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Insider: Elena Givone

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Insider: Elena Givone

“Rome is like a beautiful woman of a certain age”

Elena Givone is an Italian photographer. Born in Turin, she has lived in Rome for some time. Her many projects have also taken her around the world, from Brazil to Sri Lanka, where since 2012 she has been the director a photography school for children. The school is a part of the one world foundation project, founded 20 years ago in Sri Lanka by Austrian-born curator Kathrin Messner and her husband, artist Joseph Ortner.

Givone’s photographs are poetic and meditative. Through her use of photography, she urges people to dream, believe in those dreams and make them come true. She has placed Brazilian prisoners on a yellow “flying” carpet (Flying Away. Salvador de Bahia, 2009) and given a “magic” lamp to children in Sri Lanka, telling them to close their eyes and imagine their most fervent desires. Who knows, they might one day come true!

What do you love most about Rome?

Its yellow light. Warm and soft like no other, that light stands out on the Tiber River. This light surprises you on cold winter days and wraps you in a warm embrace when spring begins. And all the beautiful monuments in Rome, which remind you every day of the beauty of this magic city.

Is there anything about Rome that bothers you?

The traffic, the inefficiency of the public transport, the smog and the degradation.

Natives of Italy used to say that there is no such nationality as Italians. There are Romans, Milanese, Venetians and so on. Do you agree, and how do you characterise the true, native Romans?

Yes, Italians are nationalists with foreigners, but they’re always keen to specify their origin. Everyone is very proud of where they were born and grew up, because each region and city has its own peculiarities. The true Roman is chatty, sociable and easygoing. Romans are always joking, but never refuse to provide help when someone needs it. The downside is that the Romans are often lazy!

Which is the most inspiring part of Rome for you as an artist?

There are many parts. The beauty of Rome is the coexistence of the past and the present, and that you spot in every corner of the city. Even if you find yourself in the most modern areas, there is always a detail that takes you back to the city’s past history. Personally, I really like visiting foreign academies of art, especially the French and German ones. Their terrific, stunning locations are where – in addition to being able to breathe art – one comes into contact with people who have decided to move into town and pursue their artistic careers. It’s always good to compare viewpoints with them and understand how they see and experience the city.

What should one definitely do to catch the vibe of the real Rome, not the touristy one?

You should turn to the suburbs and explore these hidden worlds, where time has stopped. In the summer, old men spend most of their time sitting on chairs by their front doors, watching the passers-by without doing anything. Everyone knows each other by name and calls you by name and always has some food to offer. You can learn many things about Rome and its history, even things that have not been told in books.

What is your favourite viewing spot in Rome?

There are many, among them the Orange Garden on Aventino Hill with its amazing views. A little further is the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta in the villa of the Priory of Malta. If the villa’s door is closed, then there are definitely people lined up waiting to look through the large keyhole, through which you can admire a splendid vista of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The view is really exciting both day and night, and quite unexpected for those not in the know.

Which are your favourite restaurants/cafés and why?

One of my favourite bars is the coffee shop on the Piazza Madonna dei Monti in Rionte Monti. The small square is full of people in the evenings, but it remains fairly quiet during the day, despite the tourists. It’s my favourite place to have a warm winter cappuccino.

I also like to visit the new establishments that are springing up in areas like Pigneto, Torpignattara and Centocelle. Their selection is becoming more and more complex and the quality keeps getting better. For an aperitif with craft beers and gourmet appetisers, I love Hop Corner (Pigneto), while for a special dinner, I like Mazzo in Centocelle. It’s a cooking workshop with not many chairs, and where the Roman menu is revisited in a contemporary style with really special combinations.

What is the biggest stereotype about Rome, and is it true?

It’s that Rome is the capital of the world, the Eternal City, and that all tourists envy us. But for many years, Rome has also been a decadent, careless city in which so many things do not work. It’s like a beautiful woman of a certain age who has retained a sense of charm, but who also reveals signs of inevitable aging. 

If Rome were a perfume, which notes would come to your mind?

It would be a fragrance with notes of wood and bergamot.

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