“Rome is its own worst enemy,” my mom quipped the other day. I was complaining to her about the trash in the Quirinal garden, across from the Presidential Palace. Tourists from around the world stream past, snapping photos of the monument to the carabiniere that sits at its center, so one would think that the city administrators would put a little effort into keeping it presentable. But one would be wrong. Part of the problem is that there aren’t enough trash bins. Another part is that they aren’t regularly emptied. And even more unfortunately, I think part of the problem is that people aren’t ashamed to litter.
Rome is beautiful, but it is a city with persistent problems. The sidewalks are broken and cracked, garbage blows through the streets like tumbleweeds, and newly renovated parks remain locked up for months because there’s apparently nobody to come open them. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to address Rome’s issues on my blog, and it feels like a delicate balance. On one hand, I don’t want to focus on the negative. There are plenty of positive things to write about, and I prefer to focus on the good. On the other hand, Rome’s problems are so pervasive it seems disingenuous to ignore them completely.
A few days ago, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote a poignant article detailing some of the looming issues faced by Rome’s residents. His assessment couldn’t be more on-point. In the six years that I’ve been living here the municipal government has changed hands more times than I can count, yet the problems persist. The trash situation in Rome today is as bad as I’ve ever seen it, and aggressive unlicensed street vendors seem to multiply exponentially. Small side streets are dotted with feces, both human and canine, and there are way too many corners in the city center that smell like an outhouse.
All of this can be demoralizing and dismaying. I’m embarrassed for Rome when I see the deplorable state of disrepair and filth. Rome deserves better! I’ve given serious thought to bringing a garbage bag to the park and cleaning it up myself, but, as my mom pointed out, within a day or two it will be just as bad. Filing complaints with the municipal government is equally useless, though Romans still try. In this regard, it’s fortunate that they are stubborn.
So I guess what I want to say is that Rome has problems that should be acknowledged, and documented. Perhaps if enough people complain the incompetent powers that be will be shamed into taking action, although I’m not holding my breath. Below I’ve posted some photos related to the problems. But beyond this post, having acknowledged the negative, I will be doing my best to dedicate my energy here to the positive.