Monday, 31 August 2009

Piazza Rovetta, Brescia

Bachelor of Architecture student projects from Manchester School of Architecture 1996-97

Friday, 28 August 2009

the meaning of PIAZZA

“What do you miss most about Italy?” I asked my first Italian teacher many years ago.

“La piazza,” she said so wistfully that I thought for a moment it might be someone’s name. After years of passing time in piazza, I now understand her fondness for these very special places.

The piazza is an Italian’s second home, although it also can double as a shopping mall, day care center, reading room, catwalk, singles club, casino, theatre, sanctuary, office, stadium and dance floor. In the course of a day, the residents of a village or neighborhood come to the piazza to flirt, buy a newspaper, catch up on gossip, show off a new outfit, play cards, complain about the weather, talk politics or just soak in the scene.

La piazza has carved a place for itself in the Italian lexicon. Someone who expresses private feelings in public puts them in piazza pubblica. People who start a loud, vulgar row fanno una piazzata. If thieves steal everything in your house, they clean the piazza (fanno piazza pulita). When a man starts to go bald, friends may tease him about andare in piazza, going to a flat open space.

The piazza doesn’t discriminate. Everyone, regardless of gender, age, economics or social class, is welcome—including tourists. If you want a deeper sense of how Italians live, find a comfortable spot on a pretty piazza (not all are) and just wait. Or engage in another Italian pastime: strolling le vie di mezzo (the streets in the middle) that lead from one piazza to another. You never know what delights you may find along the way.

As an avid piazzalina (piazza lounger), I have listened to the incandescent voices of Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo echo through the piazza that serves as concert hall for Spoleto’s annual music festival. In Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, my daughter and I watched fireworks rocket into the night sky during an outdoor performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

I’ve waded through Venice’s Piazza San Marco when the “acqua alta” (high water) reached almost to my knees, visited Milan’s Piazza Affari (Italy’s Wall Street) and lingered over a limoncello in the theatrical Piazzetta di Capri. In 2000 I watched the aged and ailing Pope John Paul II celebrate the millennial Easter Mass in the grand Piazza San Pietro. Swept into a rally in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, I felt goose bumps when a mayoral candidate addressed the throng as “Popolo di Roma! Romani!” just as countless political leaders have done through the centuries.

Yet I didn’t really “get” what a piazza is really all about until we were making our usual morning shopping rounds in Orbetello, a charming village set amid the lagoons of Monte Argentario in western Tuscany. The local wine merchant appeared in the piazza with a new go-cart for his four-year-old grandson. Within minutes dozens of townspeople clustered around him. Several nonni (grandfathers), laughing like school boys, took rides themselves. Others inspected and praised the spiffy three-wheeler. Passersby paused to cheer as the boy finally pedaled his way around the square. It may take a village to raise a youngster in other places, but in Italy it takes a piazza.

Words and Expressions

scendere in piazza – protest in the streets

piazza d’armi – parade ground

piazza del mercato – market place

piazzaforte – stronghold

piazzale – large square

letto a una piazza or letto a due piazze -- single or double bed

Extracted from the site

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Piazza Sidney Sonnino, Rome

Piazza Sidney Sonnino in Trastevere in central Rome is situated on a crossroads between the traditional and the modern city in a quarter which witnessed much political intervention. The piazza contains in its visible forms, and some less visible ones, a large chronological span. Its present form is perhaps too open, lacking sufficient definition to be regarded as the classic urban room. Yet the intensity with which the different elements of its history are incorporated would appear to reinforce the sense of place if one peels back the historical layers.

The most immediate and intrusively apparent feature is the presence of Viale di Trastevere with its heavy traffic, tram lines and platforms, part of the late nineteenth century improvements to the functioning of the new national capital. The commercial developments from the 1930s on the eastern side of the boulevard are generic buildings of their period, set back slightly to create a wide pavement in front of them with lines of plane trees breaking up the space. The insertion of the road, though, was required to acknowledge the presence of historical remains in the objectification of the 'Casa di Dante' as a relic of the medieval city. To the informed observer, this juxtaposition of new development, building conservation and modern traffic planning epitomises aspects of the modern city, but one should also be aware that this only represents the present stratum. Slightly further from Viale di Trastevere, within the depth of the block, but on the southern end in a subterranean zone are a set of rooms, the remains of Roman civic infrastructure in the barracks of the VII cohort of ‘vigili’ or fire watchers discovered by accident in the mid nineteenth century and important evidence of the daily life of lesser functionaries in the ancient city. Presently roofed by a concrete slab, it is difficult to discern the historic situation, except to realise how the process of urban sedimentation has raised the street level of the ancient Via Aurelia several metres to the present Via Lungaretta, the medieval pilgrimage route to the Vatican.

On the other side of Viale di Trastevere and adjacent to that road is the church of San Crisogono, the oldest site of public Christian worship in the city, which dates from the fourth century. The present facade records the seventeenth century restoration of the church under the patronage of the papal nephew Cardinal Scipione Borghese, but the columns, both on the porch and in the interior, are themselves spolia from other earlier pagan buildings. Again a subterranean zone on a slightly different alignment embodies the earliest historical layer of the basilica, while the campanile, the central vertical point of the entire dates from the medieval rebuilding of the basilica.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Piazza in film 4: Piazza del Popolo, Piazza del Pantheon, Rome

The opening of Peter Greenaway's THE BELLY OF AN ARCHITECT 1987

A webcam of Piazza del Pantheon is available at

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Piazza in film 3: Forum Romanum

The Triumph of Julius Caesar (from HBO's series Rome)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Piazza in film 2: Piazza del Campo, Siena

The Palio di Siena 16 August 2009 - A victory for La Civetta, their first since 1979. Their long lack of success was the subject of the 2004 documentary THE LAST VICTORY

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Piazza in film: Paestum

The 1963 film 'Jason and the Argonauts' used the ruined Greek temples of Paestum / Poseidonia as the setting for the battle with the harpies
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