Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Appeal to the Vatican: Dear Pope Francis....

Rome has a grand tradition of the exercise of freedom of speech, one that included the city's puppet plays and the acerbic commentaries of its balladeers, and of course the institution of the "talking statues," on which Romans have for centuries posted anonymous critiques of whatever or whoever was bothering them.  The most popular of the statues, and the only one carrying on the tradition to the present, is Pasquino, at the corner of Palazzo Braschi near Piazza Navona.  Perhaps uncomfortable with what was being said about him, right-wing Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno prohibited the affixing of comments to the Pasquino torso, providing instead a nearby bulletin board. 

But Romans have many other ways to express their grievances, including posting complaints in the windows of their homes.  The one above, found in the left-leaning community of Garbatella, calls on the new Pope to excommunicate Mayor Alemanno.  (We are reminded of Ruben Blades' pop song, "Letter to the Vatican," and its memorable line, "Pope give me some hope and a bottle of Bombay gin.")

It's unlikely that Francis would have gone to that extreme--not the Bombay gin, but excommunication--even given what proved to be his deep concern over corporate greed, "trickle-down" economics, the impact of capitalism on the distribution of income, and other failures of the right.  In any event, it wasn't necessary; only a few months after we took this photo, Alemanno was decisively defeated at the ballot box. 

Garbatella is one of 4 itineraries in our new book: Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  In addition to the tour of Garbatella, Modern Rome features three other walks: the 20th-century suburb of EUR; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in classic Trastevere. 

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores,  and other retailers; retail price $5.99.

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