Exploring life and death on a Roman imperial estate at Vagnari, Puglia

BSR alumna and Professor of Roman Archaeology Maureen Carroll (Sheffield), and Associate Professor of Anthropology Tracy Prowse (McMaster) update us on one of the BSR’s associated projects, the Vagnari imperial estate. This summer two teams of researchers from the University of Sheffield and McMaster University continued their archaeological research on the Roman settlement and associated cemetery at Vagnari, located about 15 km northwest of the large Iron Age settlement at Botromagno (modern Gravina in Puglia).


Map showing location of Vagnari in south-east Italy (Puglia). Map by M. Carroll.

Since the archaeological discovery in 2000 by Alastair and Carola Small of a vast Roman estate around Vagnari, the retrieval of ceramic roof tiles stamped with the name of an imperial slave has indicated that this estate and its central settlement (vicus) were the property of the Roman emperor himself.  Thanks to the excavations by the University of Sheffield from 2012 to 2018, it is now clear that the imperial settlement was developed at the very beginning of the first century AD, perhaps by Augustus, and that it enjoyed a significant burst of activity at this time. Excavations in the last two years have pushed the chronology of the site back to the second century BC, however, by revealing a late Republican settlement that may have been one of those established by Roman aristocrats and speculators expanding into Apulia after the Roman conquest of the region in the third century AD. This private landholding at Vagnari then entered imperial possession, perhaps through inheritance, in the early first century AD. Archaeological evidence points to the period between the late first and the mid-fourth century AD as the most active and productive phase of occupation in the vicus at Vagnari, with the late fourth century witnessing the decline and abandonment of the settlement.


Excavating a pit filled with pottery of the Augustan period in the vicus. Photo by M. Carroll.

In preparation for the final publication of the vicus, an international team of specialists on the University of Sheffield project came together in Gravina in 2019 to conduct an analysis of specific finds complexes that are particularly informative and offer new perspectives. The focus of our work this summer and in the coming months is on the networks that were established to create and develop the imperial estate and the connectivity between this region and others in and beyond Italy. Artefactual and environmental remains were studied to investigate the supply of imported ceramics and decorative marbles, the mobility of animals in transhumance patterns, cereal cultivation strategies, and on-site industrial outputs. Imperial properties have been studied primarily on the basis of historical texts and inscriptions, but the high-resolution archaeological data at Vagnari enables us to take a broader and, at the same time, more nuanced approach to studying such estates. The carefully documented sequences of occupation and diagnostic material at Vagnari allows us to explore the profound changes in social and political contexts, human and animal mobility, and economic regimes in this region of southern Italy brought about by its annexation to the Roman state and its regional exploitation by the imperial elite.

Work in the Roman cemetery at Vagnari began in 2002, and since that time excavations have uncovered over 150 burials dating between the first and fourth centuries AD. The burials in this cemetery provide an opportunity to understand what life was like on an imperial estate and how these people buried their dead. Fieldwork continued in July and August under the direction of Tracy Prowse (McMaster University, Canada), with the aim of continuing to reveal the extent of the cemetery to the West and South of previously excavated trenches.

Cimitero_2019 (1)

Plan of the cemetery with areas excavated in 2019 outlined in black. Plan F. Taccogna, courtesy of T. Prowse.

The large northern trench contained five alla cappuccina burials similar to those found in other Roman cemeteries. Four additional cappuccina burials were reinforced with hundreds of kilograms of stone and mortar surrounding the tile structure. This year we found three burials that appeared to have been intentionally disturbed in antiquity, one of which was re-used, indicated by disarticulated bones clustered at the end of the burial  and the presence of multiple individuals inside the same disturbed tomb.

F352 with bones at South end (1)

Photo of burial F352 with cluster of bones at the South end of the burial. Photo by T. Prowse.

In the smaller southern trench, we uncovered five cappuccina burials badly damaged by modern ploughing, but also found a number of young children and infants (less than a year old) who were intentionally buried adjacent to the tomb covers, bringing the total number of individuals recovered from this trench to eleven. Most of the burials in both areas of the cemetery contained a small number of modest grave goods, typically ceramic vessels, lamps, iron objects (e.g. blades, nails), and some items of personal adornment. Ongoing bioarchaeological analysis of the skeletal sample from the Vagnari cemetery is investigating diet, mobility, activity, and health of this rural Roman population.

Pottery work

Sorting and cataloguing vicus pottery (David Griffiths, Kelsey Madden, Sarah Hayes) at the Centro Operativo per l’Archeologia di Gravina in Puglia (Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paessagio) in 2019. Photo by M. Carroll.

The Sheffield 2019 fieldwork was funded through research grants from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, the Rust Family Foundation, and the University of Sheffield. Participants included Sally Cann, Maureen Carroll, David Griffiths, Sarah Hayes, Caroline Jackson, Petrus Le Roux, Louis Olivier Lortie, Kelsey Madden, Giuseppe Montana, Jonathan Moulton, Rebecca Sgouros, Matthew Stirn, Angela Trentacoste, and David Wigg-Wolf.

The 2019 field season by McMaster University was funded, in part, through a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (#430-2017-00291). The 2019 excavation team included Liana Brent, Marissa Ledger, Franco Taccogna, and 22 undergraduate students from McMaster and other Canadian universities.


Excavations in the Roman cemetery. Photo by T. Prowse.


Maureen Carroll (Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Sheffield; BSR Hugh Last Fellow 2015-16; BSR Balsdon Fellow 2007-8) and Tracy Prowse (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University; director of excavations in the cemetery at Vagnari).

Summer #ObjectOfTheWeek

Every Thursday over the summer we highlighted an #ObjectOfTheWeek from our archives and special collections on Twitter and Instagram.

We asked some of our staff to choose an object and tell us why it is important to them, and here is what they picked out.

What’s your favourite object from the BSR collections?

Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science



‘This map (c.1762, dedicated to British architect Robert Adam) from our special collections shows the Campus Martius in the Roman period as imagined by Piranesi. As a maritime archaeologist I particularly enjoyed the detail of Tiber Island’


Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences



‘This catalogue gives real insight into the British contribution to the 1911 International Fine Arts Exhibition. I find it amazing that paintings by Constable, Reynolds & Gainsborough once hung here in Rome and the efforts that were made to transport them. I am curious about how audiences moved around the exhibition, and what the paintings, prints and drawings on display were intended to communicate about contemporary British art’


Alessandra Giovenco, Archivist



‘This stereoscope was recently acquired by our Photo Archive thanks to Tony Richards of The John Rylands Library. A common means of entertainment in the Victorian age, it was the first successful attempt to render an image in 3D form through a particular photographic layout’


Martina Caruso, Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries



‘This is not an aerial landscape but a photo by Agnes Bulwer of a C13 embroidery at Anagni near Rome, taken to help historian ‘Miss RF Pulley (Mrs HH Jewell)’ on her mission to study English embroideries that had travelled to Italy. The photo was taken in 1910. Pulley coloured two of the series of photographs which were then exhibited in the British Historical Section of the Rome Exhibition in 1911. Little is known of the Bulwer sisters. We know the younger sister Dora was born in Naples, and after the death of their mother, they moved to Rome. The BSR holds five albums of their views of Italy, France, Greece and personal travel photos bsrdigitalcollections.it/dab.aspx ‘


Valerie Scott, Librarian


‘A snapshot of the Roman Campagna in 1704 by cartographer Giovanni Battista Cingolani della Pergola, engraving by Pietro Paolo Girelli, from our Libray’s Special Collections. The detail is remarkable. For example, number 184 corresponds to the information that the land was owned by Cardinal Decano. Visit www.bsrdigitalcollections.it to find out more’


Stephen Kay, Archaeology Officer



‘This series of aerial photographs of Portus was taken by the RAF on the 30 March 1944. The photographs, now curated by the ICCD, were saved by John Ward-Perkins following World War Two. They are a major resource for archaeologists to understand the changing landscape of Italy’


Stephen Milner, Director
And to round off our summer #ObjectOfTheWeek series BSR Director Stephen Milner chose our trusty moka pots used to make the coffee, or ‘black gold’, that fuels life at the BSR. Captured beautifully here by this year’s Québec Resident Dan Popa.


A petition to free Ezra Pound

In 1955, American poet Ezra Pound turned 70 confined in St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington for the criminally insane. He had been there for almost a decade, since pleading insanity in November 1945, to avoid facing treason charges for his activities as pro-Axis propagandist on Rome Radio during the Second World War – charges that could very likely have led to the death penalty. Many writers, such as Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost, sought to mobilise public opinion, lobbying for the poet’s release. Yale Broadcasting Company recorded ‘A Tribute to Ezra Pound’, a radio programme that collected testimonials by, amongst others, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and E.E. Cummings. Though some of these writers admitted to having no first-hand knowledge of Pound’s broadcasts, such was their devotion to Pound that they agreed to take part nonetheless. Their contributions were collected in Ezra Pound at Seventy, and the broadcast can be listened to here: https://library.harvard.edu/poetry/listeningbooth/poets/pound.html

Similar campaigns were also underway in Italy, where Pound had lived for over twenty years until his arrest. In 1954, his son-in-law had helped arrange a series of broadcasts on Vatican radio, with José V. de Piña Martins, professor of Portuguese at Rome University, launching an appeal to free Pound. Also in 1955, poet Giovanni Papini collected signatures for a petition addressed to the American ambassador in Rome, Clare Boothe Luce, demanding Pound’s release. Co-ordinating many of these efforts was Pound’s Italian publisher, Vanni Scheiwiller, who worked ceaselessly to enlist the support of writers, poets and intellectuals, on both sides of the political spectrum. Scheiwiller offered to act as ‘postman’ for Papini’s petition, which was signed by a long list of writers, including Alberto Moravia, Ignazio Silone, Umberto Saba and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Though poets Vittorio Sereni and Salvatore Quasimodo and translator Fernanda Pivano agreed to sign Papini’s petition, their writings and correspondence with Scheiwiller reveal their enduring reservations about Pound’s wartime activities. I wrote this poem, which revisits their writings on the subject, to reflect the ambivalence of their responses.


Not ideas but ties

a united front

of many factions

bind poets, critics, left & right.


All, perhaps, agree on compassion,

incline to ask for grace –

less so to endorse action

committed in poetry’s name,

to clear responsibility

that does exist

that needs



Take Lorca – his position

in the order of civilisation;

Pound’s in a limbo, slightly strange –

civilisation yes, but which?

If you write the ambassador,

you must to Franco too. Find

the lost bones a proper spot,

better than the red rag

or Santa Ana. We’ll call it



Today in my heart

I feel a tremor of stars

but my path is lost

in the soul of the mist.


Spoon River seized, so far

from the jargon – words

made to mean the same,

Leone Ginzburg dead

in the Queen of Heaven.

And what of the meathooks

and the bloody branches?


How could we sing

with hearts under

foreign foot, with the dead

that crowd the square

on ice-hard grass,

the children’s lamb-lament,

the black cry

of mother seeking son

hung on the telegraph pole?


A war of many wars,

some with histories

still there in the street names –

some cried out too loud

others quiet in defeat: on the

green lawns of the ward

so far from the noise,

was the first silence sown

to build and accrete?


On the willow fronds, by vow,

a tree amid the wood

the poets had hung their lyres

of Daphne and the laurel bough

which swung lightly in the wind.


Sean Mark (Rome Fellow 2018-19)



Summer and art at the BSR

Our July artists in residence from Newcastle University and those on the Meade Rome Residency from the University of the Arts London (Chelsea and London College of Communication) arrived just as the BSR façade was being completed. Together with Sainsbury Scholar Anna Brass and the three architects in residence on the Boas Award (Marco Fiorino, Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda and Aoi Phillips Yamashita), they curated a pop-up exhibition on the portico and steps on the evening of 25 July.

Elin Karlsson Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_38

Elin Karlsson, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Elin Karlsson (LCC, UAL) unfurled three large sails which she lit against the night sky with a floodlight hidden in a tiny cluster-cave of salt dough, broken glass and candles. Karl Foster (Chelsea, UAL) filled three abandoned niches beneath Piazzale Winston Churchill with a triptych of small dead trees that he found at the bottom of the road, with their roots exposed. Karl covered some of the tips of the branches with bits of plastic and clothing as a way to heal their wounds, ineffectually.

Karl Foster photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_13

Karl Foster, i vostri figli i ragazzi pairoli crea spazzatura, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Marco Fiorino (Cambridge) exhibited architectural mappings of in-between spaces connecting gardens and public urban spaces, having spent his time to explore historical gardens in and around Rome.

Marco Fiorino photo Elin_Karlsson2019_9

Marco Fiorino, Gardens for Third Nature, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Abigail Hampsey’s (Newcastle University) paintings contrasted the classical limestone framework with entwined fluorescent narratives and Remi Rana Allen (Chelsea, UAL) presented The Memoirs of Lady Vagina Dentata and Killer Queen, a Medusa’s head made of Indian hair extensions from Delhi placing ‘black hair and dark skin’ as protagonists within traditional Western myths.

Abighail Hampsey photo Elin_Karlsson2019

Abi Hampsey, don’t miss, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Remi Rana Allen photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_17

Remi Rana Allen, Killer Queen, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda’s (Architectural Association) four photographs of people and objects occupied an off-centre area near the doorway, reflecting her self-imposed challenge to understand and represent the use of public space in Rome.

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_1

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

These very different practices that somehow spoke to each other brought the façade, hidden for months behind scaffolding, to life within an expansive discourse. This was an internal event that took place in an external setting which meant that people walking by were intrigued and stopped to look at the works exhibited.

In the previous weeks Meaghan Stewart (Newcastle University) led a monoprint workshop with left-over paints from previous BSR residents, inviting anyone curious to drop into her studio, including scholars and architects. She encouraged the less expert through the steps, from how to ink the acetate or glass support, create designs for effect, and experiment with different techniques. Some of the monoprints were exhibited on a table under the portico, including work by Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita (Architectural Association) and Meaghan. The table featured small sculptures too, creating a miniature landscape for the prints.

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_5

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint (photo MC)

Meaghan Stewart, untitled (Fountain of Maremma), 2019 (photo: Martina Caruso)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint workshop (photo MC)

Monoprint workshop with Meaghan Stewart (photo: Martina Caruso)


Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)

BSR Members visit the Ashmolean Museum’s Western Art Print Room

Membership of the BSR has been an invaluable asset to me over the past few years. As a pied-à-terre in Rome, and as a research resource in its own right, the Lutyens’ building prominent on Via Gramsci has been the ideal base for my research. Morning walks through the Borghese gardens to various palazzi, churches and galleries, afternoons spent in the BSR library, and evenings engaged in chatting with guests and staff over supper, have also been part of the draw. However, UK activities have rarely been a focus for me. This changed in dramatic style recently when as a BSR member, I was invited to the Prints and Drawings Room of the Ashmolean Museum to meet members of the Italian Drawings Project.

Conveniently, the Ashmolean was part of my planned primary research for this year. For the past few months I have been earnestly engaged in converting my PhD thesis into Henry Hoare the Collector, the ‘book of the thesis’ – so to speak. The focus of my PhD research was the reception of ancient Roman myth, art and literature in the eighteenth-century English landscape garden. A key influence on this movement was seventeenth- and eighteenth-century landscape painting, and specially the work of Claude, Poussin and Dughet. As an example of this influence, the Pantheon in Henry Hoare’s landscape garden at Stourhead, one of the best-known examples of the genre, features a trio of statues which seemingly represent the Choice of Hercules. Poussin’s version of this theme can still be found in the house at Stourhead. One time near-neighbour of Henry’s, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, also owned a painting of this theme by Paolo de’ Matteis. This painting now hangs in the Ashmolean. A section of the book in preparation deals with eighteenth-century interest in this theme, and hence my planned visit to Oxford.

On the day, after having glutted myself on the de’Matteis canvas, I met with the BSR group organised by Natasha Burbridge, and I was delighted to find old BSR friends Harriet O’Neill and Alice Marsh forming part of the group. We were led by Angelamaria Aceto through the museum and into the hallowed space of the Western Drawing Room. Here we were greeted by Angelamaria’s colleague, Ian Hicks, and directed to a line of seats by the window, set teasingly in front of three upright easels. I opted to perch on the window-ledge and Angelamaria began revealing the first of a succession of visual treats.


BSR Members view a selection of drawings. Photo: Alice Marsh.

Our two hours included viewing drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo, selected to illustrate a variety of themes and techniques. The latter included working in black and red chalk, as well as the metalpoint technique, of which we learnt that Raphael was a keen exponent. The themes explored included consideration of the purpose of drawings, i.e. those intended as preparation for other pieces (‘functional’), experimental pieces, auxiliary drawings, as well as presentation drawings. To illustrate this last category, we were invited to contemplate Raphael’s preparatory study (see below) for the Vatican Transfiguration altarpiece.


WA1846.209, Studies of the heads of two apostles and of their hands, Raphael. © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.  

The third and final element of our all too short visit was a selection of drawings presented by Ian illustrating the connections between the work of Parmigianino and Correggio, and evidence of the former’s influence on the latter. A highlight for me was the chance to view a Parmigianino’s cartoon on grey-blue paper of The Nativity.

Never has two hours passed quite so quickly, and presumably to protect us from the onset of Stendhal’s syndrome, at just after 1pm our hosts thanked us for attending and we filed out into the main museum.

We were effusive with our thanks on the day, but I am nevertheless pleased to have this further opportunity to thank the BSR and the Prints and Drawings Room staff for their kindness in organising such a memorable visit. I hope very much that the Ashmolean Italian Drawings Project will go from strength-to-strength. Natasha has mentioned organising other, similar trips for BSR members.

Text by Professor John Harrison (BSR Member)

My thanks to Angelamaria Aceto for her comments on an earlier draft of this blog.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the BSR, please contact Natasha Burbridge at development@bsrome.it.

Restoring the ‘Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, mastro dell’arte del cucinare’

(English translation below)

La Biblioteca della BSR possiede due volumi dell’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi.  L’edizione del 1643 e la preziosissima prima edizione del 1570.

ediz. 1570

Bartolomeo Scappi, cuoco privato dei pontefici Paolo III e Pio V, fu l’autore di quello che viene considerato il più importante testo di Gastronomia del XVI secolo, Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, mastro dell’arte del cucinare, divisa in sei libri (1570).

Scappi prestò servizio come cuoco presso i più noti personaggi del tempo, tra cui il pontefice Pio V per il quale curò il banchetto d’intronizzazione, divenendone successivamente ‘cuoco segreto’ (cioè ‘privato’).

tav. 1643 dopo

I sei volumi della sua Opera propongono al lettore oltre mille ricette, ma suggeriscono anche innovative tecniche di ristorazione, preziosi suggerimenti per la conservazione degli alimenti, regole per l’allestimento di banchetti e tutte le conoscenze che un cuoco rinascimentale di alto livello doveva possedere.  Nel trattato troviamo persino i primi cenni di cucina dietetica per persone inferme e utili riflessioni sull’igiene alimentare.  Tra le tante curiosità in cui ci si può imbattere durante la lettura dell’Opera vi è la prima raffigurazione conosciuta di una forchetta o la definizione del parmigiano reggiano come ‘il miglior formaggio del mondo’.


Nel 2017 la BSR ha provveduto al restauro e alla conservazione dell’edizione del 1643.  Grazie a questo intervento, eseguito a cura dello Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo, il libro è ora perfettamente recuperato e fruibile.

Nuove prospettive si aprono ora per il restauro e la conservazione della rarissima edizione del 1570. Si è, infatti, avviata una proficua collaborazione con l’Istituto Alberghiero ‘Sandro Pertini’ di Brindisi.  Sotto la guida della Prof.ssa Severina Carnevale, ideatrice del progetto, gli studenti di questa scuola hanno così deciso di ‘adottare’ il libro. Per ora l’incontro con il prezioso volume è potuto avvenire solo via Skype, grazie alla disponibilità della Bibliotecaria della BSR, Dott.ssa Valerie Scott, e della restauratrice Luigia Antonazzo.

L’interesse dei giovani studenti è stato grande e con i loro docenti, Professori Miano, Bistanti, Rubino, Marrazzo, Ugenti, De Giuseppe, Mariano, Fanciullo e Pellegrino, hanno avviato un percorso di ricerca e recupero delle antiche ricette di Scappi culminato nell’allestimento di un ‘Saggio di Cucina Rinascimentale’.  Un vero e proprio ‘banchetto rinascimentale’ tenutosi il 6 giugno 2019 presso le sale dell’Istituto Pertini.  Il ‘Menù dei Papi’ è stato molto apprezzato dai commensali e tante sono state le curiosità riguardo le tecniche e gli ingredienti usati.

I piatti serviti sono stati: uovo ripieno, crostone con capirotata, gattafure di cipolle alla genovese,riso alla damaschina, arrosto con prugne-uvetta e mele, insalata di mescolanza con fiori, insalata con capperi ed uva passa, fraole saucate con zuccaro, torta bianca reale, finocchio fresco dolce, arance candite e taralli dolci.


Un grande plauso, dunque, agli studenti del Pertini, con l’augurio che la collaborazione possa proseguire e che il patrimonio librario della BSR possa essere utile alla ulteriore crescita della loro sensibilità storica e delle loro competenze professionali.

Gina Antonazzo (Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo)




Bartolomeo Scappi, private chef to Popes Paul III and Pius V, was the author of what would come to be considered the most important text on gastronomy from the 16th century, Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, maestro dell’arte del cucinare (1570).

The BSR Library has two volumes of the Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, the 1643 edition, and the first edition of 1570.

Scappi took up service as chef to Pope Pius V for whom he prepared the banquet of enthronement, and thereafter became known as the ‘secret chef’ (in the sense of ‘private’).

The six volumes of his Opera set out over 1,000 recipes, but also make suggestions about innovative techniques for food conservation, how to set up the banquet tables and everything you might want to learn from a renaissance chef working in the top echelons of society. We even find mention of dietary requirements for the sick, and some useful reflections on food hygiene. Amongst other curiosities within the book we find the first depiction of a fork, as well as Parmigiano Reggiano being described as ‘the best cheese in the world’.

In 2017 the BSR arranged for the restoration and conservation of the 1643 edition. Thanks to this intervention, carried out by Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo, the book is now perfectly salvaged and usable.

New possibilities are now opening up for the restoration and conservation of the rare edition of 1570, in the form of a collaboration with the Istituto Alberghiero ‘Sandro Petrini’ in Brindisi. Under the guidance of Professor Severina Carnevale, the project’s creator, students of the school have ‘adopted’ the book. So far, their contact with the book has only been possible through Skype, thanks to the willingness of BSR Librarian, Valerie Scott, and the restorer Luigia Antonazzo.

The students took great interest, and alongside their teachers, Professors Miano, Bistanti, Rubino, Marrazzo, Ugenti, De Giuseppe, Mariano, Fanciullo and Pellegrino, they began a course researching and rediscovering Scappi’s recipes, culminating in the production of a ‘Saggio di Cucina Rinascimentale’, and a Renaissance banquet was held on 6 June at the Istituto Pertini. The ‘Menu di Papa’ was much appreciated by the diners who were intrigued by the techniques and ingredients used. The dishes were as follows: uovo ripieno, crostone con capirotata, gattafure di cipolle alla genovese,riso alla damaschina, arrosto con prugne-uvetta e mele, insalata di mescolanza con fiori, insalata con capperi ed uva passa, fraole saucate con zuccaro, torta bianca reale, finocchio fresco dolce, arance candite etaralli dolci.

Many thanks to the students of the Istituto Pertini – we hope that this collaboration will continue to offer them a sense of the historical tradition in which they are working as they progress in their culinary careers.

Gina Antonazzo (Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo)



Back in February BSR cook Luca Albanese treated BSR staff, residents and award-holders to a Renaissance themed dinner based on one of Scappi’s recipes, which included costolette di maiale, cavolo alla romanesca, and rotolo di datteri.



Imagining and reimagining Rome with the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership

At the start of June, a group of nine students from the Midlands4Cities DTP arrived at the BSR for a week-long residential workshop, bringing together doctoral researchers in archaeology, art history and theory, classics, museum studies, performing arts, and photography. Taking the creative community of the BSR as a model, the aim of the workshop was to use the city of Rome as a stimulus for conversations across a range of academic and practice-based disciplines.

Co-produced by Midlands4Cities academics and BSR staff and award-holders, the programme was designed to build connections between our doctoral researchers and the wider community of artists and scholars at the BSR.

Anna Brass Studio Visit 2

Studio visit with Anna Brass. Photo by Lara Pucci.

Our activities began with visits to the studios of artist award-holders Anna Brass and Jade Ching-yuk Ng, led by Marta Pellerini (Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator). Hearing Anna and Jade talk about the challenges and rewards of making new work amidst Rome’s vast artistic heritage was the perfect introduction to our explorations of the city. Our studio conversations introduced themes that would crop up again and again over the course of the week: the unresolvedness of the urban fabric, things not being (materially) what they seem, the proliferation of fragments and layers, and the tension between history and contemporaneity.

With these themes in mind, Neil Christie (University of Leicester) led a walking tour of city walls and gates, starting with the Porta Pinciana and ending with what remains of the Servian walls at Stazione Termini. Neil got us thinking about how Rome has been defined and redefined by its walls, and how what remains of them tells a story about the physical and ideological development of the city.

Piazza Colonna

Walking tour with Neil Christie. Photo by Lara Pucci.

After our first foray into streets of Rome, we returned for an archival tour of the city with librarian Valerie Scott and archivist Alessandra Giovenco. Valerie and Alessandra showed us highlights from the BSR’s incredible topographical collections – including Piranesi’s improbable etchings, Robert Macpherson’s pioneering photographs, and Sir William Gell’s delightful sketchbook – sharing fascinating insights into collection history and conservation practice along the way.

Library Archive Session

Library and Archive session. Photo by Lara Pucci.


The Pantheon photographed by Robert MacPherson, 1850s. Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives.


Close-up of a William Gell notebook. Photo by Ben White.

Harriet O’Neill (Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences) led a follow-up session engaging the group in collaborative research to produce a museum label for one of a selection of intriguing archival objects. Working in multidisciplinary groups, students got to grips with researching unfamiliar objects and interpreting them for a general audience, bringing to light new information about the BSR’s collections in the process.


Photo by Antonio Palmieri.


Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Wednesday took us to the Roman Forum in the company of Niccolò Mugnai (BSR Residential Research Fellow). Niccolò expertly guided us through the Forum’s fragments and layers, unpacking the evolution of the ancient city, and exploring alternative theories about what remains. Taking refuge from the heat, we concluded our Forum visit in Santa Maria Anitqua whose immersive multimedia displays allowed us to examine the effectiveness of digital technologies in heritage interpretation.

Niccolo Forum

Forum visit with Niccolò Mugnai. Photo by Lara Pucci.

Back at the BSR, David Robinson (University of Nottingham) invited us, by way of the writing of nineteenth-century British travellers, to return vicariously to the sites we had visited that morning. Examining the ways in which the Roman Empire was used both to endorse and critique British imperialism, David got us thinking about the multiple and expedient ways in which the Roman past has been reimagined.

This set the scene for Thursday’s visit to Piazza Augusto Imperatore where Chris Siwicki (BSR Rome Fellow) and Lara Pucci (University of Nottingham) discussed Augustan monuments and their fascist-era appropriation. As well as comparing the political uses of architecture under both regimes, we shared ideas about shifting attitudes to heritage and conservation, including the vexed debates surrounding the material legacies of the fascist past.


At the Ara Pacis with Chris Siwicki and Lara Pucci. Photo by Ben White.

The collaborative theme continued into the afternoon with an inspiring talk by Stephen Milner (BSR Director) on the biology of the book. Hearing about Stephen’s innovative work with the Books and Beasts project highlighted the rich possibilities of research co-production across the humanities and sciences.

That evening, we were introduced to the cinematic city by way of the BSR’s screening of Roma, città aperta (dir. Roberto Rossellini, 1945) to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Rome. Viewing Rossellini’s on-screen reclamation of Rome from Fascism neatly bridged our on-site explorations of the city’s fascist and cinematic heritage.

Friday morning took us to Cinecittà for a tour of sets and studios. Visiting the set built for HBO’s Rome series was a particular favourite. Having immersed ourselves in the fragmented authenticity of the ancient city, the vision of a fibreglass Rome made whole, however inauthentically, proved captivating.


Cinecittà. Photo by Lara Pucci.

After the spectacular fakery of Cinecittà, we spent the afternoon exploring a wealth of original artworks and documents at the Giulio Turcato Archive. This special visit, organised by Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries), introduced the group to a key figure in Rome’s post-war art scene. As Martina led us through the collection, we discussed the peripheral place of Italy in histories of modern art, as well as issues of archival research and practice.

On Saturday morning, our work-in-progress session invited small groups of students to present initial responses to the week’s activities. Each group brought together researchers from different disciplines and institutions to consider how their varied expertise might, collaboratively, address questions raised by things we had seen in Rome.

The first group (Rachael Banes, Kallina Brailsford, Zoltán Pallag) examined the musealisation of Santa Maria Antiqua, raising urgent questions about the competing priorities of historical narrative and visitor experience. Group two (Laura Dudley, Emily Gray, Ben White) used an independent visit to the Time is Out of Joint exhibit at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna as a point of departure for exploring Rome’s rich dialogues between past and present. Our third group (Ashley Chhibber, Tadas Stalyga, Jessica Venner) introduced the evocative concept of scavenging to draw attention to the highly selective conservation of the city’s material heritage.


Photo by Ben White.

The sharing of these thought-provoking ideas was a real highlight of our week at the BSR.

Students are now exploring ways to develop these Roman discussions into more resolved work back in the Midlands, where we plan to expand our collaborative conversations to include researchers from the wider M4C cohort.

In the meantime, we hope that our workshop participants will return to their research refreshed by the experience of Rome. By inviting students to step outside the intense focus of their PhD projects, the workshop encouraged them to reflect on how alternative approaches might inform their own practice. If research is enriched by conversation, there should be no shortage of wealth to take back to the Midlands!


Lara Pucci (Assistant Professor in History of Art, University of Nottingham)