(Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana)
I’ve only been to EUR twice, but I have a love/hate relationship with it that’s currently leaning more towards love…
I first visited the area in May, for the surreal experience of a Renato Zero concert at the Palalottomatica. Despite the fact that the stadium was immediately visible from the metro station, with Renato’s eyes and a sign saying “ZERO” looming over the park, it wasn’t at all obvious how to actually get there. My friend and I went back and forth across busy roads, climbed steps that led nowhere, and debated whether to follow an elderly couple wearing gold baseball caps, hoping that anyone dressed eccentrically would be a fan, and so might lead us to the concert.
We got there in the end, and enjoyed an insane three and a half hour performance involving backing dancers dressed as toothbrushes. When we emerged, having missed the last metro, we tried to find out where we could get a night bus to take us back into central Rome. We were misdirected by a policewoman and wandered around EUR without any idea of how we were going to get out. At last we found some other lost fans from the concert- it seemed like every pedestrian in the area at 1am on a Sunday was walking around in a daze after the concert – and after waiting hopefully at a few different bus stops that all turned out to be the wrong ones, we eventually managed to run after the N2, which took us back to civilisation. Well, that’s how it felt at the time.
EUR is not a particularly pleasant place to be lost at night. It felt very lonely, and if I’d been on my own, all the empty offices and fascist architecture would have seemed even more intimidating. It was a like a ghost town, and I found it hard to believe that people actually lived there.
I returned to EUR for a walking tour at the weekend, and although the streets were deserted like last time, I found that the area really grew on me. In general, my preference is always for the old over the new – books, music, art, architecture – and my favourite buildings in Rome tend to be churches rather than bleak fascist constructions. But in EUR, somehow it works. It’s a vision of a future which never happened, something I find fascinating. It’s dystopian and slightly scary, and feels like a project gone wrong. I’m sure it feels very different during the week, when all the office workers are there, but walking down empty streets on a sunny Sunday afternoon past rows of fountains and sterile white buildings while the traffic roars down Via Colombo is quite an eerie experience. The other thing it reminded me of was a massive film set that had been abandoned.
So while I wouldn’t want to live there, I would happily go there again if I felt like a change from central Rome. I still have to visit the museums, and see the famous gigantic model of ancient Rome. The park is also lovely, filled with families and people selling balloons.
But the main reason I’d go back is the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, which is one of those buildings I’m really drawn to for reasons I can’t explain. It sticks out like…not a sore thumb, but a beautiful white symmetrical thumb? I don’t know. It gleams in the sunlight and you can see through both sets of windows to the sky on the other side. I might find some fascist architecture interesting, but rarely beautiful – this is the exception. It’s been used in quite a few films, including Titus, which is set in a kind of parallel-universe-Rome. EUR itself feels a bit like that.
VN POPOLO DI POETI DI ARTISTI DI EROI
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And I do love buildings that show off.