ROME has been on the receiving end of some international press of late. It started a few weeks back when Reuters posted an article pointing to all the things going wrong in Rome...problems with litter and cleanliness, the ongoing fallout of a fire at its Fiumicino airport and the subsequent cancellation of up to 50% of its flights, public transport issues etc. etc.
Much of the information in the articles doing the rounds comes from s Facebook page called Roma Fa Schifo. This page, basically Rome sucks in English, is a long established page in which residents post photos of eyesores, criminal activity and other perceived failings in the city. Many of the problems are perennials; they never get resolved and Romans on the whole just accept that living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world has to be tempered by these problems which seem too big and troublesome to resolve.
Anyone that has spent more than a couple of days in Rome knows that Rome as a city doesn't function very well. Its services are questionable at best and are already strained: so events like the current heatwave gripping Italy compromise an already compromised city. Residents know the same thing happens in winter when deluges of rain bring the city to a stand still.
Part of the problem is that Romans have lost their patience with the current mayor, Marino. Marino- back for his second non consecutive stint as mayor- inherited a heavily corrupt local government and has been hard at work at undoing much of the Mafia related activity that has infested the local government (Alemanno the ex mayor is amongst the dozens of public officials indicted in the Mafia Capitale scandal).
So right now, any time something goes wrong, Romans vent their frustrations out on Marino. The reality is that aside from the May fire at Fiumicino (the terminal came back online just in these past days) much of what is going on in Rome is no different to any other time. Transport is notoriously ineffective and prone to transport worker strikes, sanitation is severely compromised in all but the more affluent suburbs of the city (though now the centre of town isn't being as well maintained as usual) and there is huge frustration brewing with between residents and migrants (Roma and those arriving by boat from North Africa).
Transparency is not something that comes easily to Italian beauracracy, so when you throw that in the mix and look at Rome through an outsider's eyes it's clear that the city is in a shambles. But it's not a new thing- I just finished five years living there and I can tell you that these problems that the press are crowing about are daily realities. It's just that attention is now being focused on Rome. That's the only change in the situation.
Apathy and scapegoating seem the most logical choices to residents when their complaints seem to fall on deaf ears. So, don't fear for Rome despite all the press you're reading. It's survived worse and despite all its failings, it has a charm unlike any other city. Just don't move there.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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