Litter, squatters and organised crime rule
WORLD tourism attraction Rome is on the brink of collapse, with its administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, its roads scarred by potholes, the main airport partially closed and a growing immigration crisis.
For generations, the Italian capital has rested on past glories rather than building on them, but now its multiple problems have come to a head.
Drivers on the metro system are on a go-slow in a protest over pay and conditions, hundreds of flights into Fiumicino, the main airport, have been cancelled due to a fire that broke out in a terminal back in May, and temperatures have soared this week to more than 37.7°C, making daily life even more hellish than normal.
“Rome is on the verge of collapse,” Rome Chamber of Commerce president Giancarlo Cremonesi said. “It is unacceptable that a major city can find itself in such a state of decay.”
A survey two years ago by the European Commission put Rome last out of 28 EU capitals in a ranking of city services.
Despite great food, superb coffee and an enviable climate, on an index of quality of life, the capital came second-last, with Athens at the bottom.
Everything has been exacerbated by the effects of Italy’s longest recession since World War 2, with homeless people on the street and youth unemployment over 40%.
Broken-down motor scooters and bicycles are dumped on pavements, kerbs are overgrown with grass and shrubs, and there is litter everywhere.
Along the Tiber River, Romany gypsies have set up shanty villages, their shacks hidden from view by tall cane grass thickets.
A lack of bins means that locals and visitors alike drop their rubbish on the ground, while a muchhyped bike sharing scheme launched a few years ago has broken down entirely, the bicycles either damaged or stolen.
Costanza Cagni, who has lived in the city since 2000, said: “It has got a lot worse in [recent] years.
“Everybody moans but nobody offers solutions. The quality of life has really gone down. I’m sorry to say it, but I just want to leave Rome.”
The city was hit by a major corruption scandal earlier this year which explains, in part, why public services are so shoddy.
An investigation found that corrupt politicians had colluded with criminal gangs to cream off money from a range of services, from rubbish collection to the management of refugee facilities.
The scandal has been dubbed “Mafia Capitale”, and comes amid growing evidence that the city is being infiltrated by organised crime groups.
On Wednesday, police raided a restaurant close to the Pantheon on suspicion that it was controlled by the Calabrian mafia, the feared ’Ndrangheta.
Ignazio Marino, a former surgeon who is now mayor of Rome, acknowledged that much of the city’s public administration was “substantially rotten”.
In an open letter this week to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, he said that like Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is trying to push through difficult reforms at national level, he too was trying to implement profound and radical reforms in the capital.
He said he had come up against a cancer of favouritism and deep resistance to change.