Rome Watching Rome

July 3, 2014 / Local Interest
Rome, Italy

One of those infinitely recursive loops that occur in buggy computer programs has been taking place in Rome.

Take the piazza of one OLD Roman neighborhood, as in likely developed around the time that Romulus or one of his pals ran a bridge tras (across) -tevere (the Tiber). In any case, a neighborhood old enough that the last time it was re-developed was in the Middle Ages.

Add about 200 plastic chairs to said piazza (include piazza benches, and people from their windows), a big screen, and a projector.

Project old movies set in Rome on said screen every few nights, no particular schedule.
Wash, rinse, repeat.


There’s been much talk in the neighborhood… “Da quanto tempo non vedevo quei vecchi film” (it’s been so long since I’ve seen those old films), and “Che bello rivede’ Roma com’era ‘na vorta” (it’s been so nice seeing Rome like it used to be).

There’s a definite “good old days” component to the appreciation. I suppose Rome (which is just as much a lead in the movies as are Mastroianni, Gassman, et al.) has changed quite a bit since the 50’s and 60s, when neo-realism depicted post-war Italy and the change it was going through. No denying the change since then.

That said, I’m guessing that at the same time, in typical Italian Gattopardo fashion, Rome has been continuously changing for 3,000 years and thus in some ways hasn’t changed at all… the desire/pleasure derived from reminiscing about “i bei tempi” and “Roma de ‘na vorta” (the good old days, and the once was Rome) definitely one such constant.

Photos in today’s note are of the screening a few evenings ago of Fantasmi a Roma (Ghosts of Rome, 1961, by Pietrangeli, great movie). So what you get today is a Roman, writing about Romans watching an old movie about Rome, projected in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Rome, set in an old Rome inhabited by the ghosts (Mastroianni and co.) of even older Romans…

What they put up in the piazza is not a screen, but a mirror. Rome watching itself, basically. Recursion indeed, yet a heartening one at that.




by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

17 Responses to “Rome Watching Rome”

  1. Taube Ponce

    Thank you for sharing even these minor pleasures with those of us who love Italy and who love Rome. After all, love includes a myriad of such minor, domestic moments – it’s not all grandeur, history and pomp!

  2. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Ah GB… this is one of your sublime notes (and there are many) about things that Italians might take for granted in their culture, but which cause the rest of us to smile, pause, admire…. and book the next return to Italy. Bello!

  3. Margie Luckhardt

    I always love reading your pieces, but this one was definitely a notch above. What a great way to show how Rome and Romans love to reflect on themselves. Well done!

  4. marianna

    Loved your reflections of things that change yet really stay the same. Your essays and photos are wonderful – Thank you

  5. louise

    Made me weepy. How true. Nothing like having a long history to your individual world. It certainly makes you feel you are a part of the whole. Thanks, GB, for really telling us what we are seeing.

  6. Linda Boccia

    Looks like a scene from “Cinema Paradiso”, and yes, I wish that we were there too!!!
    but it’s Roma, la citta’ eterna, and it is! The city of my husband’s birth and our favorite place in Italy because it’s resilient, vibrant and always contemporary.

    • Exactly my thoughts “mirroring” Cinema Paradiso”. Bella film, bella Roma!

  7. Liz Weeks Musil

    Your writing is as enjoyable as the memories you brought back of watching some of these movies being filmed while I was at the Overseas School of Rome. Thanks!!

  8. Jan Johnson

    As a committed ‘people watcher’ myself, your article resonated GB. Loved it!!

  9. Reminds me of the many times i’ve watched my favorite all-time film Cinema Paradiso and what beautifully simple diversion it was for all…

  10. Myrna Komar

    Where exactly in rome does this happen – my sister, niece and I will be visiting Rome next year and would like to put this on the list of things to do

    • GB

      The location of outdoor cinemas changes every summer. Be sure to look up “cinema all’aperto”+”roma”. A usual spot is on the tiberina island, for example. The one featured here took place in Trastevere but just lasted 5 showings, and it was the first time they did so. Not sure if they will be doing it again next year.


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