Roma gypsy fail

I stepped out for some food yesterday afternoon and ended up embroiled in some kind of argument with a Roma gypsy from that part of Europe which we all know and need to nuke. Having ordered a plate of rice and vegetables, a steaming pile of turd encroached upon my space demanding that it was poor and had not eaten for several days. Bullshit. It waved a photo of inbred relatives in my face and continued to make aggressive demands, which were dismissed out of hand by both myself and the proprietor of the establishment. Instead of nicking a steak knife from the kitchen and putting it to good use for the good of the law abiding righteous, I exercised considerable restraint. It proceeded to threaten and then make several “curse” gestures in my direction before hobbling off, cussing all and sundry all along the way.

On the way home I passed a small recreation area close to Piazzale Tiburtino. Dreams of gibbets excited and enthralled me.

Rome, Rome tours, and Romanians

They live out in the sticks, betwixt and between the back of beyond. They bus into Rome every day to hammer and drill holes in the walls of apartments owned by middle aged Italian women who either 1. need the company, or 2. want to remind the neighbourhood that they are still Madrone. No neither unfortunately, but aneither serve nay real purpose. Romanian builders are perhaps the most misunderstood immigrant sub-set in Italy; do they really come all the way here from Dacia to build / destroy walls? The more likely reason is lack of work back home, but opportunities here on the peninsula are middling at best. As for the Italian ladies who hire them, why? History tells us that the most accomplished builders the world has ever known were Roman. Well, second generation Roman-born North African slaves. I wonder if our Rome tours retell the lives and times of slaves during the reign of Trajan, or that of Augustus? Yes, I am sure they do. Certain of it.

The Wedding Cake (Altare della Patria)

Before the funeral of Vittorio Emanuele II, who died suddenly at the youthful age of 57 on January 9th 1878, the possibility of erecting a monument in honour of the first King of a unified Italy was discussed during the assembly of the municipal council. As King of Sardinia and then Italy for almost 29 years, he had been the protagonist of epic deeds in the eyes of his people. His reputation was heroic, a king heaven sent, a father figure to all.

On March 16th a decree was issued by Minister Giuseppe Zanardelli. It was the green light for a national monument dedicated to the memory of the king. Eight million lire was set aside for the triumphal ark.

Construction of the monument meant that considerable sacrifices would have to be made as regards artistic and archaeological heritage. An entire medieval district was demolished. The convent of Ara Coeli (Heaven’s Altar) was demolished. Paolo III’s tower and the viaduct connecting it to “Palazzetto Venezia” were demolished. Giulio Romano’s home was demolished. Pietro da Cortona’s workshop was demolished. The old “Via della Pedacchia”, “Via Macel de’ Corvi” (crow’s slaughterhouse), and Madame Lucrezia’s alley also disappeared.

On March 22nd 1885, the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone came to pass in the presence of the Italian Royal Family. Sacconi’s project was inspired by monumental classic complexes such as Pergamon’s altar and Palestrina’s temple. The monument was intended to have been an open space, an agora, open to all citizens inside a sort of banked square in the heart of Imperial Rome.

A legoland staircase flanked by two winged lions leads to the “Altae of the Motherland”, which itself supports an “alto-rilievo” (high relief) by Angelo Zanelli. A colossal equestrian bronze of Vittorio Emanuele II by Enrico Chiaradia is the highlight, lowlight, or darklight, depending on your point of view. The grand portico (porch) with columns reaching 15 metres high, and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas – an allegorical representation of supreme victory – were created by Carlo Fontana and Paolo Bartolini.

Today it dominates Piazza Venezia, obscuring much of the Roman Forum. Those of us who have a vested interest in ancient Roman history would pay well to see it demolished. Italians are ambivalent and they have plenty of less than endearing nicknames for their wedding cake, including “English soup”. Either way, tens of thousands of snap happy tourists love it. Mildy disconcerting to say the least.



Rome, whose crest is the Capitoline she-wolf (after the bronze statue portraying the legendary animal feeding the twins Romolus and Remus, founders of Rome), is the capital of the Italian Republic. It is the most densely populated city in Italy and among the main European capitals for territorial extension.

Rome is also the city with the world highest concentration of historical and architectural goods. Its centre, circumscribed by the perimeter of the Aurelian walls, which materialize and document an overlap of almost three thousands years of history, is the unique expression of an enormous historical, artistic and cultural heritage whose influence has spread all over the world; in 1980, together with the extraterritorial properties of the “Holy See” inside the city and San Paolo’s Basilica “outside the walls”, it has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Rome, heart of Catholic Christianity, is the only city in the world to host a foreign State within its territory – the Vatican City’s enclave: for this reason it is often defined as capital of two States. More than 16% of world cultural goods are located in Rome (70% of the whole Italian territory).

With its 52,000 hectares of rural areas, Rome is also the “greenest” city in Europe. Beside the historical villas, there are many other green areas, and many cultivated plots of land in the outskirts. Protected areas covers an overall surface of 40,000 hectares, and with a surface of 517 square kilometers destined to agricultural use (about 40% of the total municipal territory) Rome is also the biggest agricultural municipality in Europe.

Today Rome is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable number of archaeological and artistic treasures, its peculiar traditions, the lyrical beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its parks. Visitors and resident can enjoy plenty of museums (Capitoline Museums, National Gallery of Modern Art, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and many others) historical buildings, churches, palaces, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum and the Catacombs. Roman fountains and its imposing acqueducts (water system) are also very distinctive elements of the city.

Rome is the third most visited city in the European Union, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7-10 million tourists a year, which can double on holy years. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are respectively the 39th and 37th most visited places in the world. In 2005 the city registered 19.5 million of global visitors, up of 22.1% from 2001, and in 2006 Rome has been visited by 6.03 million of international tourists, reaching the 8th place in the ranking of the world’s 150 most visited cities. Rome has also been nominated 2007’s fourth most desirable city to visit in the world after Florence, Buenos Aires, and Bangkok.


Scootering in Rome

When I first moved to Rome, I had never been on a scooter in my life, to be honest I was petrified of them. I was fine on my Raleigh Boxer zipping round the streets as a kid, but any form of motorbike was out of the question. Once in Rome, I met a girl who’s only form of transport was a scooter, and so whenever we would go out I was forced to perch on the back and cling on for dear life. Despite the fear, it was a great way to see the city. If you are brave enough to open your eyes you get clear view of everything around you, the sites, the smells, the sounds and of course that feeling of freedom as we’d ride on the pavement to avoid the traffic, even if they were blocked by those pesky pedestrians…

After a while I got used to riding pillion whilst my girlfriend would confidently zip through gaps with only centimeters to spare on each side and speed round corners using her stilettos as a counterbalance. It was fun. It was only a matter of time before I plucked up the courage to have a go myself, and as it turned out it wasn’t half as bad as I thought. Despite being surrounded by a thousand Evel Knievels, you feel surprisingly safe on a scooter, everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing, and once you get used to it you discover that there really is no better way to get around. Parking is never a problem, they are cheap to run and it doesn’t cost too much to hire one. Of course, there are many horror stories of people who have had accidents on scooters abroad, they are a dangerous form of transport and I would really only advise hiring one if you have previous experience, Rome is not the place to learn how to drive a scooter. However, if you know what you are doing and with a little bit of common sense, awareness and confidence, the back of a scooter can be a great way to see the many beautiful sites of Rome.

If scooters really aren’t your thing, then there are other mobile site seeing options. When in Rome Tours offer bicycle, Segway, and rickshaw tours on request, all great alternatives to the scooter experience.


Villa Ada

I want to tell you about a magical place that I know. The only thing is, you have to keep it to yourselves okay? It’s such a magical place that the other day I saw four bright green parrots flying in formation, squawking amongst themselves. Parrots I tell you. In Rome. At first I wasn’t sure if they were parrots, but once they had settled in a nearby tree I saw that they were, in fact, parrots. In Villa Ada you can already find red squirrels jumping amongst the pines trees, terrapins and fish swimming in the lake and countless dogs bounding around happily in the many open green spaces, and these are just a few things that make it so special.

Villa Ada is Rome’s second biggest park and can be found off the Via Salaria in the north of the city. There aren’t many tourists here, visitors to Rome prefer the just as beautiful and more well known Villa Borghese which is a little closer to the city centre and thus more popular with foreign visitors. Villa Ada is a mainly public park, the only private land belongs to the Egyptian embassy, and is covered with vast open spaces as well as scenic pathways that snake their way through the awesome pine trees that provide shade on a hot summers day. Families come here to picnic, to enjoy time together and to play.

Villa Ada is named after the wife of Count Tellfner who owned the park in the 1870’s, since then it’s been home to several kings and during the second world war a bunker was built by Mussolini next to the Villa Savoia, it was here on the 26 July 1943, soon after the Allies invaded Italy, that he was arrested and taken to prison. The villa and bunker still exist today, but unfortunately have been left abandoned and in a state of disrepair. While visiting Villa Ada, why not take a guided tour of the nearby Catacomb of Priscilla, which can be found by the northside entrance to the park.

At the lake entrance you can hire a bike for 3 euros, an ideal way to explore, if you are the sporty type there are many jogging routes and even an ‘outdoor gym’ with wooden exercise equipment. For a more gentle visit, just pick one of the many park benches that line the banks of the lake, close your eyes, bask in the sun and…….relax. Villa Ada is an ideal park to explore, to discover, but mostly to relax.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this, I want this place to remain my little secret, so don’t go telling everyone about it. It’s bad enough that the parrots have come, you know how much they like to talk….