Even in Rome warm and gloriously sunny Sundays in November come with parsimony. I decided to spend the afternoon playing ‘spot the potential Sabbatini’ in his home turf of the Trionfale quarter. I snapped and snapped and snapped.

No Trionfale V of course. No Casa Economica with the crazy abstracted pediment. It is an illusion after all. Gone. The stuff of legends. The ridiculous first-world obsession of an academic spending three months in Rome while on paid sabbatical.

And yet… Even the hardest of urban explorers needs a break. As I was sipping the millionth delicious cappuccino at a nearby caffe and was browsing through the photos I had taken so carelessly during the day, I saw this:
Trionfale: a suspicious little building

A crazy moment of intuition? Simple despair for a month-long search that had delivered nothing? Grabs the iPad, you fool. Fly over the 3D map. Just check. Maybe. Just maybe.

And I flew over.
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And I zoomed in expectantly.
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And I rotated a bit.
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And for a mere moment, or ten, I felt like an excited child who discovered that their favourite toy that they thought had been lost forever was simply hiding, timidly, conspiratorially, among the other, less loved ones. Trionfale V. And yet, it exists, in the most perfect state, currently under restoration, to be revealed in the coming days. I shall be there.

 

There is a first time for everything. I remember arriving in Rome, through an at the time wholly undesired accident caused by randomly splitting overnight trains at some junction along the Adriatic. I was on my way to Paris and then to Dublin, in one of those crazy InterRail university escapades, only to find myself deposited at Roma Tiburtina. A day later, sitting on the steps in front of the Pantheon and feasting on Italian gelato, there was one of those rare cosmic ‘click’ sensations, followed by a jolt, and then that feeling that everything is falling with the most comforting precision in its predetermined place.

I do not remember my first trip to EUR, the model exhibition city built for the 1942 world fair that never took place. I know I visited it in 1996, for some reason that must have made perfect sense back then but looks entirely inexplicably to me now. No matter. A photo of the Palazzo dei Congressi has been lying in one of the drawers of my adolescent desk in Athens since then. Every now and then I open the drawer and am reminded of its existence. No personal memory associated with it – just the fading evidence that I had been there.

Today, after many, many visits to EUR, I finally went inside, into the crazy atrium and the empty long corridors that run along the sides of the building and up the staircase onto the terrace. The most memorable first time – against a brooding sky, the rain that had been falling almost incessantly for the past twenty-four hours glowing against the enormous marble surfaces, the folly of EUR witnessed from the vantage point of a Futurist stracielo. And that ‘click’ and that momentary jolt and that sense of finally settling an account long overdue.