Some cities are made for cinema: New York, Paris and—as seen in the season finale of “Parts Unknown”—Rome.
“Is it possible to look at Rome in a non-cinematic way?” Anthony Bourdain asked Asia Argento, an Italian filmmaker who comes from a long line of Roman cinema. She replied that that wasn’t the point. It was only necessary to find new ways of looking at the city.
Bourdain decided to look through the lens of Pier Paulo Pasolini, an eminent filmmaker whose work centered on the working classes of the Roman suburbs. From Rome’s “Jersey Shore,” Ostia, to courtside pasta at a boxing match, Bourdain tried to experience the city of working class Romans who have lived there their whole lives.
“These people can’t make bad food,” Abel Ferrara, an Italian-American filmmaker who has lived in Rome for the past few years, told Bourdain. “Here, you care about the people you’re feeding.”
See Also: Travel + Leisure's Guide to Rome
Bourdain spent much of the episode in quintessential Italian scene: around a table, eating pasta with a family. He was at the table as Argento’s son tried his first taste of tripe. The family talked about appreciating the Eternal City after having grown up there. Argento admitted that, despite having been born in the city, she didn’t enter the Colosseum until she was 16.
Later, Bourdain and Argento visited another monument that the local Roman had never visited—the Palazzo dei Congressi, an imposing building that was built in 1942 to honor fascism. The two spent their visit discussing the rise of fascism in Italy and its lingering effects. A monument to Benito Mussolini still stands in Rome.
Before World War I, Mussolini was widely regarded as “a crackpot,” Bourdain said. He alluded to a topical figure, saying that Mussolini wanted to “Make Italy Great Again.” And in some ways he did. Argento said that her grandmother praised the architecture, roads and patriotism that flourished under Mussolini. But the gestapo, propaganda machines and economic woes flourished, as well.
Mussolini was shot by a resistance group in 1945. His corpse was hung upside down from a gas station in Milan and was stoned by civilians on the street. Bourdain commented that it was an interesting train of events—to go from being a revered totalitarian leader to a political piñata.
“That’s what happens to idols,” Argento said. “You create them so you can destroy them.”