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ROMAN COUNTRY SIDE
There was silence on the graceful hills burnt by the sun and the crickets sang in the summer of the roman country sides. There was a medieval tower where the sheep ate the grass under the shadows of the pine trees, with the hill tops in the background.
Country estate farms, with external stairs situated on the top of the slightly levelled hills and the heat that slackened the pace of life.
Today that world, with a careful eye can still be perceived, always further away from the city. Once the flocks pastured near the coliseum, today they pasture at Cinecittà. That solitary tower between clusters of pine trees is still there with the ‘Castelli Romani’ in the background, with its unsightly popular buildings. I can still see animals at pasture, but between two roads full of traffic.
A walk in the old streets that surround Rome is the route that takes you back in time, or better gives you an image of the past.
Even today, with some imagination, we can re-discover these sights. Climb up to the top of one of the many abandoned farm houses and obscure the world surrounding you. Allow the hills to become a solitary island and try to listen to the voices that no longer exist. We can smell the odour of the burnt earth and imagine tobacco leaves lined up under the sun to dry. In every abandoned house, the simple lives of simple people who worked the land and sold their products in the city markets, with their carts, if they were lucky to possess one, travelling on Via Laurentina or via Ostienese and finally arriving in the city
Today travelling on the same roads we encounter the new city, a city that tries to protect these places of interest but doesn’t fully succeed. It isn’t simply an object to be saved but the spirit of that land. Ours is a society that tries to hide its agricultural history and forgets the fundamental link between the countryside and the city which has always strongly characterized it.
I would still like to feel the gentle summer breezes that caressed my skin, but how is it possible if the buildings become barriers insurmountable that interrupt, killing the natural circulation of the winds?
Vitruvio, in his De Architecture, spoke about this 2000 years ago. It was normal procedure to be informed regarding the meteorology of the area. Today we project buildings that could be situated anywhere. Today any suburban area of any city can count its huge buildings projected in series and districts repeated always with the same missing identity.
A row of defensive medieval towers entirely surround Rome, we cannot say, however, that we have protected them, when they have become part of the GRA and shopping centres, sandwiched between ramps of cement.
In the Roman countryside we could come across huts in long coned- shaped forms, solidly anchored, seasonal home of the poor people that populated the area. Often they were grouped in 20’s or 30’s and formed their own villages. Today we can still see these huts, reconstructed by numerous residents of ‘Rocca di Papa’, grandchildren of the, ‘Carbonai’, men who produced charcoal in the woods of Monte Cave.
The Roman countryside was still in that period a marsh but the struggle to survive didn’t leave much room for choice; it was an enormous pasture land, a vast hunting area and an extensive cultivable land.
Sailing on the Tevere, even today we can come across landscapes that remind us what the Roman countryside’s were like until the beginning of the 20th. C and how for 2000 years they have been able to remain unchanged.
A bare tree fallen on the boarder of the river, scanty bushes, trees in the distance and the silence listened to observing the vapour that rises from the earth.
The spirit of the place is what continues to live even with continual changes, giving it a unique unquestionable character.
Christian Norberg Schulz in his ‘Genius Loci’ writes- ‘Our everyday life existence is made up of tangible phenomenon’s, people, animals, flowers, trees and forests, stones, earth, wood and water, cities, roads and houses, doors, windows and furniture, and further more it’s made of sun, moon and stars, clouds that move, day and night, seasons that pass. But our life includes also phenomenon’s indefinable like emotions.


Author: Stefano Abbadessa Mercanti
www.sguardi.info

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