The twenty-ninth day of quarantine. Closed in my rented room in the Olympic Village, between a cup of coffee and the other, I approach the window, waiting for any minimal event thag could show up in my sight. Maybe senses became thinner because of isolation and loneliness, and the most evident change in perceiving the environment is auditive. The big windows in my bedroom overlook the usually congested Corso Francia’s viaduct, which is now suddenly deserted in a surreal way. In this silence I could observe the slow germinating of leaves on the branches, and I learnt how to discern the sparrows’ gentle tweeting from the parrots’ joyful and messy one.
Hanging out of the tight balcony in via Portogallo allows you to see the image of your building reflected and refracted in countless identical facades, completely covered by orange bricks. Looking secretly at the colourful cyclamens, the succulent plants, the apotropaic masks and the hanging laundry on the neighbours’ balconies, I try to imagine other people’s lives and loneliness, as depicted in one of Georges Perec’s or Eshkol Nevo’s novels. And watching the perfect symmetry that seems to organize the streets of this quarter nestled between the Parioli neighborhood and the River Tevere, I suddenly think again about my long explorations throughout these places, before the blooming of the spring in Rome.
I have been living in this district for a few months, and when I went through it the first time I had the impression of getting lost in the entangled and indistinguishable roads, of getting caught in a series of contradictions that I couldn’t dissolve. With the time it began appearing to me like a single and big pulsating organism. A large and complicated living being, whose navel could be maybe the Palazzetto dello Sport, with its circular plan and the spherical covering. Designed by Annibale Vitellozzi and Pier Luigi Nervi, its bulding should have symbolized the love act with which the whole Olympic Village was brought to life in view of the 1960 Games. But over the past few years the umbilical cord was cut off, and the Palazzetto neglected, almost completely forgotten, even though it still represents the barycenter which holds in balance the whole district, with its mysterious fluctuating jellyfish features.
A few steps away, in De Coubertin street, the Auditorium del Parco della Musica, designed by Renzo Piano and inaugurated at the beginning of the new Millennium, opens itself like a huge eye. Observed from a high perspective, it resembles to a big pupil, surrounded by lead eyelashes, and it seems to safeguard all the possibilietes of the gaze: the concert, the theatre, the literature. And like the sense of the sight opens to the world, the Auditorium opens up to Rome, ready to host the city in the buzz of the many events organized in the rooms, in the absorbed silence of the library, or in the colourful vivacity of the well-stocked Notebook bookshop.
The flow of the River Tevere, which encloses the district and marks the northern border, seems a liquid epidermis on which the lights of the city reverberate during the night. A vibrant and thin skin that not only isolates and protects, but also connects, thanks to the romantic Ponte Milvio teeming with people, and the monumental Ponte Flaminio, which Nanni Moretti in Caro Diario has to cross with his Vespa twice every day to feel fine.
It is possible to discover the heart and the arteries that animate this place only entering in the tree-lined streets and in the housing complex built to host the athletes partecipating to the Olympic Games. Via Germania, via Bulgaria, via Turchia, via Unione Sovietica…at the first impact the streets look like discernible only for the nation that gives them the name. But venturing and losing the way in the tangle of the buildings, the change of geometries and details emerges slowly from zone to zone: the different colours of the tiles at every entrance, the infinite chase of the porticos, the glass windows that lets you glimpse the continuous intersect of the staircases, the rhomboid motif on the sampietrini in Piazza Grecia.
The perspectives and the colours of the district have attracted the film directors’ gaze, which transformed them in a movie set. Particularly meaningful is Sergio Castellitto’s choice of setting his Nessuno si salva da solo in these streets: born in the Sixties like a symbol of hope in future, with alternate phases of neglect and redevelopment, the Olympic Village offered itself like the most suitable place to represent metaphorically the tormented love story between the two main characters.
Between the innards of this place, between the garbage and the high grass, it happens to find lost or abandoned objects, such as dolls, hairbrushes, backpacks, and every time I wonder which story is concealed in them, and whom they belonged to. I like to think of them as the traces of the many life forms which interact in these places, where students and precarious workers rent cheap rooms on the same floora of aged people who have lived here for decades, or in the same street where a gypsy family stops for a while with their caravan, dancing their typical music with their children.
In a short time maybe it isn’t possible to have a clear and lucid vision of all the dynamics which pervade the place where you live, but the impression is that the inner contradictions could coexist in a context which still preserves a spontaneous and working-class solidarity.
The urban and living pattern of the Olympic Village is made up of houses and orange bricks, of the guys who drive in the large parkings, training for their driving licence. It is made up of the Roman voices which sell artichokes, pecorino, leather bags every Friday at the market. As soon as I tell some words to buy something, my recognisable northern accent becomes the pretext for a long and cheerful conversation.
And I was sursprised to discover that after I entered twice in the same bar, they could remember my name: in this way I felt welcomed in a wonderful and difficult city like Rome, led by hand in a labyrinthine reality like the Olympic Village, which is slowly disentangling itself to assume outlines every day more recognizable like “home”.