Civil Society Retakes Modern Rome From the Vandals

Embankment along the Tiber with procession of historical figures created with templates and power washing.

Embankment along the Tiber with procession of historical figures created with templates and power washing.

In Rome, the Eternal City of chaos, citizens are creating a kind of reverse graffiti while cleaning up their city.  An April 27 New York Times describes how “Retake Rome”, a group with 30,000 volunteers, spends weekends cleaning up the streets and piazzas of the city, which have become filled with trash.  Its latest effort used stencils and power washing to selectively remove grime along the embankments of the Tiber, leaving a 500-yard procession of historical figures that includes Romulus and Remus, Cicero, Bernini’s (erotic) scene of St. Theresa in ecstasy, and characters from “Dolce Vita”.

The “Retakers” are led by Rebecca Spitzmiller, an American professor at a Roman university, who says that Italians have become accustomed to government dysfunction. The “are used to being told what to do and what not to do, and then breaking the rules in any case”. Maybe an American in Rome has something to teach us, about simply making things happen:  “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your hands.”