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Vanished Rome

by Valentina Rizzi

Here I am, heading towards another adventure, in a new season, stepping on orange leaves on a three wheeler while I am trying to reach the former Guido Reni barracks that today host Italianism, a special event within the Outdoor Festival, dedicated to the new Italian visual art scene. Bibliolibrò has been invited to participate with its books and everything is so moving and beautiful, to begin with the place, just in front of the big Maxxi museum of contemporary art in Rome. Too bad the weather doesn’t hold out – as I am driving along the pine-adorned via Cristoforo Colombo, the storm eventually arrives, with puffs and pants and a heavy rain that prevents you from seeing at nose length. I have had a love-and-hate relationship with the weather since I began to move around with Bibliolibrò. You know that it is going to rain and equip yourself as better as possible, you pack the books in waterproof containers, you cover the tapestry with tarpaulins, you wear a K-Way and fill a bag with towels, a degreaser and sponges to remove the mud and the dirt from the doors, but basically you are unprepared. As in life, where the only certainties are unexpected events. While you are driving at a speed of 30 km/h on cobblestones, bouncing as if you were on a tagada ride, between the Bocca della Verità and the Tiber waterfront, you wonder whether it is going to stop, how long it will last, whether it will get worse and how much this exponential increase of liquid falling from the sky is going to rise. But above all you think of your paper, hoping that you have properly protected it. On your left the Tiber Island, then Castel Sant’Angelo… while you are trying to orient yourself, you expect to see Noah pass by and wink at you on the banks of the foaming blond Tiber. It’s 7.30 am on a Saturday morning and the Romans, lazy and sneaky, are shut up in their houses waiting for the rain to stop. There is nobody around, I think of the Dolce Vita, in stops and starts I dream of riding a Vespa, I sweetly steer and patiently go my way beyond a multitude of statuesque and unflappable bridges that don’t deign to surrender to the streams foaming and rapidly rising against the banks. I think of the lines of the amazing poet Checco Durante, “No... no... they were wrong. You won’t see me fall... I will stand upright, as I have been doing for many centuries. Although water has risen to my neck, Romans will always have Ponte Mollo…”.
I think of this big-hearted, betrayed, abandoned city that has disappeared amidst the rubbish, that has lost both its mayor and its king, that struggles between decay and beauty, that has been standing upright for centuries like Ponte Mollo, and I stand upright too, driving along one of the most beautiful streets in the world and I don’t care if it’s raining out there anymore and I don’t even have windows to shut. This rain, I welcome it all, standing my ground, here on the banks of an ancient civilization that has outlived wars, droughts, famines, bribery and rackets. When I reach Flaminio my fingers are red because of the antediluvian gearshift on the handlebars, I am tired, out of breath, drenched from my head to my feet. I make my entrance in the abandoned barracks where I find a world of artisans nailing down boards, moving chairs, improvising stalls and carrying prints and illustrations. So I arrive at Italianism and caress Bibliolibrò patting its back. 50 kilometres on your own, today you have done your job Biblio! I dry, tidy up, clean, arrange things. The sky is peaceful again only in Francesco’s blue eyes, he is the one who has interceded for my presence here, among Italian excellences, and welcomes me with a long embrace and a beaming smile that shows off like Rugantino. A limpid sky in his enchanting look. Cappuccino? The typical Roman hospitality peeps out between desolate wide rooms, moss, water leaks from the ceiling and huge evoking spaces that host important Street Art installations today. I shake off the cold and begin to display the “survivors”. Illustrated books and much love for my Rome, beautiful and decadent like these barracks. My very own Rome, vanished Rome.