A city under strain

Rome from the trenches

We live and work in a city teetering on the brink and chaos is always close. Income from tourism in Rome is rarely taxed, so it is normal for public services to buckle under the weight of millions without warning. City coffers under the control of avaricious, fearless politicians equates to a severe lack of public money, and even less motivation for lackadaisical public servants to serve their city adequately. This deleterious "way of things" is unlikely to change any time soon. Call it corruption, laziness, or just old school Italianism. È così.

Whether or not these things affect tourists directly is uncertain. A flooded metro station or lightning transport strike would assuredly dampen their day, but the bedrock of bureaucratic incompetence which blights Rome and Italy is not something which ought to worry visitors to our Eternal City.

Mass tourism woes apart, another rather more insidious problem afflicts the beautiful streets of Rome and those of many other cities on the peninsula.

Exclusively male migrants from Africa and Bangladesh, desperate for work, move into squalid accommodation provided by unscrupulous landlords. First steps thereafter mean long walks (free tram and bus rides) to tourist hot spots in search of money (selling Chinese goods out of a bag). Belligerence is the sales pitch of choice as families must be fed back home. It's unsightly, no one wants to see migrants wandering around Italy trying to sell crap out of a bag, but this is what happens. EU law stipulates that the first country in which migrants arrive must attend to their needs, and Italy does oblige, to a point. The result is masses of street sellers, particularly in Rome, and an increase in the number of employers using black market migrant workers for a fraction of the cost of hiring anyone else (100% legal, checkable contracts of employment are unheard of in the Italian private sector). Free shelter, education, training, and health care for vulnerable migrants would improve matters, but where would the money come from?

Italy has many great qualities, but it's a country at permanent tipping point. Endemic corruption and exploitation in modern Rome is nothing new, we know that ancient Rome was exactly the same. Perhaps it's a case of history repeating itself for future generations to see, live through, and never learn from.

Published on May 2nd, 2014
© When In Rome Tours, article provided by Cajes.

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