Olympic Village Market

caterina copertina

icona abbigliamentoicona vintageicona alimentareFrom the end of the eighties in the streets behind Coni building towards the Olympic Village, just a few steps away from Renzo Piano’s Auditorium and Pier Luigi Nervi’s building, there is a market dedicated to vintage and products in “stock” every Friday morning.

A walk through the stalls

Ladies looking for cheap designer clothes, shoes or second hand clothing come here from the northern side of Rome, but, as of today, in times of crisis, they actually come from all over Rome and even from out of town, to look around the one hundred stalls, after the unauthorized sellers have been chased away in recent years. There are also a few food stalls: a couple of fruits and vegetables, a bakery also selling cheese and cold cuts, some florists, a household goods stall, another selling beauty and personal care products, jewelry and beads. But most of the customers actually come for shoes and clothes, considering that some stalls can sell garments for one euro next to a thousand euros fur coat. 7
For used clothes, the historical referees are Beppe – who with his network of family members (children, grandchildren and cousins) runs three stalls of second-hand clothes under the sign “Tommaso”, name of one of his sons – and Caterina. Both Neapolitans, they are both here since the market exists. “Once we used to earn well, now you can just survive – complains Caterina, who sells typical Tyrolean clothes and a decent range of formal dresses with rhinestones and sequins together with her daughter – In addition to this market, we also work in Porta Portese and Fregene but it’s almost not worth the trouble. I keep on working to help my daughter who has opened a restaurant, then closed it and still has some debts to pay”.
But not everyone complains, many sellers still look forward to the Friday market at the Olympic Village and a lot of customers rush there, especially for those who have a specialized stall. Such as Gianluca, who sells vintage leather accessories. “Ours is a very special product, now almost disappeared. It’s a leather manufacturing which is not produced in Italy any more, since the end of the eighties. Not to mention reptile bags (python, crocodile and turtle) that are now out of business and we sell at competitive prices”. Next to the bags, Gianluca offers clothes for children up to eight years old, coming from Madagascar. “It’s handmade crafts with good quality fabrics and colors, following the teaching of French missionary nuns”.
For those not satisfied with Madagascar craft, however, there are many stalls of designers’ children wear (such as Patrizia Pepe, Dolce and Gabbana) at a price which is considered quite acceptable. Then there are the American wear stalls: Brooks Brothers shirts, Abercrombie and Hollister sweatshirts. Coming from Viale Tiziano, one the first stalls is selling Max Mara clothes, without label but original and at affordable prices.
10Among those who have chosen a “niche” category, Max and his wife have been traveling to India since the Seventies and have turned their passion for the country and its fabrics in a job. “We have been running the stall for fifteen years and later we have also opened a shop in Viale Parioli. Initially we imported Indian wear then we moved on to fabrics for home”. The name of both the stall and the shop, Mezzari, comes from Arabic mì zar (veil), word that became known in Europe starting from XVII century, when the import-export with India begun. In Genova, womes used to wear it to cover their head, but both in Italy and in Europe the fabric influenced also home design, so Massimo and his family import from India curtains, table-clothes, sofa covers and pillows. To help Massimo in his job there are also his two sons, with indian names: Madawa, meaning “broom of luck” and Govinda, meaning “who satisfies all wishes”.

Alice’s wonderland

At the eastern fair for two cents my father bought a mouse ... Do you know this song? Have you ever heard it? I often listen to it in the car while I go somewhere with Mommy and Daddy and I was actually listening it when I went to the Olympic Village, which is a market only once a week and where people come from so far. It’s a big market with a lot of things: clothes, shoes, fabrics, dishes, glasses, bags, flowers, necklaces, bread, salami, fruits and flowers. 16

But no mouse nor a cat nor a dog. Nor a stick, nor fire, nor water (well, a few bottles of mineral water to be honest). Not even a bull, no real butcher apart from one selling sausages. Not to mention the angel of death ... that was not there for sure.
At the end of the walk around the market, I was a little disappointed … not for the angel of death, of course. Nor for the butcher, for the bull, for water, for the fire or for the stick. And not even for the dog or the cat. But in that big market a little mouse… well, I was hoping to see it!”.

(Alice refers to an Italian song by the song writer Angelo Branduardi. There is also an English version entitled “Highdown Fair”)

Just around the corner

Before Renzo Piano’s Auditorium which changed its appearance and vocation, the area was well known for an art as old as music: sports. It was actually before the games in 1960, which later marked the neighborhood’s history and gave it the current name of “Olympic Village”.

A very good example is FLAMINIO STADIUM. Its current look is due to the architect Antonio Nervi and his father Pier Luigi, the brilliant engineer who later signed all the major works for the Games. But the stadium – completely rebuilt in 1957 – was risen on the ashes and on the same perimeter of the National Stadium, built in 1911 following the example of ancient Greek arenas by Marcello Piacentini. In 1927 it was renamed National Fascist Party Stadium and, with that name, it hosted the World Cup final in 1934. That was one of the most glorious pages of Italian soccer, as the team won the cup at extra time in a very tough match against Czechoslovakia. To protect the defense from the opponents’ attacks there was a median who was an idol for all local fans and who was not supposed to play that world tournament. It’s Attilio Ferraris, Rome team’s star, with a passion for soccer such as the one for beautiful women, fancy clothes and sport cars. The reporters of that time tell of how the coach Pozzo went personally to flush him out of the bar that Ferraris was running in his native neighborhood of Borgo and found him at the billiards table with a cue in his hand and a cigarette in the other (one of the forty he used to smoke every day). And of how he convinced a lazy player who had put soccer aside to become the “column” of the first Italian team winning a world championship. Today Ferraris rests at Verano cemetery, and on his grave is written, simply: World Champion. And the stadium which hosted his exploits, before the demolition, will be the site of several Capitoline derbies and will be the background of the last, poignant scene of “The Bicycle Thief”. In its new “dress”, the most memorable events hosted by Flaminio are not related to soccer: from the very first charity soccer game to the first Italian concert of Michael Jackson (May 23, 1988). However the most important date to remember is February 5th, 2000, when Italy joined European rugby with its debut in the “Six Nations” tournament, when the Italian team was added to five historical challengers. And the date, already memorable, becomes even more exciting at the final whistle, which establishes the surprising 34-20 victory over Scotland.

Just a little further, there is another creation by engineer Nervi, who, forty years before the “cockroaches” by Renzo Piano had created in the Olympic Village an insect with an elegant shell and little paws of reinforced concrete: the cover of PALAZZETTO DELLO SPORT (sports hall). As Flaminio stadium has always been a sort of poor relative of the close and bigger Olympic one, this hall has also played a minor role compared to his older brother (literally, as the father of both is Pier Luigi Nervi) in Eur neighborhood. Since the early days, those of the Olympics. So, while in the Eur hall, a young boxer named Cassius Clay revealed to the world his extraordinary talent, the little hall hosted more prosaic weightlifting competitions. Same for basketball: the final at Eur, some qualifying matches at Olympic Village. But it’s actually here where on August 26th, 1960 Italy lived a legendary experience, even though it was defeated. We are talking about the match with USA , ended with a score of 88 to 54: looking at the box score of that match is really thrilling as the American team, made of students only, is probably the strongest nonprofessional team of all times. There are 4 players who will reach the Hall of Fame of world basketball, 3 of those who are in the records history: Jerry Lucas, the only one together with Wilt Chamberlain to close a season with an average of 20 points and 20 bounces per game; Oscar Peterson, the only one with three records (10 points, 10 bounces and 10 assists on average per game: unbelievable!). And then, Jerry Wests, besides scores, there is a fact which explains how good he was: his body is the one on the NBA official logo. On the Italian side, there are 2 names, who did not make a score on that game, but who actually made the history of Italian basket. One is Sandro Riminucci, the “blonde angel”, who has a record in Italy with his 77 points in one game. The other one – same name, Sandro, and same club, Olimpia Milano – is Gamba and will have a terrific career, up to becoming the coach of the first national team winning an European championship. On that August 26th, that 28 years old player defeated by the American team doesn’t know yet that he will be the third (and up to date the last) Italian to get into their Hall of Fame in 2006.

The example of Sandro Gamba teaches to learn from defeats and to follow one’s dreams, as impossible as they might seem. Near the sports hall there is an area where dreams can be nurtured, an area dedicated to young players, showing a grazed knee as proud as if they had won a gold medal. A little more than a year ago opened PARCO GIOCHI PRIMO SPORT (literally, first sport playground) by Laboratorio 0246, a nonprofit association promoting sport initiatives for children. The playground, unique in Rome, is divided in 4 areas (balance, manual activities, mobility and symbolic games) and 6 age ranges (from 0 to 6 years old) according to a scheme designed by a team of Verona University experts. What children see is a mix of swings and slides, towers and tunnels, horses, balance axes and climbing walls, testing their skills and reflexes. To promote the initiative an athlete who at Olympic Village feels at home: the Laboratorio 0246 president is Valentina Vezzali, popular Italian foil champion, who won 9 olympic medals (6 of which gold).


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Where via XVII Olimpiade
Open Friday only, h 07:00 – 14:00
Parking blue-lined slots in the streets around the market
Bus and Metro

from Termini railway station, metro A (Battistini stop) and then tram 2, stop Tiziano/XVII Olimpiade (5 stops away)