Archive for October 3rd, 2009

It seems fitting that in such an ancient/modern city as Rome, hunter-gatherers should coexist peacefully with perennial lovers-on-blankets and with i-pod-wired joggers.  The largest public park, Villa Doria Pamphili, exemplifies this shared experience of urban life.

It’s relatively nearby the American Academy, and I’ve been running there on recent mornings.  While I admit I haven’t seen any true hunting, unless you count fit men doing pull-ups eyeing the passing women sweating it up in their requisite black tights, I have seen old men and young boys fishing in the pond, random gatherers of the chestnuts that are falling fast and hard from the trees, and a man with a large sack clipping the last of the dandelion greens, before the mowers arrived.  Free urban harvesting lives on.

We took Jack there today, to ride his bike.  This park is one of the scenes I love about this city, because it blends the ancient with the baroque with the modern—not seamlessly at all, but with the surprise of oddly continuous juxtapositions.  When you take your eyes off of the contemporary Romans, who are surprising for their collective attractiveness and style, you see alongside these modern habits—jogging, doing leg-lifts and push-ups along the “Percorso Salute” (the Health Course) with its exercise stations marked out—the ancient forms of aqueducts and arches, the baroque curlicues of stone leaves and niches.  (Exercise and self-care aren’t modern inventions by far, but that’s another post.)

J aqueduct

gathering chestnuts

Villa Doria Pamphili is the largest public park in Rome.  The baroque villa, built on the prominent hilltop acreage in the early seventeenth century, is now a museum, and the former vineyard and garden—which also played an important strategic role in Garibaldi’s defeat of the French, and so in Italian unification as a nation, with Rome as the capital—is now a park landscaped as if designed to speak one word: leisure.

the villa

the villa

topiary mazes

topiary mazes

J & swans

What I love best about the park, though, aside from the people watching, is the baroque interpretation of “pagan stuff”: weird wizardly men as the fountain faces, and funny scenes involving putti.  Here are a few of my favorites.

font face 2


font. face 3

nice ears

Check out these putti at play:


Filling up, at the wolf’s mouth:

wolf fountain

This is a civilization that knows how to eat well, exercise well (though sometimes stopping for a smoke), drink well, sculpt well, kiss well, relax well.

I sauteed a huge bagful of dandelion greens tonight, which I’d bought at an open market stall a few days ago.  Wonder where those greens were gathered.

I’m not sure what we’ll do with Jack’s collection.  There is a good grill out back….



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