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Sitting Around Rome

November 24, 2019

This is a repost of a comment I put on social media this summer. It may resonate here, and remind city officials that the world is paying attention to their choices.

This was in response to a NYT article but I wasn’t fast enough to comment on the site.

I’ll have to weigh in here, because I HAVE to weigh in, having lived in Rome and worked on public space issues for almost thirty years. I am willing to see both sides. Tourism in Rome has now become unsustainable, and many (most?) tourists behave in a manner that makes Romans cringe. A few beautiful people sitting chatting on the Spanish Steps off to the side is different from wall to wall poorly-dressed tourists blocking passage and turning a spectacular monument into an embarrassment. One movie star prancing in the fountain is theater, a child dipping her feet in it is cute, but when it goes viral problems ensure. I get it. 
Here’s my humble suggestion: the city has to either limit tourists or provide services they (and residents) need. 
Virginia Raggi seems to be (unintentionally?) trying to do the former, allowing trash to pile up, transit to break down, and countless other dysfunctions aimed at ensuring that the traveler who comes to Rome never wants to come back. I admit there’s something to be said for discouraging all but the diehard, but there must be another way. 
Rome has always been an open city, welcoming to all. I believe it’s possible to design public space to support the impact of mass tourism through a strategy of common sense urbanism. 
1.Help decentralize tourism by making outlying neighborhoods and sites more accessible. 
2. Design and build more fountains and make the new ones accessible, for drinking, wading, playing, cooling off. 
3. Design and build public seating (but ensure that no one sleeps on it or uses it to sell stuff.). 
4. Provide more small trash receptacles and a procedure for emptying them, while working with merchants to reduce waste. 
Now one might argue that all of these new urban features, not to mention the millions of bodies they serve, occupy space, and space is limited in Rome. Luckily there is a way to free up a huge amount of space in the city: eliminate private motor vehicles. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. In fact, I believe, inevitable. And inevitably successful, as cities around the world that have been freed from cars show us. Then the region of Rome, and not just its historic center, will be able to equitably sustain growing numbers of visitors and residents alike.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Joan Schmelzle permalink
    November 25, 2019 03:00

    Amen!

    Like

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