September 6, 2009

DvH200904 Trastevere, Rome, Italy
Apartment re-model

Your first look at the Trastevere may be somewhat perplexing, even disappointing. Just what, you wonder, do Romans find so glamorous about this old neighborhood? Narrow, poorly paved alleys with no sidewalks wind among strangely shaped houses, their tile roofs seething with chimneys.
This colorful section of the old city slid into less-than genteel poverty several centuries ago, only to be 'discovered' in the 1960's. Suddenly, the Trastevere became the place to Live. Any scrap of property with restoration potential was scooped up by architects equipped with skill and imagination.
The Trastevere's impoverished veneer hides an impressive heritage. Here was the home of Raphael's favorite model, called Fornarina, who, with her eyes amandine, posed as modest Madonna and equally demure nude in 1515. But the Trastevere's foundations long predate Raphael. In fact, they helped Emperor Augustus fortify Rome an A.D. 271 against barbarian attacks from the north. The walls survived countless assaults in the intervening centuries, only to be left in ruins after the struggle for unification of Italy in 1870. Numerous proposals urged razing them, but in the end, conservation carried the day.
All creative tools will be needed to transform this clients tiny hole-in-the-wall into a compact elegant home. The apartment offers little separation of space and none of the assets that enhance the popular Roman palazzi: no fine ceiling; none of those majestic staircases or loggias; the ceilings are low and rustically beamed. The windows are small, and the staircase narrow and off balance. But, despite these drawbacks, we will make the apartment blossom.
The apartment is an integral part of the enclosing walls.
Its terrace is the roof of one of the city gates and was overlaid with pink marble in the 15th century. The layout of this long terrace with its terra cotta floor will provide a pleasant setting for entertaining. A light staircase connects upper and lower levels of the apartment.
A survivor of mean streets and tougher times, this unique niche will once again welcome company graciously.

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