“Rome is an incredibly deceptive city: it looks like what it is not and it is what does not appear. It seems very ancient but instead it is modern, it seems that it never changes and instead in fifty years it has destroyed traces of thousands of years and has upset the geography of half the region”. On these bitter words by Marco D’Eramo, journalist and writer, opens the volume The Passenger dedicated to Rome, published by Iperborea. For the series created in 2018 and dedicated to European and non-European countries, from Iceland to India, passing through Portugal and Japan, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Rome as the capital of Italy, the choice fell precisely on “eternal city”.
Not a guide, not a collection of stories, not an investigation but a choral and multifaceted portrait of contemporary Rome, a city of a thousand contradictions, with almost 3 million inhabitants, more than 2,000 fountains, plagued by bankruptcy administrations, corruption, crime, wild urbanization, illegal building, even by traffic and bad public transport, dominated by tourists (pre-Covid) and where the quality of life is constantly deteriorating. In short, a city on the verge of collapse. Yet, to save Rome we have to understand her. This is the message from photographer Andrea Boccalini and the other authors of this volume (writers, screenwriters, Roman intellectuals of origin or adoption) who offer their views on the city of Rome, with bitterness and irony, with very different languages, methods and themes.
There are those, like Marco D'Eramo, who see it as the capital of a country in disarray, blocked by an irreformable bureaucratic machine where, as in all city-museums and metropolises subject to gentrification, there is a lack of affordable houses for young people and immigrants. The interventions of Christian Raimo and Leonardo Bianchi are also dedicated to the lack of or wicked urban planning, to the building monsters and to the Roman suburbs exploited by far-right groups.
And then there are those who, like the writer Nicola Lagioia, investigating the shadows of a terrible news case to which the author dedicated his latest book La città dei vivi for Einaudi, tells of a city “in a state of neglect. Dirty, uneven, marred by inefficiencies of all kinds, invaded by mice, seagulls and other wild animals, stripped by building workers, exasperated by bureaucracy, overwhelmed by its endemic corruption”. But perhaps what now afflicts Rome may also prove to be a lever for its rebirth.
There are those, like Keti Lelo, Salvatore Monni and Federico Tomassi, creators of the #mapparoma project and authors of the book The maps of inequality. A metropolitan social geography (Donzelli Editore), tries to read the city and offer citizens and administrators a tool to interpret and improve it. In fact, their maps offer a photograph of issues that closely affect citizens such as population density, income brackets, housing costs, the distribution of foreigners, the presence of transports, services or nurseries. These maps therefore represent the socio-economic differences that characterize the neighborhoods of Rome and allow it to be studied and compared to other cities in Italy or the world.
There are also those who prefer to listen to Rome like Francesco Pacifico through the intimate and political words of the Lovegang trapper crew; or like Letizia Muratori who listens to the sounds and noises of the city, with the trolleys of tourists who come and go at all hours of the day and night, the omnipresent seagulls, the cordiality whispered by priests and nuns and the echo of a shouting widespread, the human noise of loud conversations.
Finally, there are those who, like Matteo Nucci, despite the Tiber being flooded with huts, submissive crime news or glorified for the art of foreign graffiti, found the very soul of the city in the river. And those who, like the writer and screenwriter Francesco Piccolo, naturalized from Caserta, counting 39 ideas for a book on Rome, admit that they have not yet understood it yet (or perhaps for this very reason) that they have many reasons to love it. Because, as the musical critic Giulia Cavaliere concludes, Rome belongs to those who live there and do not know how to live elsewhere, and those who if they don't go there they want to go and when are there, they wonder who made them do it!