The little market of Borghetto Flaminio (subtitle Garage Sale – Junk dealers for hobby) started in 1994 following a creative idea by Enrico Quinto and Paolo Tinarelli, two friends who launched in Rome the first vintage or garage sale for amateurs, inspired to the American garage sales.
A walk through the stalls
In over 20 years the market has grown, but the spirit has not changed much: behind the stands there are ladies who want to get rid of clothes or other things after a move, or younger people collecting used accessories still new, grandmothers selling clothes the granddaughters wore once or twice, but also some as Rita, passionate of pets, who saws clothes or accessories for dogs.
“We wanted to give people a chance of a different Sunday – explain Enrico and Paolo – where you could meet interesting people, surprise collectionists looking for a deal, enable the sellers to earn something in one day”. To sell at the market, the fee is 92€ for the first time, 80€ for the second on. There is a table for those selling objects and a hall stand for clothes.
To get into the market, there is an “entry ticket”: 1,60 euro. “This ensures the buyers on the merchandising and the sellers on the fact that the people who buy an entry ticket are really interested – explains Paola, one of the historical sellers – At the beginning, 18 years ago, I came with a friend and then, a number of moves and the loss of my mother first and my mother-in-law later, made me free up several houses, so I started to bring here anything I didn’t want anymore, and then the story spread out, so now when a friend moves, s/he brings me whatever s/he wants to sell and I do it. The market has slightly changed since it was the only one in Rome, but the atmosphere is always good”.
They buyers match with the sellers: there are many middle aged ladies (maybe with the husband who takes the chance to have a coffee at Salvatore’s café and read the newspaper), but you could also spot some VIPs of Italian television or politics. It was true especially in the past, as Enrico Vanzina tells us, but it can still happen today.
Another historical character of the market is Mrs Orietta, who also came to the market thanks to a friend “The atmosphere was very enjoyable, as well as the people attending the market and such has remained, thanks to the work of Enrico and Paolo. I’m coming since 20 years and I’ve sold many different things, often curious.
Today I have this African throne I got hold of through the wife of an ambassadors, maybe today it will find a lover”.
Just around the corner
The first stop of our walk is really just around the corner. For the first time it was Alice to take us there, pulling us to Mrs. Pierina shop, better known as CASA DELLE BAMBOLE (literally, dolls' house). The name of the shop already explains everything: for those who have children and often watcg cartoons, Mrs. Pierina is a “Doc McStuffins” of old times. Since years, her mission is to give back a smile to all children, repairing and dressing again their dolls.
Since 1987 this mission takes place at “Casa delle bambole”, something in between a workshop and a museum, which in 2001 was awarded as “historical shop” by Rome City Council. The shop had a troubled story and the kind smile of Mrs. Pierina hides a fighting soul: this lady looking as a fairy at children's eyes, actually turned into a spitting fire dragon with the City Council officers and even enchained herself a Campidoglio to get her dolls back home, after an eviction from the historical shop of via Magnanapoli in 2009. The “Casa delle bambole” moved to via Flaminia only in December 2010, after a long fight with local bureaucracy.
To give you the background: the original shop was founded in 1939 in Monti neighborhood by a craftsman repairing rocking horses. He worked there until 1946, when he was replaced by someone fixing dolls. Pierina and her husband Angelo take over from him in 1987, committed not to work on repairs to avoid competition with himself opening a new shop in via Labicana, not far away. But customers kept on coming to Pierina's souvenirs shop with sad faces, holding their needy dolls: so the fairy decided to take needle and thread and started what she keeps on doing very well up to date in another corner of Rome. Now the shop even hosts a private collection of 64 dolls, from porcelain dolls as of '800 up to Lenci's dolls of the thirties. But, if you ask Pierina what is her favorite doll, she'll show you a white dress doll, given by her husband on Easter's day in 1974: that's the way Mr. Angelo asked her to marry him. And it worked, considering they got married one year later, and they are still together, eager to tell their story to their customers.
Another thrilling story is the one of the artist who decided to give to the city all his works and the building where they were hosted: those interested in art between '800 and '900 should cross via Flaminia and take via Pasquale Stanislao Mancini, up to “Villa Helene”, now called HENDRIK CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN MUSEUM. The Novergian sculptor's story – naturalized American – is both a story of love and obsession. Love is declared clearly in the two rooms on the ground floor, where the visitor is taken into a sort of dance, a bronze choreography of powerful athletes, skittish horses, playful angels and naked giantesses: it's the love for classical sculpture, together with the inspiration by Michelangelo's art. But all this characters – maybe rethorical, far from contemporary taste – are nothing but the pieces of a wider mosaic that Andersen he was dreaming of, an utopia that he will keep until death: founding a “worldwide communication center”, an international city dedicated to art, science and philosophy.
The project is drafted in details in a big book in the artist's studio: nowadays it might seem the crazy idea of a megalomaniac, but at the beginning of the century, when Europe was full of pacifist ideals, Andersen's project was supported by a number of important people, such as the sculptor Rodin, the Olympics' founder de Coubertin, the scientist Gugliemo Marconi, the pope Benedictus XV, and it even fascinated the king of Belgium and Vittorio Emanuele III. This generic support became a concrete help when Andersen's megalomania met the one of Benito Mussolino, who in 1928 gave him the land to build his masterpiece. It was a piece of land on the coast between Ostia and Maccarese, who was probably meant to be an “international” meeting point: in the same place where the “worldwide city” was supposed to be built, there is now the international airport Leonardo da Vinci. But Andersen's seed will bring some fruits into the Duce's mind a few years later: his monumental rhetoric can be seen among Eur buildings.
Going from the ground floor to the first one, the museum tells us Andersen's human story, made of strong friendships (especially with the writer Henry James, as proved by a frequent correspondence) and of three essential women. The mother Helen, whom the building is entitled to; the sister-in-law, muse and financial sponsor Olivia and, above all, Lucia, who arrived in Rome from the Ciociaria countryside looking for a job and later became the artist's model, governess and adoptive sister. Her body is represented in almost all the female nudes in the gallery, but when she was not modeling for the sculptor, she used to take care of his mother and clean up the house. In 1918, she took officially the Andersen's last name and she lived at villa Helene until 1978. She showed a strong pragmatism even after the artist's death, when Italy was about to get into the Second World War. In 1946, the building which used to be an artist's studio, turned into a more mundane “Villa Helene Guesthouse” and rumors said that the rooms once hosting artists and patrons, for almost twenty years after the war, were used to hide from the wives the “nudes” of many husbands sponsoring – with a different purpose – well paid models.
Getting out from Andersen's museum, we are just a few steps away from one of the doors through which happened one of the most memorable entrances in Rome. The main character is another Scandinavian lady, who, for about thirty years will be the lay queen of a city ruled for centuries by Popes. We are talking about Cristina of Sweden and of her triumphal entrance through PORTA DEL POPOLO (literally, crowd's door).
It's 1655, a crucial year for Rome. Pope Innocenzo X Pamphili died and with him vanished the influence of the powerful sister-in-law Donna Olimpia, considered by many as the real queen of the papal state, who in the same year retired in Tuscia and died just a little later. The new pope Alessandro VII Chigi, was elected on April 7th with the white smoke, while the new queen would get in Rome only around Christmas. The entrance “on stage” was really big style. It was December 23, it was raining cats and dogs, the Romans milled around Piazza del Popolo started to see the procession coming from via Flaminia. There were 8 trumpeters, a drummer and two pages on top, and just behind on a white horse someone wrapped in a black cape. A big feathered hat on the head, hiding a big nose and almost male features, very different from the image of her that Greta Garbo later gave to our contemporaries. Following, a silver and pale blue coach, empty: it was designed for her by Bernini himself, but Cristina preferred to ride by herself. Later the two will become friends and Bernini will design for her a special chair – more than a stool but less than a throne – on which she will sit at the same table of the Pope, to solve a complex wedding problem. To have Bernini as a personal designer is not so surprising for a woman as Cristina: when she was in Stockholm she used to have private philosophy classes by Descartes...
Anyway, her arrival in Rome, it's only the first act of an interesting story in which the rebel and anti-conformist queen will become the main character of Roman cultural life: she will host literature workshops and found academies to promote art, music, physics and maths. She will get into alchemy and occultism, sponsor the first expedition to Cape North, found the first public theater in town. During her stay in Rome, she fought fierce battles with the Vatican, from the defense of Jewish rights to the right of women to act in plays. It's actually the papacy to encourage her move to the Eternal City: just after signing Westphalia peace, they thought it would be a revenge to engage a protestant queen who had just rejected Luther to embrace Catholicism. But they hadn't taken into account Cristina's temperament (who is now buried in Vatican, just aside Wojtyla...). Or maybe they did, but they thought the benefit in terms of image was higher than the risk. According to some malicious interpreters, a clear proof of the Pope's lack of trustcan be seen during the entrance ceremony. Here we get back to our Porta del Popolo. Its refurbishing – for Cristina's celebration – was requested to the usual Bernini. But the work he was asked to do – and which he accomplished with the usual elegance – was totally nonsense: the refurbishing was done on the internal side, including a welcome stone wishing “happy and propitious entrance”, the side that the guest of honor would have at her back, once crossed the threshold, instead of the one she would see coming from via Flaminia. The facade that you see getting to piazza del Popolo from Flamia – as Cristina did – dates back approximately one century before and is a valuable collection of “leftovers”: four columns from the ancient S.Peter Basilica, the statues of the saints Peter and Paul got there after being rejected from the S. Paul Basilica. And even the overall project is “second hand”: pope Pio IV had assigned it to Michelangelo, but the Buonarroti subcontracted Nanni di Baccio Bigio, one of his former disciples, later turned into a competitor, who had tried to take his place during on the construction site of Saint Peter. But this is another story...
|where||piazza della Marina 32|
|open||every Sunday, h 10:00-19:00|
|PARking||some places on the square|
|BUS||Line 628 from Largo Argentina, Line 87 from Colosseo|
|METRO||Line A (stop Flaminio, walking distance 550 mt)|
|info||06.5880517 / 5817308 / 5810734|