Reclaiming Rome

This is from last week’s ‘i’ paper

Armed with shovels and sacks of asphalt, Rome’s residents fill potholes. Defying rats, they pull weeds and pick up litter along the Tiber’s banks and in city parks. Tired of waiting years for the city to replace diseased trees, neighbours have dug into their own pockets to pay for new ones.

Romans are starting to take back their city, which for years was plundered and neglected by officials and cronies so conniving that some of them are now on trial as alleged mobsters.

In doing the work, Romans are experimenting with what many Italians is a novel concept: a sense of civic duty.

On one recent Sunday, Manuela Di Santo painted over graffiti on Via Ludovico de Monreale, a residential block in the middle-class Monteverde neighbourhood. Men perched on ladders, used mechanical sanders to erase graffiti on another palazzo. Women and children swept up litter, filling up black bags provided by he city’s refuse service, which is only too glad to have someone do the job free of charge.

“Either I help the city, or we’re all brought to our knees,” said Ms di Santo, a volunteer for Retake Roma, a pioneer in an expanding array of citizen-created organisations aied at encouraging Romans to take the initiative in cleaning and repairing their city.

This is brilliant, though sad that  it should be necessary, but may well help revitalise politics and communities in the wider sense. Britain’s local councils are being starved to death by the current government, but such initiatives here are struggling, due to the sometimes too heavy hand of local government. Several weeks ago a citizen did a big clean up of his local area, but when he took the bags of rubbish to his local refuse centre, they refused to accept them as they were not domestic waste and he was not licenced to collect street waste.


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