and not erecting walls. Bridges are indeed a strong symbol of outreach, of communication and connection. They have other connotations too, though. Bridges provide shelter for the disenfranchised (such as the many immigrants arriving in Italy from troubled zones of the planet). They …

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 …

Fuksas Nuvola unveiling

For years I have been following the vicissitudes of Massimiliano Fuksas’ EUR project, dubbed “the Cloud” and it has now officially been completed. Rather, it has been inaugurated, which in Italy is not always the same thing as completion. In fact, multiple inaugurations are common, getting maximum mileage out of any big project, which makes perfect sense. I saw the projected inaugurated with the groundbreaking in around 2000. I have …

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 …