Griping about Rome


rain abcnews.go


I’ve been avoiding writing about Rome because I can’t think of anything really positive to write about it these days, except the weather. That is, the weather as a yearly statistical average (one of the best in Europe). Not like today when it rained a bit this morning. The city’s in general disarray, with mafia, corruption, garbage removal issues, municipal agencies going bankrupt, hasty emergency last-minute roadworks to try to face the expected visits from 25 million pilgrims -they’ll start pouring in Dec. 8th for a Vatican Jubilee Year. That’ll be fun. In 2013, we were relieved to have voted in what seemed to be a totally honest Mayor – a miracle in itself, as Italian politics go. But earlier this month, a magazine dug up the fact he had cheated on his personal “official” expenses. Even honesty is relative in this city. So now we’re also Mayor-less.

Transportation-wise, we only have two metro (=subway) lines to serve a major city that sprawls over 496 sq. miles, with an often clogged up Ring Road around it. The inner ring road vies in cloggy-ness. The city wasn’t built for 3rd millennium traffic, and the clunky bus services have trouble weaving through cobbled streets, road-rage car drivers and crazed motorcyclists. Not to mention the hordes of foreigners on foot who crowd the city center and don’t realize pedestrian crossings are only there for show and not to be taken seriously. Nor, in some cases, traffic lights. traffic

All that’s business-as-usual. What’s hard to handle is what happens when it rains. Locals don’t seem to own umbrellas, galoshes, raincoats, sensible shoes or whatever, and when it rains most Romans avoid public transportation, snub their beloved motorbikes and head for work in their cars. The result is pure Dante hell. Roman motorists have never heard of moving onto a cross-roads only once the other-side exit has freed up, and the grid-locked vehicles are so close to one another as to look like metal poured over the cement at crossings. The accumulated racket of the horns almost manages to drown out the rude epithets flying over the scene. The purpose of all this extra chaos is meant to be not getting wet, so the usual double parking morphs into triples with hardly any room left for cars to pass. Forget buses.


I’d expected things to improve with the growing internationalization of the city, but I was wrong. Newcomers just start behaving like the locals. I’ve heard northern Europeans proclaim the joys of shaking off a lifetime of discipline and obeying basic community-oriented rules, specially knowing they’ll probably get off scot-free if they break any – bar none – here.

I forgot that another nice thing I could say about this city is that many areas have lots of trees lining the roads. Even orange trees that look great when the fruit’s ripe. But don’t ever reach for one, they’ve absorbed so much smog they’d kill you on the spot. So the oranges are left to drop and knock out the ancient sewer system, which happens anyway in Autumn when leaves fall.  Whole neighbourhoods get flooded. Adding to the chaos.


Anyway, things won’t change because Romans aren’t educating their children differently. We don’t have school buses, so even in clement weather, a great number of children are accompanied to school – often unnecessarily, when we’re talking teenagers – by a grandparent, an uncle, or just an unemployed neighbour. Car-sharing would take too much organizational effort, so it’s chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous…

Just like their parents, Junior and Princess would die if their peers caught them wearing anything as unfashionable as the above (galoshes, sensible shoes etc.). And parents are terrified their children might catch a cold in their light fashionable gear, so most under-age Romans get a personal car ride to school if the sky shows the slightest sign of wanting to rain.

Signora won't wear this

Signora won’t wear this

Why am I griping? Well, I use public transportation whenever possible. I work in different locations, and some of them aren’t properly connected to each other, so depending on my day’s logistics, I sometimes have to drive.  Like this morning.

I was positively ballistic after a 3-hour crawl across the city to get to an appointment that should have been at most 50 minutes away. Just because there was a sprinkle of rain at daybreak and all the cars in Rome showed up on the roads.

There, I got that off my chest.

isn't this better than a traffic jam?

isn’t this better than a traffic jam?

Now it’s lunchtime, the sun’s shining again and I’m not sure what to do with my umbrella.

Is your city as rain-challenged as this one?


Photos (in the order)  www.abcnews.go ; “Crazy Rome traffic intersection”;; ;;;

This entry was posted in Blogging, Humour, Italy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Griping about Rome

  1. Nirodaigh says:

    In Amsterdam public transport still amazes me when it reacts to a bit of heavy rain or even light snow by either cancelling or reducing all methods of transport. As the city generally runs pretty well and organisation is a key element of Dutch culture, I just don’t expect it. But it happens every time! Sigh. Mind you, Dublin comes to a complete standstill if it snows so I can’t really complain. 😀

    • Bea dM says:

      It does go against what one would excpect! But a friend of mine claims that cultures that are so used to regular and “normal” routines and schedules sometimes collapse because they don’t know how to adapt with a plan B (or C) 🙂

  2. lundygirl says:

    if it rains here then the traffic increases by about a third as children can’t walk to school in the rain. They might get wet!

  3. Joseph Nebus says:

    We’re not so rain-challenged, I think, here in Lansing, Michigan. We do get piles of snow in the winter, tough. Two winters ago we had a long, long series of snowstorms, each only a couple of inches, but each meaning that the less-important roads had to wait for clearing behind the major arteries. And that was awful because we live on one of the less-important roads.

    • Bea dM says:

      thanks for visiting and commenting! I do believe you’re all supposed to have ice-scrapers and shovels in your cars too, right?

      • Joseph Nebus says:

        It’s a good idea to, yes. I haven’t needed a shovel really — nearly all my driving is within the city and can be postponed a day or two in that case — but an ice scraper and something to wipe snow off the hood are really valuable.

        Also recommended but not actually in my car: an emergency packet of an extra jacket, some dry warm clothes, and some food and drink. Enough to survive a day or so stuck in a snowbank, basically.

        But again, since I can stay within the city nearly always I’m lax about that preparation.

      • Bea dM says:

        well, as long as you really do stay within the city 🙂

  4. As much as I enjoyed visiting Rome the two times I’ve been there, I know the city isn’t for me to live in. I can’t imagine how many problems you must face living there. Beautiful city, but beauty isn’t everything. Kudos for you for making living there work!

  5. jbuliesblog says:

    Wonderful read, I could feel your pain! I smiled the whole time I read this as I might have gathered a the tiniest bit of sarcasm. I can suggest loading up your cell phone with something interesting to listen to on your commute but I know it must be frustrating.

    So fun. So complex, you really gave me a feeling of what it must be like to live there — it just seems like a mix of chaotic, eclectic and traditional.

    • Bea dM says:

      Julie thanks very much for your nice comments. Sarcasm is what happens to sense of humour when it starts to wear thin! I’d never written a really “gripy” post, and found writing about it made the frustration go away haha 🙂

  6. Mél@nie says:

    @”Is your city as rain-challenged as this one?” – pas Toulouse, en tout cas… 🙂 par contre, pendant les 5 ans passés à Houston, Texas, ehehhe!!! 🙂

  7. Hi Bea,

    Wow – it sounds like quite a challenge living in Rome. Your description reminds me of living in New York City, with the crowds, the garbage and the traffic. I lived in NYC for several years after grad school. I loved the energy and the excitement of the city, but then it began to wear me down and I left it for the suburbs. I finally moved back to Boston, where life is much more manageable.

    I hope things look better for you soon!


    • Bea dM says:

      thanks Nancy! just think NYC without the energy & excitement, this city has 2000 years’ history slowing it down 🙂 Now you understand why I liked Boston so much!

  8. kevinbcohen says:

    I’ve never lived anywhere as weather-challenged as that. However, in London I had the experience of the Tube shutting down late at night due to a little snow–and when I say “a little,” I mean a really, really small amount. Pretty shocking to think that the Brits would engineer anything that was that unrobust.

    • Bea dM says:

      surprising, almost on par with Rome: a few years ago, the tiniest amount closed down the city for 48 hours and schools for a week 🙂

    • Ellen Hawley says:

      I moved to Cornwall from Minnesota, and thought it was hysterically funny that our village got cut off for a day by what must’ve been less than an inch of snow–something that in Minnesota would barely register as nuisance snow. Of course, it did pack down to ice almost immediately, and we’re too far off the main road for sand and grit trucks to come by. And we’re all hills and curves. So, yeah, I stayed home too.

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