Wednesday 24 December 2014

Italy: Roma Day 2

(Spot the couldn't quite cope).

After marching around Rome in the blazing August heat on the Wednesday, Tutt wasn't feeling too clever and, in any case, she didn't fancy coming to the stadium with me, so off I trotted in my taxi to the Foro Italico. The Foro Italico wasn't mentioned in our guidebook (which admittedly was a whole-of-Italy edition) but it was recommended as a good place to visit by a knowledgeable friend and, upon perusing the map, it was just a short yomp down the hill from the hotel, so off I trundled - at midday, of course.

I was surprised, upon walking in, not to be challenged or sold a ticket by the desk people, whom I greeted as I passed them, but the Foro itself is essentially a running track adjacent to a large stadium, surrounded by statues. During my sojourn I saw a few people taking pictures,  a little girl practising on her roller blades, an old geezer jogging, a slightly younger version running the stairs, and somebody walking their dog - so I guess it is just used as an outdoor space for all comers. I resisted the urge to do a lap, envisioning either embarrassing collapse at 32 degrees or, at the very least, a sweaty and dishevelled figure to meet with Tutt for the Vatican.

Instead, I busied myself with photographs of the statues. They did not disappoint. The Foro was built by Mussolini for the 1944 Olympics which never happened here, and because Mussolini loved sport and was obsessed with the cult of Romanita, the stadium is surrounded by statues in style of ancient Rome doing modern sports. For example there is a naked skier, a naked footballer, a cricketer with a hockey stick and a tennis player in a jock strap.  The effect is ever so slightly bizarre.

Note: naked skiing is not to be encouraged.

I walked around for a bit and took a picture for some lads who wanted the brand new stadium in the background; it slowly dawned on me that that's the national stadium, or where Roma play, or something. I wanted to go and look around: I'd heard there were some good mosaics; but I couldn't find a way in. Eventually I walked back through the almost-deserted building (the guard at the front looked very surprised to see me appearing from the back) and out the front, where I saw some excellent Fascist monuments and, yes, black and white mosaics commemorating Mussolini and epic achievements of Italy. I squeezed through the barrier for a closer look.

Love this style. It's all very Stalin-propaganda, Empire-State-Building esque.

Tanks and planes, immortalised in mosaic form!

This is a very history teacher thing, I know, but I was absolutely enthralled. There are plaques all around commemorating the key events of Mussolini's regime, including some blank ones that were erected but not filled before his demise. I love it! Unfortunately it's not very well-kept; I wonder if it's a bit embarrassing for the Italians, but, because Rome is the eternal city, they can hardly remove bits of its history because they find it unpalatable. I expect a lot of people found the Roman emperors unpalatable before there were almost two millennia between us and them. So, I wonder if they're just sort of letting it go to seed, as it were.

This is a good little spot for history buffs.

Next up: the Vatican. It gets a post of its own. There are already so many pictures in this post.

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