A friend and her family are travelling to Rome in a few months and she wanted to know where she should go that wasn't going to be too touristy - places that were our favourite discoveries. I have only been to Rome a few times but Paolo has been there on many occasions. So, in honour of her request and for our Opening Night Film - Roman Holiday, we will be posting some city secrets.
Up first, a Cinema story.
Most visitors to Rome are blissfully unaware that under their feet lies another city entirely, a medieval ruin that sits on top of older ones in a pancake stack of layered history. One catches glimpses of this in the various archaeological pits that have been dug. But this is only a fraction of the archaeology still buried under Rome. Dig anywhere in the city and you're bound to uncover the past.
Because archaeological remains are strictly controlled and finding them on one's property can result in a lengthy and costly preservation process, most owners either avoid any kind of expansion that involves digging or do so discreetly (and illegally). Not so with the Cremonini group, one of the largest food companies in Italy, which purchased an old cinema near the Trevi Fountain in the 1980s and began transforming it into the Cinema Alberto Sordi. In the course of construction, workers discovered medieval ruins in the basement; these ruins lay on top of even older ones going back to the fourth and fifth centuries. Over a ten-year period, archaeologists uncovered an extensive network of shops, houses, and streets under the modern buildings.
A hundred years ago, medieval sites were regularly destroyed by archaeologists trying to get at the ancient ruins beneath them. But in this case, some of the medieval ruins were left intact, including several houses. As a result, you can get a fantastic image of how successive eras built upon previous ones, literally building on top of older ruins, layer over layer. There are several Roman insulae (apartment houses) here and a great road (the Vicus Caprarius, which lends its name to the site) running down the middle - probably of Hadrianic era construction. In the corner of the site, a Roman latrine is powered by water from the Acqua Vergine, which also feeds the Trevi Fountain a short distance away.
The Vicus Caprarius illustrates how Romans live in and amongst their past. And this is something we have discussed in our Programme with the curation of the Cinema Italiano Festival 2017. Although the ruins delayed construction, Cremonini got its cinema, suspending it down into the site from above. They were smart enough to wrap the box in windows: before the lights dim on show nights, filmgoers are treated to the spectacle of two thousand years of continuous history unfolding before their eyes.