Now that the weather is finally on the up in Rome, I'm starting to wake from my winter slumber and slowly getting out again and rediscovering the city.
The thing that I am finding interesting is that now that I have woken from my winter slumber, the places that are more enticing to me are places that seem to be screaming mid twentieth century; 1950s-1970s.
Rome's deeply layered evolution is well known, but we tend to focus on its Roman era or simply limit ourselves to the centro storico which never ceases to amaze.
But to me, part of Rome's charm is that its strata includes places that are only a few decades old; intact, unrefurbished.
Once upon a time the idea of wood panelling would give me the creeps. And true, I never want to see them in my apartment, but, in order to successfully capture the progressive development of design and the ambience of a city, its important that even the unappreciated design elements are left standing.
This is something that is a bit of a taboo area, particularly in my home country of Australia, where we for years, have been consumed with the idea of continual renewal, refurbishment and redesign. The unfortunate side effect of this is that it seems to wipe out entire decades that we consider unfashionable from the cities that we live in, leaving something of a gap and creating something artificial instead.
Throughout Italy's cities, big and small, establishments that have never been redecorated stand proudly and are frequented based on reputation, on familiarity, on the quality of the products they offer. When I think of a city like Melbourne, which has a relatively short history in comparison, ''hokiness'', that is the idea of something a little outdated and unfashionable sometimes is appreciated in this sense. Think of the fab Vietnamese restaurants on Victoria Street and how after refurbishment and gentrification how they lose something of their charm. Then apply that idea large scale to a city of four million and you get the idea of how charm and heritage are endangered species, that are as succeptable to extinction as any every entity in the natural world.
A few years ago I lived in Kyoto, a city which remains firmly entrenched in my heart. For most Westerners Kyoto is the picturesque Japanese city of dreams, rich in history, steeped in tradition, the home to much of the soul of Japanese culture. When I first visited Kyoto, the city centre struck me as incredibly dated, like something out of the 1960s, full of brass and chrome and windows tinted brown. I didn't initially appreciate it, but once I moved there I did, and I came to love the city as much for its Heian heritage as I did its more challenging legacies.
So now, in Rome and Italy in general, I am back on the appreciation bandwagon. I'm digging places that I will never find in Wallpaper or Architectural Digest, partly because I feel like I am being let in on a secret past, and partly because these are still functional places that pull people in and don't leave any doubts or gaps in my understanding of how the city might have looked thirty or forty years ago, classical and historical buildings not withstanding.
So next time you look for a new place to champion, look beyond the usual deck outs and seek out something a bit more real. You might find a new level of appreciation and perhaps encourage others to make do, rather than encourage them to rip the heart and soul out of their spaces in an attempt to stay relevant.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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