On the face of it, writing from here should be easy. When short of ideas, I can just go out and find something striking: the Coliseum or any of hundreds of stunning world-class monuments, churches, piazzas and fountains. The Tiber at sunrise and sunset, the museums and art galleries. The orange trees along the road.
That’s what you see if you’re just a visiting, yet the divide between “The Great Beauty” and actual daily life for most of its inhabitants is a chasm. A year into this blog, I’ve been trying to tread lightly on the less inspiring aspects of life here, except for traffic jams which notoriously top industrialized-country charts.
If you’re a tourist in Rome, you put up with all the dysfunction and chaos, perhaps even enjoy the nice change from your own staid and rule-abiding home environment. You happily join the queues and subsequent assaults on unreliable buses, and actually thrive amid the honking cars and jaywalkers. You don’t think anything of disregarding basic garbage disposal etiquette.
In other words, you do as the Romans do.
Italy is meant to be about good food, history and art and gracious living. It can be, if you have deep pockets to insulate you from everyday problems, or if you live away from the larger cities. Counter to the myths and expectations abroad, foreign newspapers have finally taken notice of the degradation of the city on many levels, and astonishingly detailed articles have recently started to appear on world sites. This could disappoint a lot of people, except for Italians from other parts of the country who have always had a love-hate relationship with the capital anyway.
What’s more serious is that it doesn’t look like it’s moving in any real direction. People are fed up but it’s too much of a hassle to try to do anything serious about it. In our Mayor-less city, we’re heading towards elections in June, with walls and billboards and rear ends of buses plastered with smiling candidate faces and vapid slogans. Tons of extra paper trash the new Mayor will have to deal with before tackling anything else.
One candidate focuses exclusively on “Family”, reflecting the egocentric life-view of a culture where a sense of community is generally absent. Just me, myself, my spouse and my kids. Another candidate’s heart-shaped logo sports a variety of populist slogans, some of which one may agree with, like “Stop unauthorized building” – logical coming from him as he hails from a family of real estate developers. Others are perplexing. “Close the Gypsy camps”. Yes? And then? Do we push these people northward to bump up against the wall the Austrians are planning at our border? Or just push them into the Mediterranean to join the overflow of destitute refugees drowning in the sea by the thousands?
A young woman candidate is meant to be pregnant, which is fine by me, though most far-right parties like hers thundered until just a few minutes ago that women should stick to being homemakers. A grassroots party has a woman candidate too, a lawyer, and their only real claim to votes is their professed honesty – so far. Honesty would certainly be a welcome first, but a dose of experience in managing large and complex entities should also figure. The only candidate with relatively recent and relevant managerial-municipal experience has the sort of colourless low-profile that risks being out of sync with media-influenced voters nowadays.
Where am I going with all this? My dilemma is where to take this blog forward in its second year. Rome is indeed frustrating, yet occasional comments on daily life and its unexpected angles could be of continued interest. Italy attracts, but don’t expect Tuscany here, there’s so much more that’s more authentic in this country. So maybe I should just carry on and stick to the eclectic mix I’ve been meandering along with over the last year, following the peaks and troughs of my moods.
Any opinions and/or advice?
Pictures about things in Rome that are fine: http://14thcountry.com ©