photography by alessandro ciapanna

Archive for ‘November, 2012’

ROME – classic shops

When you think of shopping in Rome, trendy blingy fashionable shops selling glitzy apparel, fancy Italian shoes and other overpriced but stylish accessories might pop into mind. Let me, however, take you for a stroll in today’s Rome city center. There is classic treasure to be found by following our prying eyes down those narrow alleys…






Tucked away in the narrow alleys around Piazza Navona, it is not difficult to encounter workshops specialized in the upkeep and maintenance of straw and wicker furniture, a job unchanged over centuries.






This is the bizzarre entrance to a restaurant called Canova Tadolini on Via del Babuino. It was an artists’ studio – originally rented by Antonio Canova for his favorite apprentice Adamo Tadolini.






On Via dei Banchi Vecchi there is a little shop selling a bit of everything, including firewood. The owner sits out front reding a magazine, screwdrivers on the ready, between three of Italy’s most classic vehicles: a Fiat 500, a vintage Vespa scooter, and one of our modest little two-stroke, three-wheeled Piaggio Ape pickup trucks.






Many of Rome’s shops now stand in reconverted stables where horses and other livestock were once sheltered. Over time means of locomotion changed but the shops remained essentially the same. From shoeing horses to fixing bicycles to small motorcycles to modern superbikes and plastic scooters. One thing never changes: the neighbors complaining of the noise and/or the smell.






Some real gems are to be found in the narrowest little alleys. This shop just around the corner from Piazza Sant’Eustachio is as antique as the lovely wares it displays.






Shop for clergy (yes, members of clergy are allowed to go shopping, provided they don’t enjoy the experience). One cardinal is sampling the material for a robe to be commissioned at Cammarelli, a taylor specializing in clerical apparel.






This is not really a shop, but a great Roman tradition nonetheless. Around Christmas time, Piazza Navona is filled with stalls selling everythig from little figurines with which to recreate nativity scenes, to toys and gifts for small children, to games (shoot the balloon…) and traditional festive sweets, such as here. This is torrone, or nougat.





All photographs taken in November 2012.

Please note: I am now traveling and away from my home base, so please be patient if i can’t reply to comments as soon or as often as i’d like.


Alessandro Ciapanna

LUNGOTEVERE – after the flood

I’m going to keep this post short. Because it is heartbreaking.


As my last post showed, Rome nearly flooded on November 14th. The city center was mostly spared. But all kinds of people were badly affected. The homeless, for example, who ordinarily pitch camp under the bridges, near the water’s edge. Or the many sporting clubs along the river banks where Olympic dreams are nurtured. Boats large and small went destroyed. Plants, animals and even fish were destroyed en masse. I saw a fish dying in a field about one kilometer from where the river normally runs. As usual, ordinary people bore the brunt.


Photo essay taken along the banks of the Tiber river after the eleven-meter (!) surge of November 14th 2012.





Up to a foot of silt was left behind on the Lungotevere, the pedestrian road with bicycle path that runs along both sides of the Tiber. At least one large “barcone” – boat – similar to the one pictured was destroyed when it tore free of its moorings and smashed into the Ponte Milvio bridge.





A homeless person used to camping under one of Rome’s larger bridges sleeps on a mattress after having been evicted by the rising waters. On the large travertine steps someone has scrawled “You and me. One thing only. I love you.”





The possessions of the man in the other photograph were spared being washed away, but not getting wet, so they sit drying in the unseasonably warm november weather. The tent is pitched literally a few feet away from a busy, multi-lane road.





Sanpietrini – Rome’s classic cobblestones – morph into ripples of fine silt left behind by the high waters of november 14th.





One’s loss, another’s gain. This bicycle was deposited, along with other flotsam, near the Tiber island, in Rome’s center, after having been washed downstream, possibly for miles. The man toiled a few minutes to dig it up and pry it loose, then rode off on it.





This fiberglass dinghy complete with Evinrude outboard engine washed up on the Tiber’s right bank a little downstream from Ponte Milvio.





Entire trees were washed downstream. This pile of logs was fished out of the river with a crane as they were stacking up against a boat moored to the river banks. Note the carbon-fiber professional rowing oar washed away from one of Rome’s many riverside sporting clubs.





This is farther downstream, by the Tiber island. Another professional rowing oar was left stuck in the branches, along with all kinds of rags and bits of plastic.





Most of the things washed away by the raging waters were total write-offs. This canoe, deposited next to a car tire along the banks of the Tiber island appeared in brand new condition, but was badly cracked.





A small leaf stuck in her hair, our neighbor Anna is far too proud to betray any emotion as she stands outside her house, flooded in two feet of water in the countriside just north of Rome. In order to spare the city center from flooding, engineers operated the dams in order to flood this part of the river valley instead. The losses suffered were incalculable: people had to dump mattresses, furniture, electronics and all sorts of personal things…


We are not complaining. It could have been worse.


Had, however, Romans been given proper warning of what was rolling down the mountain towards the city (we weren’t), much of the loss could have been avoided. Those canoes, just one example, are neither cheap nor heavy. Raising them a few feet would have taken mere minutes. Had we been warned.

Alessandro Ciapanna









H2ROME – high Tiber times

I’ve always hated those tall, soulless walls that sear the city of Rome off from the gently rolling Tiber, the river which crosses the city center and around which the city itself was founded and flourished. I hated them until November 14th, 2012.

That day heavy rains in the hills and mountains inland conspierd with gross mismanagement of the three dams that regulate the river’s flow and levels to cause the Tiber to start rising. And rise it dangeroulsy did. By a full eleven-plus meters above its ordinary level. That’s very well over thirty feet of brown, swirling water more than is normal.

And those walls, which normally appear as oversized fortifications, were able to keep the monster at bay. But only barely. That day i was out with my camera to document what hadn’t happened in at least sixty years. Now the water – and adrenaline – levels are back to normal, so i went back to show you what had Rome holding its breath just a few days ago.

I tried my best to shoot the same angles at the same time of day. Enjoy.



This is the isola Tiberina, or Tiber island, in Rome’s city center as it normally appears from the bridge immediately upstream.


Same place early afternoon november 14th 2012.







The Ponte Cestio, normally.


On november 14th 2012.





Lovely and very ancient Ponte Fabricio, normally.


Kinda scary, no?






Ponte Fabricio and a bit of the Tiber Island, normally.


November 14th, 2012. Note the windows just inches above the waterline.





Lower left, one of Rome’s “barconi”, large stationary boats permanently moored along the Tiber. This one near Ponte Garibaldi held out quite well. Other barconi were not so fortunate.


Same bridge during the “piena”, or surge. The boat is straining at its moorings, while a fiberglass dinghy, reduced to flotsam, swiftly makes its way towards the Mediterranean Sea.





Another barcone, just north of the city center, at its normal level.


Same boat, more water.





Back to the Tiber Island. Note the human figures strolling by the riverside, lower right.


Same place, a few days earlier.





The Tiber Island houses a very large hospital. The radiology deparment, normally underground, was flooded and rendered unusable. However, it was not necessary to evacuate the hospital. This is as it normally looks.


November 14th 2012.



Today is Thanksgiving day, and i wish all my American pals all the very best. Although Italians do not normally celebrate it, i can assure you there are many a Roman giving many, many thanks to the powers who be. It was bad. But it could have been so much worse.

Thanks for being here.


Alessandro Ciapanna