Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It is dangerous to generalize about a city or country from some small detail or event.  But it also feels impossible to ignore idiosyncratic behavior that stands out as different from what one is used to.

I have to feel like there is something revealing about the bizarre dance that has occurred around the closed stairway down from the Ganicolo to Trastevere.

There are a number of ways down from the Academy to Trastevere.  There is a very long steep set of stairs and hill which leads to Via Garibaldi.  This has been open and used since I arrived here, although it was half blocked by a fallen tree a couple of weeks ago.

There is a staircase with twelve stations of the cross which leads up to the Spanish Academy and San Pietro in Montorio.  It has been closed the entire time I've been here, and well before, I understand.

There is, finally, a stair that leads down from very close to San Pietro in Montorio and the fascist era memorial to the Garibaldi heroes (Roma o Morte! it declares, quoting Garibaldi).  The first short set leads down to Via Garibaldi; the next portion leads down to Via Goffredo Mameli.  If you are heading to Testaccio or the south side of Trastevere this set of stairs is much more convenient.

A couple of months ago, in the wake of torrential rains, some of the large stones of the wall of the stair fell into the pathway.  Very quickly orange hazard tape went up blocking people from going up the stairs.  Many of us here at the Academy saw, however, that the locals were simply going underneath the tape. We followed and found that the stairs were completely fine, with maybe a few loose stones in the pathway. The orange hazard tape was soon ripped down completely.

Then came large wire mesh gates in front of the path.  I assumed this meant we really, really should not go up the stairs.  But, again, we noticed that locals just picked up the heavy gate, moved it aside, and climbed up the perfectly passable stairs.

You see where this is going:  For the past two months, the gates have gone up, more serious looking than before, and people just move them aside, knock them down, or squeeze through the gap.  They go up again, we take them down. There is no one enforcing the ban on walking up the steps, and no punishment of those who do  And, of course, no one is working on fixing the loose stones. 

The dance goes on. 

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