At a certain point during my time in Rome, I realized that I needed a break from Jesus. We shared some magical times, I do admit. It came to a point, however, where I felt suffocated by him. Down every alley, up every façade, even through someone’s keyhole, I happened across either the man himself or something created to honor his life. No matter where I looked, there he was. I just needed some space.
After a few delicate conversations over espresso and an overly awkward late-night encounter in the Jewish Ghetto, Jesus and I were officially “on a break”. To celebrate my newfound freedom, I hopped on the 3 and headed north to one of Rome’s best kept secrets: the quartiere Coppedè.
Designed by Gino Coppedè, a relatively unknown architect from Florence, the neighborhood was built in the 1920s. The cluster of fifteen or so palazzi lies in stark contrast to the rest of classical Rome. Each combines diverse architectural styles and is whimsically adorned with gargoyles, animals, and natural designs; Guadí’s “La Pedrera” would fit right in with these fantastical structures. An added bonus to this area is it’s relative anonymity; it is one of the few sights in Rome where you will not have to worry about being lost in the tourist shuffle and bombarded by those guys who sell those super squishy balls (don’t buy them, they get really dirty).
While the quartiere Coppedè may seem far, it is quite close to a few other gems of north-east Rome. If visiting the neighborhood, one should certainly try the locally famous and incredibly refreshing limoncoco drink that is served at a small kiosk in the middle of Piazza Buenos Aires. If you have plenty of daylight, to the north are the green expanses of the Villa Ada, and close by are the fantastic yet haunting catacombs of Saint Priscilla. If you are losing the sun, one of Rome’s main universities, La Sapienza, is a short tram ride to the south-east. Here you can find Rome’s mini-Brooklyn, San Lorenzo, a neighborhood home to enthusiastic students, quirky bars, and cheap drinks.
Jesus and I have since come to terms. In Rome, it is impossible to avoid him, and as a self-proclaimed history geek I know that my endless sightseeing in this incredible city is going to be largely centered on his memory. When you consider all of the grandiose structures of Mussolini’s fascist agenda that can at times dominate your field of view, it is nice to know that places like the quartiere Coppedè exist in Rome: tranquil, exotic, and secular.