Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

On the Sidewalks of Rome

The news of the day: the Mayor of Venice announced that Florence and Rome were DIRTIER than his city, and that he'd proved it by traveling to his competitors and taking pictures of all the filthiness there. Rome's Mayor, right-winger Gianni Alemanno, said he thought it pretty strange that his Venice counterpart was engaged in such bizarre intercity espionage and wondered if maybe they didn't have enough to do it Venice. Right on both counts. But our view is that the Venice Mayor's pics--the one in La Repubblica was of a few crates in Piazza Navona after some market closed--big deal!) did not come close to capturing Rome's "sporcizia" (filthiness), as much as we love the place.

This morning as always, in walking around our neighborhood, we felt like kids playing hopscotch as we dodged pile after pile of DOG SHIT. It's everywhere, the product of thousands of little dogs of the kind that would not seem awkwardly large in the average small Italian apartment (I saw a regular-size dog today and it was HUGE). And until today, we have never, ever, seen a dog owner PICK IT UP. Yes, until today, when we saw TWO dog owners, consecutively, pick it up. We were speechless.

The proverbial lesson that proves the rule. Romans care little about public space. Private
space--their own apartments, and the hallways--are cleaned to within an inch of their lives. We wake up every morning at 8 a.m. to the sounds of the woman above us, moving furniture to get at that lonely dust ball in the corner.

Meanwhile, the sidewalks are a mess. Nothing that a broom and pooper scooper couldn't handle, mind you, but no one (except for the two public spirited citizens we observed today) is wielding those tools. American traditions that might help here--a block club, a neighborhood association, a municipal government committed to the cleanliness of the public sphere, a civic minded individual with a strong back--seem not to exist in Rome. So there it lies or lays. Watch your step - on the sidewalks of Rome.

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