Via del Mandrione

Mandrione04Via del Mandrione is a border line winding through the eternal city: it runs in a neutral zone between the centre and the outskirts, between past and present.

The street, named after “mandria” (herd), which were grazing here not many years ago, is two kilometres long, and goes from via Casilina Vecchia to via Tuscolana.

Should you visit this street on the week end, you’d get the impression of walking along an isolated area, an out-of-time spot where vegetable gardens, workshops, Roman aqueducts and villas co-exist in a curious mixture.Mandrione01

Something decadent but also majestic is in the air: you might come across an old man on his Vespa, stopped in front of his little garden to water some lettuce, while the 20 meter- high aqueduct standing in front of him, makes him tiny, almost insignificant.

Both the railway and the Felice Aqueduct run alongside this street, conveying an idea of movement and speed: via del Mandrione seems to run towards the Roman country, even though the city centre is much closer than you could imagine.

Either walking or driving towards via Tuscolana, it’s easy to notice the aqueduct’s arcade becoming lower, thus offering to the place a new and friendly atmosphere.

Mandrione03After the First World War, the Borgo’s evacuated community walled up the archways in this point to create some closed rooms (the ancient district ‘Borgo’ was partially destroyed to build via della Conciliazione in front of St. Peter’s Basilica); some homeless people and a gipsy community settled here too, between the two world wars. Hundreds of  small houses grew up below the arches, stretching the street forward: a poor but lively shanty town took shape, to disappear only at the end of the 70’s, when a new  town-planning scheme was arranged.

Some remains are still visible, such as corrugated irons and pink tiles fixed to the arches’ inner walls: nevertheless the local administration seems to be reluctant to eliminate these traces forever. However the silence is deeper as you pass by these empty rooms.  

But the most fascinating point is when via del Mandrione meets via Casilina Vecchia: craftmen’s plaster figures imitating marble statues and old broken cars of a garage pop out below the tall arcade, while the street splits up and slips into a couple of arches, to continue its way.

Such a ‘clashing’ effect between old and modern elements, that is between magnificent and decadent scenery, is the most charming aspect of this part of the city, as if these odd combinations could make fun of the time. Isn’t this street representative of Rome, a whole of time stratifications, conscious of never being equal to its past.

by Federica Gulizia

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