Two Faces of Rome

Roger Cohen in The New York Times, December 1

It is always a pleasure to return to Rome and find that some things never change. I dissipated part of my youth here in a trance of happiness and, even at this distance, I find that happiness accessible. As we grow older memory gains in importance, a labyrinth of infinite possibility….

The heavy hotel room key (rather than anonymous key card); the perfect carciofi alla Romana (little artichokes Roman style) dissolving in the mouth; the unchanging answer to any man-in-the-street question about the state of the Italian Republic (“fa schifo” – it stinks); the “manifestazione,” or demonstration, that closes a wide area of central Rome; the style of the “barista” making three espressos, two lattes and two cappuccinos at once (eat your heart out, plodding Starbucks); the focus of the maître grating truffles with the clinical majesty of a matador; the grumbling and the small courtesies; the sound of voices rather than engines; the high-ceilinged apartments in their cool half-light; the whining scooters on the banks of the muddy Tiber; the shutters clattering down on stores at lunch time, only to reopen in the late afternoon. All of this consoles in its familiarity.

La Repubblica, December 3

Mafia, neo-fascism, shady business practices and political corruption – these are the ingredients of the toxic brew that is simmering in behind Rome’s supposed ungovernability. In truth the capital is governed extremely well by a gang of criminals that knows how to use threats, bribes and cronyism to grab all the business of the municipal authorities – all to its own advantage. This is a perverse and unscrupulous web linking organized crime and politics, intersected by a black thread, the neo-fascist component, a thread from the circles of ex-mayor Gianni Alemanno, the first post-fascist mayor of Roma since the fall of il Duce.


2 responses to “Two Faces of Rome

  1. Odi et amo…

  2. To revisit Rome and indeed Italy, I take down “The Italians” by Luigi Barzini first published in 1964 and still in print. Barzini paints a compelling portrait of “the two Italies”: the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not thought,

    Read “con brio.”