In Rome, Hoteliers In Revolt Over State of the City

Selfie Stick seller down by the Colosseum
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On Tuesday, coincidentally Rome’s 2,768th birthday, more than 200 city hoteliers wrote an open letter to Mayor Ignazio Marino about the “embarrassing situation” that the capital is facing.

As reported in La Repubblica, the members of ADA Lazio, headed by Roberto Necci, said that the city is in a state of “filth and degradation” and is not ready for the Holy Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis announced would begin on December 8, 2015. There should also be an influx of tourists traveling south after visiting the Milan Expo, which begins on May 1.

A rough translation from La Repubblica:

“Italians and foreigners who come to town hoping to experience a stay in the style of La Dolce Vita do not find Rome of Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” but a capital invaded by illegal stalls of street vendors, mountains of waste in front of the bins and touts offering scams of all kinds. ‘We are very concerned,’ explains Roberto Necci, president and director Ada Lazio Savoy hotel (4 stars), just a few steps from Via Veneto. ‘The image of Rome in international newspapers and websites continues to be associated with degradation and facts such as the chaos of the transport strike in recent days.'”

It’s a problem that everyone (i.e., Romans) talks about but no one confronts. Managing the constant tide of tourists, their wanderings and their waste, is a Sisyphean task that puts stress on so many of Rome’s services, from local transport to police to street sweepers and garbage collectors. But Roman hoteliers, who write that Rome’s 25 million annual tourists is only a quarter of the number that go to London, are less concerned about how tourists are affecting the city than how the city is affecting tourists.

“The institutions must roll up their sleeves, even designing a plan of action of decorum with the capital,” writes Necci. His colleague, Bruno Borghesi, restaurant manager at the Mirabelle Hotel Splendide Royal, adds, “Unfortunately tourists staying in our facilities denounce the contrast between the beauty of the hotels and a city choked instead degradation, full of potholes and waste.”

Rome has an institutional problem and a lack of municipal leadership. “It has always been this way” or “That’s how things are” are the usual refrains for this kind of statement. On the other hand, it isn’t unusual to hear locals, from taxi drivers to businessmen, say that Rome has been abandoned. A vicious cycle of citizens not expecting anything from their local government leads to a citizenry that demands nothing of their government. A malaise sets in, only to be interrupted by one activity — pointing at the other guy.

Where are the neighborhood clean-up crews? Where are the neighborhood development associations and business improvement districts? But also, where are the trash collectors and meter maids? Where are the extra bus and train operators to help shuttle commuters and guests through the city? Where are the pothole fillers and sidewalk sweepers? Where is the law enforcement keeping touts at bay? Oh yes, more than 80 percent of them called in sick on one of the busiest nights of the year.

Where is local pride? Where are the watchdog and accountability groups? Roma Fa Schifo (Roma Sucks) does a good job of keeping track of all of the “embarrassing situation.”

Corruption and organized crime do play a part in preventing Rome from reaching its full potential. But that can’t be the only excuse. Rome’s degradation also can’t be shoved aside as an “Italian problem.” as Florence and Rome and Venice have, to an extent, figured out how to  manage the tourists while maintaining livable cities.

It can’t be easy taking care of a 2,768-year-old city. But isn’t it time for Rome’s administration to begin showing this ancient city the modern respect it deserves?

The hoteliers are right: “the institutions must roll up their sleeves.” Think big — but take care of the details first.

In the article from La Repubblica, Robert E. Wirth, president and general manager of the Hotel Hassler, agrees. “If a lamp burns out on the steps of Piazza di Spagna, there is no one around to replace it and you can not get an answer. It is a trivial example, but when you accumulate all these fundamental small details together, they count.”

Last updated on March 8th, 2021

Post first published on April 23, 2015

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