Over the next few posts, I’ll be bringing you another side of Rome. Instead of all the tourist spots, I’ll show you the city that Franco has been introducing me to. About three weeks ago, I did my first walking tour of the city with Franco – a 65 year old Rome native, who is the friend of a colleague at work. He doesn’t like to take groups of tourists. He much prefers one person and hopefully someone who is into the stories behind Church symbolism. He could give Dan Brown a run for his money, so knowledgeable is he when it comes to the secret-squirrel signs and symbols of the Pope and the Catholic Church. I found the tour so fascinating, I went out again with Franco last weekend for a slightly different tour.

But heck: you gotta be fit to keep up with this chap. From 9.00am until 6.00pm, you are out walking. And walking. And walking. This second tour, we had the luxury of a car for one part of the tour – because Franco wanted to show me the EUR. The EUR stands for Esposizione Universale Roma and was built in 1942 to celebrate 20 years of Fascism. Mussolini wanted it as the site for the 1942 World Fair but a little quarrel known as World War Two got in the way. The EUR is now a residential and business district. Quite expensive too.

It’s a fabulous example of Modernist architecture. A very interesting fusion of early modernity, with strong influences of classical architecture, and a touch of Fascist interpretation thrown in. So it’s all about grandeur but, at the same time, it’s quite austere. Personally, I really like the EUR but I can imagine it could become a tad depressing living there. It’s devoid of greenery and the grandness of the buildings is out of scale with the human. Meaning, you can feel quite overwhelmed.

Anyway. For today’s post, I just want to introduce you to Franco. Like most Italians, Franco expresses himself with his hands, even when driving. I was wondering if I should have taken out a more expensive insurance policy because (like most Italians) Franco drives like a maniac. There is a method to the madness of Italian drivers but I don’t want to know what that method is. I try to avoid getting in cars with Italians but away I went with Franco. He was so keen to explain Fascist architecture to me that he sometimes forgot he was driving. Thankfully, the EUR was only one of two sections of the tour we did by car.

Franco is passionate about his city. He has spent 30 years reading anything and everything on Rome and so he can tell you stories about this Church or that statue or that fountain. Stuff you just don’t read in all the guides on Rome.

Franco gesticulates, saying "We're going by car to the EUR".

Franco explaining Fascist architecture. I'm watching that bus and hoping Franco remembers where the brakes are.

Franco please: put both hands on the wheel! We enter the EUR.

Franco gesticulating again.

Franco explaining the grandeur of Fascist architecture.

An example of Italian Fascist architecture. I wish I could tell you what this building is - but I was too busy praying that I'd make it out alive given Franco's driving!