On April 21, 2015, I walked for 21 kilometers following the route of the Metro Line A, from Battistini to Anagnina. It was my first “Roma Coast to Coast”, the beginning of a series that I would continue several times in the following years. The aim was a photographic project to tell the various nuances of Rome. During the walk I wrote some notes. The notes are of a few lines, but collected and put together they make up a story that is fragmented, perhaps confused, but which somehow gives the idea of that beautiful day on the streets of my city. So, 7 years after that walking photographic journey, here is the diary of my first “Roma Coast to Coast”, a project that I dedicated to the memory of a former primary school classmate, Leonardo, who loved this city very much and who passed away exactly that day.
From Termini to Battistini, I take the subway to the starting point of my adventure. Soon I will do this same path, in reverse: I don’t move from point A to point B, but from point B(attistini) to point A(nagnina). I travel light: a zip-up sweatshirt for the evening breeze, a Berlin T-shirt with the walking traffic light man, a pair of jeans and my trusty Converse All Star, which everyone warn me against wearing when instead I walked half a world with them without ever showing fatigue: they are a bit like my horses, my chariot, and since today is the anniversary of the foundation of Rome I have decided to name them Romulus and Remus, in homage to my city. I rely on them for this crossing. I wonder what time I’ll arrive, if I’ll be able to get there, I wonder at what point along the way I’ll regret having undertaken this adventure and when instead I’ll feel happy about it.
It’s noon. The Janiculum cannon will be firing, I declare my Rome Coast to Coast officially open. Forget the smartphone, turn everything off, if in doubt, ask for information on the street and not from Google. This is the only rule.
I haven’t even arrived in Cornelia and I’ve already traveled the world: Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe… All in a few meters, between Battistini and via Boccea.
The morning traffic, the daily grind, the hellos from the fruit vendors: when you’re traveling you quickly learn to distinguish between friends and potential pain in the ass, but actually you almost always meet nice people. You see them immediately, you recognize them and you want to say hi. With this traffic jam on the street, I feel relieved of travel on foot… My camera arouses curiosity, as always happens when I move in a neighborhood that is not exactly touristic.
Cornelia, first stop and a little thrill: am I still here??
Baldo Degli Ubaldi. Better to start downhill than end uphill. This road reminds me of when I was 18 doing leafleting, endless walks among the buildings of the neighborhood, just to scrape together some money and buy a few more CDs or go out more often with friends. A lot of years (and miles) ago.
Valle Aurelia, valley in name and in fact. Green and concrete. I approach the Vatican and as a result I meet the first tourists.
From Cipro to the Esquiline, a tourist route now awaits me. I will be able to blend in among the many visitors of the Eternal City. In an hour and twenty minutes I only touched five stops, fortunately the distances get shorter in downtown, I should be able to overcome it in an hour and a half, I hope. At the moment I’m not hungry, I’m not tired, my feet are fine. Romulus and Remus, the “horses” I wear, are going great. Magnificent day.
Ottaviano: it’s lunchtime, the streets are less busy, the restaurants of viale Giulio Cesare are full of tourists and workers on their lunch break. The Trionfale Market breathes after the chaos of the morning, the shutters are lowered for the afternoon closing.
While I’m taking a photo around Lepanto, a gentleman wearing a jacket and tie asks me what the subject of the photo is: I explain I’m doing a reportage and he starts talking about my camera. He’s a photography enthusiast, he says that he isn’t ready to use a digital camera, but maybe he should, because “it’s the future”. “It’s almost the past now”, I say, then talking about the advantages of digital (even if I obviously agree on the charm of film photography). “Now smartphones can do anything, Whatsapp is a distraction”, he continues. It’s true, but today I turned everything off to keep my eyes open and focused.
Crossing the Tiber on the Flaminio bridge, a subway train whizzes past me, as if to make fun of my walk. Now I’m in Piazza del Popolo, at the market in Piazzale Flaminio the street vendors, thinking that I was a tourist, asked me to take a picture of them. It’s already half past two, times are getting incredibly longer, between a stop, a photo, a slow pace, a chat. I promise to get through downtown faster.
Sun on the Spanish Steps. It’s the most crowded spot in downtown. On my way to Barberini.
From Barberini to Repubblica the first uphill of the journey. I slowly move away from the center. Spring has invaded Rome, reflected on the skin of beautiful foreign girls. The sun is slightly lower.
I’m starting to see a lot of trolleys: it means that Termini Station is very close. Suitcases everywhere, even in shops.
I’m at Termini Station. I see two boys sleeping on the sidewalk. I could not photograph them. I don’t dare. I can’t be cynical and detached enough (or am I not sensitive enough?). In any case, there is an ethical limit even in photography, and there are situations that shouldn’t be photographed: human dignity must always be safeguarded.
I arrive in Piazza Vittorio at 3.46 pm, clearly late on my schedule but with unchanged enthusiasm. I’m not hungry, the pizza eaten at Battistini before departure is filling me up for now, as if it were “Elven Lembas bread”. However, the desire for a beer break jumps in my mind between the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the small Chinese shops. In front of the metro station in Piazza Vittorio I meet my friend Valentina by chance. “How are your legs?” she asks me. While she’s entering the station she send me a kiss and I take a photo. I’m almost halfway.
I put aside the idea of a beer, but arrived at Re di Roma, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a tiramisu at Bar Pompi. I listen a small conversation between two children and I smile: “Look! Your grandfather is coming”, “That’s not my grandfather, it’s my dad!”.
My feet are starting to claim a break. I understand that it’s time to stop in some bar for a coffee. I meet my friend Giordano in Furio Camillo, we talk a little about cinema and he gives me some advice on the itinerary to follow.
Leaving the (new) Appian Way to turn towards Arco di Travertino, the scenario changes completely. The “very Roman” Rome of Appio Latino neighborhood becomes the multi-ethnic Rome that touches Tor Pignattara and embraces peoples of all kinds.
The sun walks behind me, the shadows lengthen, the rays wave to me from behind the arches of via del Mandrione.
Too much people on the Tuscolana! Crowded sidewalks, stalls on every corner, people everywhere.
19.02, Cinecittà is irradiated by the sun. We are nearing the end of my journey, even if this last stretch will be the most difficult since Anagnina is not exactly the ideal place to reach on foot. I ask a gentleman for information, he suggests me to take the subway (ah-ah!): he says “It’s on this direction, but it’s very far away, it’s better for you don’t go there on foot!”. I reply: “Oh well, I can walk, no problem”. “So have a good walk!”.
19.45. A quarter of an hour before the scheduled 8 hours, I reach Anagnina and conclude my first Roma Coast to Coast. I approached the terminus accompanied by the sunset and a huge sense of satisfaction. While I sealed it all by taking a selfie with the words “Anagnina”, a guard stopped me telling me that I can’t take pictures at the station. I explained to him that I was simply taking a picture of myself with the sign and he: “Aaah but it’s a selfie, do it, no problem!”.
Evening. I’m in bed with aching feet, the streets of Rome still in my eyes, the thought that there is still a lot to do: over 200 photos to edit! I think it would have been nice to explore some areas of the route, such as Primavalle (near Battistini) for example, or the Parco degli Acquedotti, the Vatican, the Esquiline Hill… It was a beautiful day and I think that sooner or later I’ll have to do the sequel with the Line B (spoiler: I did it the following year).