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Sick Capital - Dirty and Dirty: Rome is Decaying - Culture

Sick Capital – Dirty and Dirty: Rome is Decaying – Culture


Eternal city, eternal problems: the gardens of Rome are polluted, the streets are full of holes. Even the new mayor can’t control the city’s chronic problems. Angry citizens are now asking UNESCO for help.

Visitors to Rome notice a lot of negative things as they walk around the old town: scattered green spaces, city parks, and rubbish everywhere. Not only bumpy, but full of holes in the roads, which time and time again cause serious accidents involving two wheels. Aggressive seagulls tear up trash bags and scatter waste.

Additionally, there are restaurant and bar owners who have illegally blocked sidewalks with their tables and chairs. And the tourists who walk half-naked around the city because it’s so warm as if they were on the beach and illegally bathing in the historic fountains.

The people of the old town are angry

In Italy, there is municipal legislation that prescribes certain rules for “decoration”. The word means maintenance of public space. But that kind of maintenance just doesn’t happen anymore.

The old town residents are getting angry. After one full year Ineffective city government under Mayor Virginia Raggiwho let everything go, democratic socialist Roberto Gualtieri became the new mayor in 2021.

He won the elections under the slogan “everything gets better”. But the facts speak a different language.


Niente “decoro”: overcrowded waste stations are not uncommon in Rome (photo from early June 2022).

Getty Images / Stefano Montesi

An appeal to UNESCO

After months of criticism in social media and more and more newspaper articles about the dilapidated state of the Italian capital, including under Gualtieri, citizens’ outrage is now taking on a new dimension.

A group of residents of the Historic Center, including writers, architects, journalists, intellectuals, actresses and other citizens and all associations for the protection of cultural assets, made an appeal to UNESCO. And they demand that the Paris-based United Nations Culture Agency take over the Rome issue.

Hope to reprimand the audience

Within a few days, several hundred signatures were gathered under the appeal. The undersigned hope that UNESCO will publicly reprimand the Roman city administration.

Because the title “World Cultural Assets” also implies compliance with the conditions, that is, the continuing care of a cultural asset of UNESCO. According to the signers of the appeal, this sponsorship is completely missing in Rome.

UNESCO has two options for dealing with those responsible for neglected global cultural property. First, a photo-damaging complaint. Second, it can remove a site from its list of World Heritage Sites.

There was already a reprimand by UNESCO in 2013 in the case of the Pompeii Archaeological Park. Things weren’t at their best there either. After complaints about on-site inspections in Paris and UNESCO, the problems were quickly resolved. Will this also help in the case of Rome? One might be skeptical.