The Alma Roma was founded in 1922 by Ruggero Caimmi, “Official guide to Castel Sant’Angelo”, who gathered a group of people passionate about Rome. From the very beginning the program was directed towards the “historical and artistic culture” in Rome, dealing often with literary and philosophical issues. The activity consisted mainly in visits to archeological sites, sacred and secular monuments, museums and art galleries, but also in commemorating historical events and figured linked to the City.
The first figure to be involved in the Alma Rome was Dr. Umberto Vichi, historian, lecturer and President of the Association for about 20 years. As a protagonist and witness of those first events, he left his memories on the Alma Roma periodical on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
Among the main events Dr. Vichi remembers how, between 1924 and 1925, the Alma Roma actually did play an important role within the Roman Committee as far as the funeral honors to Giovanni Pascoli were concerned. Among the personalities he recalls: Leo Montecchi, a 1849 Roman Tribute descendant, General Director of the merchant navy and Roman Campaign scholar; Francesco Aquilanti, Professor of Italian literature at the Swiss University and novelist; Umberto Leoni, teacher at Liceo Tasso, poet and distinguished expert in Romance languages, Paola Maria Arcaria, professor of Politics, and Dean of the Law Faculty in Cagliari; Pietro Boncompagni, lecturer with a very enthusiastic oratory; the eminent Dante scholar Luigi Pietrobono; and Luigi Du Jardin, official at the Ministry of Public Works, and Roman topography scholar, author of articles published on the magazine “Roma”, and of some entries in the Italian Encyclopedia.
Since the very start the Alma Roma had very few members, but everyone was united by their mutual interest in Rome. They decided not to have over 50 members in order to finance the activities of the association.
With the coming of the war Vichi and many others had to leave the city. Then Dante Bedoni took over the direction of the Association. He was an official at the Bank of Italy, a bibliophile and an enthusiast of Roman traditions. During the postwar period Kt. Pico Belardinelli took the direction, but due to some political misunderstandings, its name was changed to Ricreativa! Umberto Vichi managed to become director again and until 1959, when he left on his own accord, taking instead the honorary presidency. On that occasion the Terenzio Varrone joined the association and, most importantly, they did return to the old and glorious name: Alma Roma.
It was then that Professor Luigi Lotti became the president of the association. It was, still, thanks to his cleverness, constancy and his sense of sacrifice that the Alma Roma became a prestigious cultural centre universally recognized.
The driving force and witness of all this was mainly the magazine Alma Roma – Newsletter, which was started in 1960 and still being published. At that time other two series were taken on: the Alma Roma Journals, the Roman Monographs, and the Roman Chronicles and Monuments. Councilor Dr. Giuseppe Scarfone’s work is worth being mentioned here, he was the creator and first editor of the magazine, run efficiently, and showing great respect for tradition.
Professor Lotti’s cultural direction oriented the programming towards a more instructive aspect rather than an entertaining one, as well as towards the knowledge of the deeper and less well-known aspects of the city.
With regard to this it is important to remember some speaking tours, which were a hit with the public for their original and down to earth presentations: Roman Walls and Doors (Luigi Lotti), French Popes (Carlo Gerlni), Tiny Roman Churches (Giorgio Marincola – Mauro), Towers and Obelisks (Francesco Dionisi), Roman Church Mosaics (Umberto Vichi), The Roman Catacombs (Sandro Carletti)
A lot of scholars, among the most important of the Roman cultural élite, made an authoritative contribution to the activities of the brotherhood. Among them: Raissa Calza, Gianfilippo Carettoni, Antonio Maria Colini, Pietro Romanelli, Giuseppe Marchetti Longhi, Enrico Josi, Mario Moretti, Enrico Santamaria, Filippo Magi, Mario Napoli, Lorenzo Quilici, Francesco Dionisi, Guglielmo Gatti, Cecilia Pericoli, Carlo Pietrangeli, Deoclecio Redig de Campos, Armando Schiavo, Valnea Scrinari, Luciano Zeppegno.
Other eminent figures who collaborated with the association were: Nobiloni, Andrea Mastrovito, Giulio Cesare Nerilli, Mario Bosi, Margherita Cecchelli Trinci, Luigi Ceccarelli, Willy Pocino, Renato Lefevre, Fabrizio Maria Apollonj Ghetti, Stelvio Coggiatti, Christoph Luitpold Frommel, Carla Guglielmi, Filippo Caraffa, Margherita Calderara Lerda Olberg, Emanuele Gatti, Fabrizio Bisconti, Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai, Danilo Mazzoleni.
And in recent years notably: Federico Antonio Caiola, Laura Gigli, Claudio Strinati, Pietro Petraroia, Bernard Andreae, Paola Ciancio Rossetto, Alessandro Viscogliosi, Vitaliano Tiberia, Marina Carta, Sabina Maniello, Maria Giulia Barberini, Sergio Guarino, Alessandra Milella, Francesca Zagari, Donatella Faranda, Riccardo Massimiliano De Paoli, Patrizia Rosazza, Maria Giuseppina Di Monte, Rita Paris, Aldo Cicinelli, Mario Ursino.
Today Alma Roma remains true to her cultural nature, with visits to the less well-known places in Rome, and to the ones which came to the attention of the public only recently. The glorious tradition of publishing a series of illustrations which analyzed cultural issues also continued. We must not forget Professor Massimiliano De Paoli (Rome Obelisks and bridges; The Twelve Caesar Rome; The Emperors’ Rome); Architect Pierluigi Lotti (Roman Palaces, The Roman Non-Catholic Churches, Vanishing Rome); Dr. Elena Longo (Roma Communis Patria – Rome National Churches); Dr. Andrea Coletta (The Sign of Gods in Ancient Rome).
Nowadays the interest in cultural heritage is more widely spread, and is testified by the continuous growth of cultural associations and by the increased attendance of people at art exhibitions and historical sites. This is a phenomenon that by its very nature combines perfectly with Alma Roma’s viewpoint.
Furthermore one needs to bear in mind that today bringing a work of art to fruition is a very and consumerist phenomenon, whereas Alma Roma remains faithful to its definition of a “Cultural Association”, that is to say a group of members-friends meeting periodically while maintaining a high-level cultural management, especially as far as the events and its scientific publishing activity are concerned.
Over the years a lot of members joined the association: both those born and bred in Rome and newcomers, that is to say people who had been living in the City for a long period or foreigners who were in Rome either for work or tourism, and who became Roman for a period of their lives. At times Alma Roma had very eminent members: refined intellectuals who were already involved in the cultural life of the City. Other times anonymous members joined the association, who could have had a less obvious devotion to Rome, but it was nonetheless as emotionally intense. Short-term members alternated with long-term ones, who remained for decades.
All their names are recorded on the annual list of the Newsletter. Each one was united by their mutual interest for Rome, that was more than just a passing fancy but a life-long concern indeed.
They were defined the “Standard Bearers of Rome”, people driven by their love for our city that is like a great passion, which exudes both joy and sorrow, and which you cannot help but living fully and completely.
One of the biggest merit of the Association, along the way, was exactly the following: to have gathered, year on year, a group of passionate people: the “Standard Bearers of Rome” actually. Their experience and passion not only benefited themselves but also the cultural growth of Rome.
“Alma Roma – Newsletter”, the official newspaper of the Association started publishing in 1960. The first series of issues, founded by Luigi Lotti, “The Alma Roma Journals”, was edited one year later. It is monographs on topics related to the City of Rome. The first paperback issues had a Roman flying buttress on the cover, so as to underline the open spirit that these journals wanted to bring to their readers.
Another two series followed the first one, both preserving the same initial spirit but more sectional in nature: “The Roman Monographs” and “The Roman Chronicles and Monuments”.
During the 70’s the association continued publishing, but the scope of the survey broadened with a brand new typographic edition.
The newsletter followed this new line too. It started with a complementary copy, and served mainly as a support for the Sunday meetings, which it reported on. Its aim was to keep the memory alive and be a tribute to the members of the association.
With the passing of time these brief notes enriched (specifically for those monuments which deserved a far better and thorough record), some, instead, were completely omitted (as far as the monuments which were already presented on the newsletter pages were concerned). It could happen, sometimes, that for some monuments the biography was so little or non-existent (things like these could happen even in such an inexhaustible city like Rome) that the report on the Newsletter became the first and only report on the issue. Therefore they became the essential reference point for all the following researches on the matter.
From then on the Newsletter changed its original nature, and from a simple vade mecum it became a specialized and scientific magazine. It was a natural evolution, almost indistinguishable for the authors but not from the outside, and it was well appreciated both by its members and by the national cultural élite. Requests from libraries and cultural institutions followed afterwards, both nationally and internationally.
The publishing activity of the Association nowadays forms a substantial source of information about Rome. The newsletter had 50 issues and the another three series 44 issues. It could be considered like a “Roman encyclopedia”, and it is a noteworthy act of love for our city indeed.