Spring Cleaning along the Tiber
Last Saturday a small group of volunteers turned out to celebrate the cleaning of the Tiber river banks that was carried out last month, and to demonstrate normal civic intentions to keep the river park clean. We brought gloves and trash bags and a bike trailer (thanks to Ciclonauti) to cart away any trash we collected. Despite the best efforts of the city’s waste-management company and others, the river’s edge was still littered with bottles and cans and other detritus.
The event had been scheduled by TEVERETERNO Onlus, the association dedicated to revitalizing Rome’s urban riverfront as a public space for site-specific artistic practices, together with Retake Roma. It had already been rescheduled several times:
- In February, as a parallel event to the Tevereterno presentation at TEDx. But the river was too high and the river banks were flooded.
- April, in agreement with the Mayor’s office and the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. But the mayor cancelled at the last minute because the Mayor of Vienna was in town (and the Ambassador thus cancelled as protocol dictated).
- In mid-April, after having firmed up the date in agreement with the Mayor’s office and the Embassy, the Mayor announced that the river would be cleaned preemptively (actually by social cooperatives financed by the Lazio Region coordinated by AMA). This is when the organizers decided to turn it from a real clean-up into a symbolic celebration of “#teverepulito”, the clean Tiber.
- Finally, yesterday, all was set for the day, Mayor, Ambassador, Councilors, President of Primo Municipio, were all expected to participate.
Early in the morning there was a light rain but by 10:00 it had stopped. But at about the same time the sun came out, a press announcement came in from the mayor’s office saying the event had been called off due to the bad weather. The #teverepulito event was actually not called off at all, but the organizers had to call the Ambassador to explain the Mayor’s decision (and the Ambassador thus cancelled as protocol dictated).
It would be easy to chalk this up to the cultural differences between Italians and the rest of the world–the “fear of weather” that has the city announcing emergency shutdowns when it rains for more than an hour. But the experience also speaks of a more interesting phenomenon, almost an embarrassment on the part of the administration about its river.
Even in the center of Rome the Tiber is a no-man’s land, a hinterland in the middle of the metropolis.
The day before #teverepulito Roma fa Schifo published a series of photos of syringes on the steps leading to the riverbanks. It is easy to point to the river’s blight, but people are only now starting to rediscover the river’s beauty. Which makes it all the more fascinating, and all the more worthy of attention.