The picture isn't entirely bleak. On the positive side, the efforts of Tevereterna and other organizations are beginning to reshape Romans' relationship to the Tevere, a relationship damaged, we once thought permanently, by the enormous walls erected in the late-19th century to control flooding. The enormous and powerful William Kentridge mural on the west bank may mark a turning point in this regard. Incredibly, Romans are beginning (but just beginning) to pick up after their dogs. So, too, the turn to private sources of funding to restore Rome's public monuments and buildings holds promise for cleaning up and repairing Rome's cultural heritage. More on this in a future post.
In some ways, however, the city and environs appear to be more degraded (degrado is the Italian word) than ever.
1) The pothole problem. The Romans refers to the holes in their streets as "buchi"--that is, holes. And they are, we believe, rightfully concerned that their streets are becoming more hazardous year by year. Our perspective on this derives from the 700 miles we put on the scooter each time we visit, over roads in every section of the city. Hitting a pothole or a rough patch of road can be dangerous, but avoiding potholes is dangerous too, especially when the streets are wet, but any time. Pothole avoidance inevitably distracts the driver from other problems on the road, and may take the scooter into the path of another, faster-moving vehicle, approaching from behind.
The worst Rome road by far is a quagmire of potholes, bumps and gravel leading to a sports facility on the north end of the city; simply scary. Of the major consular roads, via Salaria may be the worst; as one exits Rome proper and moves onto the narrow, 2-lane, fast-moving "highway" north of the city, the right 2/3 of both lanes is simply undriveable on a scooter. The left 1/3 is fine, but it positions the scooter perilously close to oncoming traffic. In the city, most streets are worse than they were last year, in our opinion. I was too busy dodging potholes to photograph them.
|The Bernini "bee fountain" on via Veneto, nicely framed by|
|Useless fencing on the Lungotevere|
|Collapsed fountain, Flaminio, rear of|
|Almost an art work. For patrons of bar, right.|
|Protecting peds from fallen tree. Looks like it |
didn't fall yesterday.
4. The trash problem. Not exactly man bites dog. Everyone--literally, not figuratively--knows that Rome has a trash problem. Trash is--figuratively, not literally--everywhere.
|Piazza Mancini, Flaminio|
Why? No one seems to know. Too few bins? Infrequent pickups? Lazy garbage workers? Obstructionist unions? Tight budgets? Romans who don't care? If Virginia Raggi, the newly-elected mayor, can find a solution and clean up the city, she's a cinch to get re-elected. Good luck.
6. Projects that never end--or don't even begin. We witnessed one of these on our last trip, staying in a building on the Lungotevere at Piazza Gentile da Fabriano. In February of this year (2016), long before we arrived, several floors of an identical building on the other side of the piazza collapsed, producing tons of rubble that had to be removed from the sidewalk and streets below. The city moved the debris from the sidewalk but did not remove it, opting to deposit it in a huge mound across the two outbound lanes of the Lungotevere, one of the busiest streets in Rome. Four months later, when we moved in, the mound was still there, still blocking the outbound Lungotevere, and forcing every vehicle taking that route to turn into the piazza, go around it (passing three major streets), and negotiate a stoplight before moving on.
|Rubble storage site: the Lungotevere. In three weeks at this location, we never saw anyone working here. Still,|
someone dropped off the dumpster. Progress?
|"Sorry for the inconvenience. We're working to improve our city." Working, maybe. But not here.|