If you want to spend an afternoon in Rome watching trains speeding by ancient aqueducts, pick up the B at Circo Massimo change at Termini for the A and get off at Guilio Agricola. Viale Guilio Agricola is a long street that leads to a church at the edge of a place called Aqueduct Park. The park is not far from Cinecitta (the film studio complex in Rome) and perhaps it’s greatest notoriety derives from the the fact that it was the location for the famed opening scene of La Dolce Vita (1960) where Christ hangs from a helicopter. In Pasolini’s Mamma Roma (1962), it’s the place where Anna Magnani son Ettore (Ettore Garofolo) is savagely beaten before his inamorata Bruna (Silvana Corsini) goes off to have group sex with the victors. The varying ways in which Fellini and Pasolini used the park speaks to the world of difference that characterizes the two directors’ views of post-war Rome. Fellini pictured the city as a circus redolent of hope and a gritty glamour. Pasolini looked at its urbanity through the lens of Marxism and class struggle. Today the Viale Guilio Agricola is lined with housing developments that are reminiscent of Co-op or LeFrak city in New York, the kind of middle class housing in which convenience is traded for affordability. Both the neighborhood and the park itself reveal another side of Rome for the tourist, to the extent that the dwellings and the antiquity partake of a certain quotidian reality. The Circo Massimo may long have outlived its use as a racetrack for chariots, but aqueducts are still a source of water and the streets are inhabited by the kind of people you’re not likely to find starring in La Grand Bellezza (2013). The Marina Abramovic-like performance artist in La Grand Bellezza bangs her head against one of the aqueducts in the park.
photograph by Hallie Cohen
This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy’s blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture