A Rome away from Rome

On Sunday I went out on my bike with the intention of filling some pages in a little sketchbook, pages that have been empty for too long. Somehow I found myself leaving Italy to enter Vatican City, inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time in years. I live less than a mile from Pope Francis but it is rare that I drop in on his little nation. The few …

Spring Explorations

I actually suggested to friends the other day that there should be a special tax on visitors to Rome in April and early May. The city is just too beautiful this time of year. Flowers bursting into bloom, bird songs, crisp mornings and warm midday sun, vibrant evenings, the energy of new exhibits planned over winter months, a host of cultural events, artichokes. To relieve the potential guilt of experiencing …

Rome’s Tiber “Beach”

Rivers are amazing resources for cities, but they need ideas, projects and above all maintenance and regulation. With the localized exception of Piazza Tevere with site-specific art projects such as William Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments,  Rome has had none of these for years.  So I was happy to hear word of the city’s plans to make a riverfront beach resort, Tiberus, in the abandoned Marconi area. It opened late this summer (the delays …

New Underground Rome

I got a chance to check out the new metro station just before it opened to the public on Saturday. Absolutely spectacular! The finds on display tell the story of Rome through stratigraphy (graphically marked with a clear indication of level below modern ground), chronology (with key dates popping up as you descend) and themes (color coding of themes dear to Sustainable Rome readers: water, reuse, etc.). The lighting is …

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 …

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 …

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. …