Rome is a city in ruins – and not just the historic kind. There have been reports of wild boars roaming the streets, countless potholes and stacks of trash everywhere. Citizens have blamed years of widespread mismanagement, corruption and indifference for the Italian capital’s sad state.
"In Rome, there isn't one single problem," says Massimiliano Tonelli, whose Roma Fa Schifo – Rome Is Disgusting, records the city's ruin on social media. "In Rome, nothing works." To express their dismay, thousands of Romans took to the streets to protest last weekend.
"Let's get this straight: Rome is aching," says Emma Amiconi, of the group All For Rome, Rome For all, which organized the Saturday protest. "We want to say that this is enough."
Though the capital has long struggled to maintain its artistic heritage and decrepit transportation system, citizens are becoming more and more enraged at local officials, namely Mayor Virginia Raggi, a member of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. Raggi, who was elected in 2016 and promised to rid the city of cronyism and graft.
"Drowning in garbage, strangled by traffic and with such potholes that one doesn't even find in Kabul's outskirts," is how noted newspaper Corriere della Sera describes the current state of Rome. Recently, a video showed the collapse of an escalator in the metro, substantiating the current condition of the city’s services. This incident, in which several visiting soccer fans were injured, was preceded by another instance in May when a local bus burst into flames near the Trevi Fountain.
Rome has also endured rising unemployment and loss of investment. Joblessness among young people reaches 40% and important companies have left the city for the more upscale Milan. Meanwhile, tourism is still booming, although few visitors return. The city parks are also in disarray. Castel Sant'Angelo, one of the capital’s biggest tourist attractions, was closed for several months and only recently re-opened.
Romans are notoriously indifferent to their surroundings, but recently, citizens have begun to take action. Cristiano Davoli, founded a group called Tappami – Patch Me Up – to fill potholes. Residents are asked to mark the holes with yellow paint and call the group. Tonelli's group also receives dozens of notifications every day. He says that many locals don't realize that "this is an anomaly, this doesn't happen in other European cities."
As for Raggi, she says she inherited the city’s problems as well as its corruption, which involved a criminal ring of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen who rigged public tenders and secured lucrative contracts with the help of organized crime.
Tonelli says it will be an uphill battle to convince his fellow citizens to take action. "What's maddening is that Rome - thanks to its geography, its art, its weather - could be the wealthiest city in Europe. Instead, no European city is reduced to this state," he says.