Tourists v Residents in Rome – the good and the bad

Ah! Not very good at keeping this up to date.  Too much time spent enjoying the spring which has almost sprung.  Here are some photos of my neighbourhood, already spoken about in past blogs.  This is my favourite view.  It is from my balcony.  I love looking at the blue dome of the church in the distance framed by my Geraniums.

Spring always means visitors and I get to see Rome through their eyes.  Sometimes I long for the days when I was a tourist.  When I had nothing to worry about but what to visit next and where to get the best gelato.  A city changes when you live in it and you have to work harder at appreciating it.  Rome is much better enjoyed while on holiday.  Then you see only the wonders, the monuments, the architecture, the food, the life all around you, the sunshine, the vibrance, and the chaos is a scintillating backdrop.

What you don’t see is the traffic, the politics, the unemployment, the lack of social services, the prostitution and trafficking of young Eastern European women, the drugs, the graffiti, Berlusconi, the hundreds of homeless that sleep outside each night, the rubbish and dog poo that line most streets.

A house guest once said to me while seated at a table in the centre of Rome. I can always tell I am in Rome because where ever one is in Rome one can always see someone in uniform, someone eating an ice cream, and someone wearing leather.  I have lost this sense of Rome.  For me it all just is.  I wonder why there aren’t people in uniform, people eating ice cream, and people wearing leather whenever I travel to another country.  I am no longer a tourist here.  Italianness doesn’t stand out for me as much anymore.  I don’t blink an eye when three different types of police turn up at the same event and I am amazed if I ever see anyone pick up their dog’s poo.   Guests ask me questions such as, “Why doesn’t the Italian government restore the Colosseum, protect it, clean it, put signs up explaining what it is?”, and my response is  “Why would they bother, it is just the Colosseum, what’s wrong with the way it is?”.

Many Romans would be happy just to shut it up and keep it for themselves.  They consider it to be theirs and that they are doing all tourists a favour by even letting them in there.  Tourist is also a label given to any Italian who is not a Roman. Tourists from Milan are deemed to be the least desirable.  Therefore making any of their monuments more tourist friendly is never high on the agenda of Italian or Roman politics.  Why should they spend their money on making other people (tourists) more comfortable?  They figure they will come any way as they have been for hundreds of years.

Italians feel they have a heavy burden with so many of the world’s precious art, architecture, monuments and ruins to preserve and keep going.  They are in a constant battle with funding whether to make their own city of today more liveable and comfortable for themselves or to preserve the remnants of the ancient one for everyone else.   For this reason they gratefully acquiesce when other governments want to help them out.  Most of their sights are world heritage sights and so should be cared for by everyone is their thinking.   So it is with great amazement that when I take my latest guests to visit the Colosseum that I do not have to hold it in for a few hours, until I can sprint to a local café and order something under the guise of using the toilet.  The Colosseum now has public toilets and I can pee as many times as I want while going around it yet again.

3 thoughts on “Tourists v Residents in Rome – the good and the bad

  1. An interesting and thoughtful viewpoint I had not considered before, though, it does make sense. Yet, I still hope to return one day. A question, though … would Romes economy suffer much if the tourists stayed away ?
    And, I would appreciate the view from your balcony, as well !
    Ed

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    • Hi Ed,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes certainly Rome’s economy would take a big dive without the amount of tourists each year to buoy it up. After the 9/11 bombings all the Americans stayed home for a year or so and the difference was very obvious, very difficult times for many businesses, lower prices in an attempt to catch the remaining tourists and great deals everywhere. Berlusconi has just introduced a new tourist tax. 10 Euro for every tourist that stays in a hotel, per night. It is designed to assist the failing economy and a blatant acknowledgement that this is a major industry and to ensure more of it goes to the Italian state. Alot of the tourist dollar (along with a lot of the Italian economy) is black and so much commerce exists without it ever reaching state coffers, the only way many Italians can protest against the millions of dollars that gets siphoned off every year by corruption, payments to the Mafia, and the crumbling inert State apparatus that sucks up huge amounts of it without providing any services in return. But apart from that Italy is all gelato and sunshine 🙂 !!

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  2. Just read your profile … quite the saga ! Thanks for the response about how Italy would do without tourists. Can’t say I’ll appreciate the new tax .. though I wonder if it will apply to individuals who rent out part of their home or apartment ? Anyway, looking forward to the gelato and sunshine some time in the future !
    Ed

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