Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Streets of Rome: Vicolo del Leonetto

Some things never change. 

Some people never lose it for their first love, some people (many Italian people, actually) can never be satisfied by anything but their mother's cooking, and I, faithful readers, will never get over the thrill of learning the meaning behind Rome's street names.

It's been a long while since I've written a post about a street name, but that doesn't mean I have lost my fascination with them. As those of you who've been following this blog for a while may remember (that is, if there's anyone out there who actually reads my street name posts; I could realistically be the only person in the world who cares), in the past I've covered, Via del Mascherone,  Via del Piè di Marmo, (a personal favorite of Mozzarella Mamma), Via del Babuino, Vicolo della Spada d'Orlando, Piazza della Pigna, Via dei Giubbonari, Via dell'Arco della Ciambella, and one of the coziest, most hidden-away streets in Trastevere, Vicolo dell'Atleta. If you've ever wandered down one of these streets and wondered why it had such a funny name, Big Mask Street, Marble Foot Street, Baboon Street, Orlando's Sword Alley, and so on, well, read these posts and then you'll know.

The street I want to talk about today is another little known one, tucked away in the warren of alleys directly north of Piazza Navona: Vicolo del Leonetto. You don't have to be fluent in Italian to figure out that this street name has something to do with a lion. 

I came upon this street by chance about a month ago, as I was on my way to pick up some clients at their hotel. In all likelihood I had never walked down this street before, probably because it curves in a way that makes it seem at first like a dead end. As I tramped my way from Rione Ponte into Rione Campo Marzio, and headed down this hitherto unknown street, I noticed a strange, clearly ancient piece of statuary protruding from the corner of a building, just at the point at which the alley makes its little bend.

These physical remnants of the past can be found all over this neighborhood, and as much as I delight in them, I had no time to stop and muse of this particular one. I hastened to collect my clients, and as we walked back down the street in the opposite direction, I glanced at the protruding fragment once again, but this time I noticed something that hadn't been visible from the other angle, something that looked distinctly like a mane. 

And it smacked me in the face: Vicolo del Leonetto: Little Lion Alley. A surge of excitement raced through me, as always happens when I serendipitously discover the name of a Roman street, and only my innate professionalism kept me from whooping. I mean, can you stand it? For all its wars and corruption and gladiators and sacks and plagues and brawls and murder, at its heart, Rome is just too cute for words.

Is it just me, or does this little lion look a bit more like a very smiley shark from this angle?

My clients patiently waited as I snapped a few photos of my newest find, at which point I giddily explained to them my passion for Roman toponymy. I gushed and they pretended to be interested; it was a very special moment.

I will leave you with this incredibly inviting doorway, about four paces beyond the lion himself. It leads no doubt to an equally adorable apartment in which I'm sure I would be happy to spend the rest of my days. I am a Leo, after all.

All photos by author
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