Roman Minefield 

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A planned hi-tech driverless underground railway line set to bring desperately needed transport links to the historic heart of Rome has run into a minefield of Roman remains.
(From the May 14 online edition of the Guardian.)

There's a scene in Fellini's Roma where a subway crew finds Roman ruins and calls in the film crew. The delighted visitors crawl through holes to see a fresco with colours as fresh as if they had just been daubed on the walls. Yet, within seconds, the fresco disintegrates into dust and floats off the wall.

Matt didn't care much for this movie, but after riding the Roman Metro, he changed his mind and wants to watch it again.

What we didn't know while we were there, is that we stood above the proposed Largo Torre Argentina stop.

This area, near tourist hot spots like Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, is to be one of the stops on Rome's third subway route, Line C. City planners estimated that 30 metres deep should just about miss the pesky ruins. But they've found amphorae that could be part of an villa's garden and, just as annoying, some imperial era building. The nerve of those ancient Romans!

Instead of pondering all this, we admired the cats:

The ruins are also home to the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary.

Soon after the ruins were discovered in 1929, the cats moved. Roman cat lovers, derisively called gattare, began feeding leftover pasta to the homeless cats. Though the current batch of felines are (mostly) fixed, irresponsible pet owners still dump cats in the area, resulting in a population of around 250 cats. We counted about 18 from the fences high above the remains of the four temples.

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