The Savage Lushness of Rome

My Mandriones

Rome, for all of its dusty antiquity, has some notable green spaces. And the farther out you go from the city center – but not too far, just outside the walls, really – the more untamed, lush and ubiquitous the greenery is. Today, I’d like to attempt to describe this to you, although I fear I’ll just wind up showing you the pictures I’ve been taking recently on this very subject in the hopes of avoiding actually talking about it. Why? Because words about greenery aren’t in my vocabulary.

I grew up on the Atlantic. I moved to a concrete island. And now I live in a seashell-white sand castle of a town on the Mediterranean. I could write a million words about the sea, but green spaces don’t hold the same magic for me. They make me think of the tick I got in third grade, and the time my cousin got stung by bees living in a bush. They make me think of trees, which while beautiful block my beloved sky. I thrive in open spaces.

But there is something about the green of Rome that is so appealing to me. I think it’s because one finds it in the most unlikely of places, meaning, everywhere. It’s growing out of cracks in the aqueduct. It’s cascading off of walls; creeping vines create their own pergolas out of sheds, arches and the sides of houses. And after it rains – which has happened nearly every day recently, good Lord, basta – you can smell the fecundity, and almost literally see things growing and thriving before your very eyes. And it’s not, like, weeds that are growing – on my block alone there is honeysuckle, bougainvillea, roses, and about a dozen other species I couldn’t name.

It reminds me of that David Byrne song Nothing But Flowers:

This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers

It’s like the earth is reclaiming this ancient city, block by block.

Viola's Hood



Via Giulia


Pigneto Garden

Train Track Roses


Caffe Oppio

Porta Maggiore



Back Street

Crawling Vine


14 thoughts on “The Savage Lushness of Rome

  1. This article reminds me of my visit to Rome as I stood in awe of all the wild asparagus ferns as they cascaded from window box to window box from the top floor of buildings to the ground floor. I saw them healthy and thriving on small patches of exposed land butting up to concrete. It seemed to me they were everywhere. All Icould think of was the care and attention I was giving to that one spoiled rotten plant at home and here they were as plentiful as weeds and more beautiful than I could have imagined.

    That photo of the roses by the wall is just ridiculous. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to walk past those flowers and breathe in that fragrance.

    Nice job Chris.

    • I love your imagery! Those roses are not only just growing wild; they’re on the TRAIN TRACKS.

    • Ha! I have actually always wondered about how much they cultivate, maintain or even just work to contain the green I see.

      They do seem to balance their lives well, and really enjoy what they’ve got.

  2. Just found you – can’t wait to read more. Love the quote from the David Byrne song which reverses the usual thoughts of city replacing nature. Viva La Naturaleza! Viva! Here my partner tells me on a daily basis ‘that used to be fields’ ‘you used to walk here in wild flowers’ but hey this is Spain/Catalunya and the developer is King. now I will look for signs of the fightback – little grasses growing on my terrace between the tiles, borage seeded on the road at the back….thank you.

  3. The Palatine Hill is the obvious starting point. Rome was founded here and it soon became the seat of political and religious power. During the Renaissance it was beautified and crowned with the Michelangelo-designed Piazza Campidoglio.

    Stumbling upon ancient frescoes, Renaissance fountains and beautiful piazzas are part of the pleasures of wandering around Rome’s streets.

  4. Do you know what the name of the vines are cascading down the walls in Rome, like the ones shown in your 3th picture down? Do you know whom might know what the botanical name of these vines? I have been trying to find out the name of these vines. Can anyone help?

  5. Really nice green photos, love them! This is an old post but reminds me my latest time in the Capital, one of the most beautiful places I ever seen 🙂

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