Urban Exploration: the soon-to-be-demolished legacy of Tor di Valle

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome
“Ciak”. “Cra”.
“Ciak”. “Cra”. 
Frogs were singing in accordance with my unsteady steps but, although the darkness had intensified my senses, I couldn’t say if they were close: their croaking was rather a not-on-site call enveloping the swampland. 
We were all walking scattered out, looking for untouched clumps of grass on which we could put our feet, but inevitably ending up by walking in someone else’s footsteps instead (a deep “Ciak”). 
The moonlight was surprisingly powerful, like every time I’ve found myself in an open space at night without artificial lighting but, despite my amusement at its full beauty, I couldn’t help worrying about how much longer I would have to walk across the swampland. 



When we left from Piazza Fabrizio de Andrè (Magliana neighbourhood) there was a sticky light all over the huge suburban buildings. Not a bright light, but that kind of all-embracing luminescence extending over the surrounding landscape as far as the other side of the river. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

We begun our descent into one of the roughest areas of Rome the easiest way, from the brand new bike lane, which bounced us forward with its rubbery texture. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Once we crossed the river, the surface became more uneven; creaking and rustling along the dirt path, we walked by several beautiful samples of industrial archaeology, stand-alone pieces bringing the area back to its time of prosperity and leaving us floating in a parallel dimension. 

Industrial archaeology, Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Industrial archaeology, Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Industrial archaeology, Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

There were only a few signals bringing me back to the present: a train clanking past every hour or so, the barking of a few dogs, the smell of goats and horses, the spontaneous constructions built along the river adjusting their structures according to the upcoming needs of their owners (like living creatures seeking an unattainable equilibrium) and the nearby gipsy camp, which isn’t irrevocably confined to its structure but is keeping up with its own transformation in the present time. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Later we found an abandoned swimming-pool and we sat down around the rectangular hole in the ground looking at each other from its opposite sides; suddenly, everything was coexisting with its antithesis: a swimming-pool was empty, a metropolis was uncivilized (or post-civilized, maybe) and us, we were still. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Back on Via del Cappellaccio we walked towards a beautiful house forgotten in the wood. We were very close to one of the most chaotic roads in Rome, but the plants covering the abandoned house were creating an aura of peace and quiet. Sitting on the big road border I could feel the air shaken by the cars driving fast behind my back and the relaxed breath of the wood on my face. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Eventually we entered the wood and kept walking on the dirt path, muscling our way across the open fields until we found another astonishing surprise: two old boats were poetically set in the middle of a former parking lot. Spotting the boats was that kind of surreal experience you can only have in dreams: enlightened by the sunset, they were right in the middle of a wide concrete area re-earned by strong and brave pioneer plants smoothing the way for more plants and animal species to come; it always fascinates me when mother nature manages to take back some urban spaces. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Back to the bike lane, we walked by the abandoned racetrack of Tor di Valle, asleep as a bored sentenced to die. The racetrack is huge: we couldn’t help dreaming about a reconversion into a village of artists, with all those stables transformed into personal studios and of course a big open-air theatre available for performances and concerts. 

ippodromo Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

ippodromo Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Suddenly, it was dark. 
We walked towards two abandoned farm houses in the open field as the first stars appeared in the sky.  
Once the sight’s attention-seeking behaviour was anesthetized, all other senses prevailed. 
The smell of a bonfire made me think that we were close to our dinner, but alas that wasn’t the case: we still had a long way in front of us, as I understood when the smell of the bonfire was replaced by that of the swampland, which, eventually, made all appetites go away. 
My feet were wet, my gait unsteady. 
The more we walked away from the bike lane, the louder I could hear the sounds of the nature surrounding us. 
“Ciak”. 
“Cra”. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

The rural landscape of Tor Di Valle is going to disappear in a few months, when the works for the construction of another football stadium will begin. Many plants and animal species live in this unspoiled area and, as I can witness, this is a great place to have a naturalistic walk and to escape the chaos of our big metropolis. Besides the natural oasis, the construction plan is also considering the demolition of several former industrial buildings and of the racetrack of Tor di Valle, to make room for the new stadium, shopping malls and skyscrapers. 

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome

Tor di Valle, urban exploration, Rome


This urban exploration of Magliana and Tor di Valle was organized by DOM – MAMMA ROMA

Read about my previous urban exploration with them here [Portuense neighbourhood] 


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60 hours in Sofia: my travel plan so far

And so I booked my next trip to the Balkans: at the end of March I will spend one long weekend in Sofia (Bulgaria)! 

I’ve listed many places I want to see in Sofia, too many to be seen during just one weekend… but I’m thinking to go back to Bulgaria in summer for one week or even more, so this time I am just going on a reconnaissance mission and I will have plenty of time to get the job done in August. :-) 

Here is my list of places I want to see in Sofia… if you have any advice, please let me know in the comment area below! 



City Centre

photo from bulgaria.umwblogs.org
Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral

Sveti George Church

Sofia Synagogue

Temple Sveti Nikolay

Banya Bashi Mosque

Central Sofia Market Hall

Central Mineral Bath

Central Sofia Cemetery

University Botanical Garden

Ladies’ Market

Art Galleries on ulitsa Tsar Samuil

Street art in ulitsa Ivan Vazov

Street art in ulitsa Tsar Osvoboditel


Outskirts

Etam Cru - photo by WeAreASMA
Museum of Socialist Art

Borisova Gradina park

Street art 68 Coy

Street art Mladost neighbourhood

Street art Hadzhi Dimitar

Street art TEST tower

Zona B-5 neighbourhood (communist architecture)

Nadezhda neighbourhood (communist architecture)

Druzhba neighbourhood (communist architecture)

Poduyane neighbourhood (communist architecture)


Near Sofia

photo: www.strangebuildings.com
Bojana Church (UNESCO site)

Rila Monastery (UNESCO site)

the Snail House

The view from Kopitoto

Vitosha forest





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Abandoned Lazio - VOL. 1

Celleno, ghost town, Lazio, Italy, Viterbo
When I was a child, I used to spend all my summer holidays at my grandparents' house in Nepi, a little village near Viterbo (Lazio). For three long –and somehow exhausting- months my whole world was relegated to the house's garden; obviously I didn't like to go to the countryside, because once there I was trapped and I remember I was always longing for some car-equipped adult to bring me outside the place, even if only to do the grocery at the village.
Time passed and since I've got my own driving license every visit to my grandparents’ house in Nepi is full of surprises, as I’m getting to know the surrounding area of Tuscia, with the beautiful town of Viterbo and many enchanting villages from the Etruscan time, the unspoiled countryside and several beautiful lakes (such as Lake Martignano or Lake Vico) perfect to escape the beach crowd during the summer; and I must say that this beautiful area of central Italy is really underrated! 
And so, after my visit to Bomarzo and its "Monster Park", this time I drove around the area of Viterbo looking for ghost towns and abandoned places.


FALERII NOVI

My first stop was Falerii Novi, which is only few kilometers from Nepi. When I went out of the car, two stray dogs came and welcomed me on the main road: they were the guardians of the flock pasturing in the unspoiled countryside surrounding the abandoned town of Falerii Novi, a ghost town whose charm is due to the rural atmosphere of the place.  

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

The site is now abandoned and, besides the Church of Santa Maria and the Abbey, there are no other buildings standing but just ruins and the remains of the city walls made of red tuff.  

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

I entered the ghost town of Falerii Novi through the Porta di Giove, which happens to be the first example of Etruscan arch, and wandered around the area. 

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

The original town of Falerii (called Falerii Veteres) was one of the twelve chief cities of Etruria; it was destroyed by Romans in 241 BC and then rebuilt 5 kilometres away with the name of Falerii Novi (New Falerii). 
The Roman town of Falerii Novi was then abandoned in the 10th century after being destroyed by the Normans: its inhabitants went back to the site of Falerii Veteres, which was then called (and still is) Civita Castellana
Even if Falerii Novi was already abandoned, here during the 12th century there were built the Abbey and the Church of Santa Maria; the church has been abandoned in 1798 while the Abbey, abandoned from the 14th century, has been turned into a farm. 

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Falerii Novi, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

CELLENO

Built on a tuff spur right after the “New Celleno”, the ghost town of Celleno is a hilltop hamlet fully endowed with the charm of an abandoned place where the time has stopped.

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Located about 15 kilometres north of Viterbo, Celleno was a strategic point and an important junction from its establishment during the Etruscan times. 

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

The village was abandoned in 1855 after an earthquake, which was only the last of several sad circumstances –among which a plague and a landslide- which devastated the town. 

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

I found especially fascinating the area of Piazza del Comune, bordered by the Romanesque Church of San Donato, the Orsini Castle, the clock tower (which charmingly lost its clock) and the Church of San Carlo (or –better- its ruins). 

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Another beautiful aspect of the ghost town of Celleno is the fact that you can glimpse at the abandoned interiors of its houses, which were built in red tuff and were small like cells (hence the name of the village, from “cella”, which means “cell” in Italian). 

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Circumnavigating the ghost town you can also enjoy a great view on the surrounding valley, hopefully realizing that the landscape of Northern Lazio is as good as the way more popular scenery of Tuscany!

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Celleno, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

CHIA VECCHIA

It was getting dark, but I still had the time to visit one more ghost town and so I drove until the village of Chia to explore its abandoned neighborhood at the top of the spur.

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

This area is called Chia Vecchia (Old Chia) and you can enter it from an arch at the end of Piazza Garibaldi; it consists of a fortified medieval hamlet built on a rocky spur, which has been abandoned during the 1950s when its inhabitants moved to the newer buildings of “downtown” Chia.

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

The “ghost neighborhood” of Chia is a maze of narrow alleys climbing a tuff spur until a panoramic terrace; the place is so charming that the director Pier Paolo Pasolini felt in love with it and in 1970 he bought the tower of Chia, spending there the latest years of his life.

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo
Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

Chia Vecchia, ghost town, lazio, italy, viterbo

BONUS TRACK: FERENTO

A few kilometres from Celleno (and just 6 kilometers from Viterbo) you will find the ruins of the Ancient Roman town of Ferentum, which was a very rich town specialized in the processing and trading of both iron and tuff, inhabited by craftsmen and powerful merchants.

Ferento, abandoned lazio, italy, ghost town, viterbo

Ferento, abandoned lazio, italy, ghost town, viterbo

During the winter the archaeological area (consisting of an amphitheatre and a thermal pool) is abandoned and left to itself, while there is a cultural festival going on during the summer which ranges from theatre to opera and from ballet to music.

Ferento, abandoned lazio, italy, ghost town, viterbo

Ferento, abandoned lazio, italy, ghost town, viterbo


Lazio region is full of ghost towns and I’m planning to explore them all during the spring. This time I’ve been in the area around Viterbo; stick around and you will read several more volumes of this “Abandoned Lazio” series (or subscribe to the newsletter to be sure to get them all in your inbox!). 
If you know about some ghost town or abandoned place in Lazio you would like to recommend for the “Abandoned Lazio” series let me know in the comment area below! 


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