Rome can be a beautiful city. Walk through the streets around the Piazza Navona, or those in Trastevere, and it is picture-postcard perfect. Snap shots of ancient Roman ruins, medieval or renaissance buildings, and marvel that this is also a modern, 21st century city. Applaud the enthusiasm and vigour of the people, those who face the next few millennia whilst remembering the past few. Relish the markets, the small pastry shops and gelaterias, the ubiquitous pizzerias and bars (cafes), the motorcycles and tiny cars, and the bright summer flowers spilling from gardens and window boxes, and balconies.
Then pause. In disgust. We lived in a local neighbourhood. One where people knew each other, knew the shop and restaurant proprietors, met their friends and family when they stepped out the door. Yet in this, their local neighbourhood, there was no pride in the streets. Graffiti could be found everywhere – on all the metal roller-doors that closed over the stores, rustica pizza joints, hair-dressers and bars. On the walls of apartments and houses. In an area that could have been lovely, the graffiti gave it the look of a lost neighbourhood, of a community that didn’t care. (Though I will admit, the romantic graffiti from a lovelorn amour was rather endearing.)
And this was compounded by the rubbish. (To be fair, not just in our community but all over Rome). Litter, litter, everywhere. It was extraordinary. Not just the occasional cigarette butt, or spillover from the municipal rubbish collection bins, but bottles, plastics, paper, pretty much anything you could name. It marred the feel of the neighbourhood, and quite sadly, it marred our opinion of the people who lived there. Rubbish and graffiti – how frustrating for those who live there, how depressing for their pride and spirits, how sad for those who live there and do their best for their community.