ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographsstreamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.
For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as the Colosseum or the Pantheon.
That may explain why the return this week of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being paved, set off a media frenzy — even if there was little traffic to direct given the widespread lockdown that began this week to contain an upsurge of coronavirus cases.
“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.
white-gloved hands is something that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light).
“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” said Mr. Grillo.
Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the chaos at the hub.
a book. He retired in 2007. “He was an icon for us,” said Mr. Grillo.
film festivalunder the stage name Pierre Marchionne.
Working on Mr. Allen’s film “was a unique experience,” he said.
It’s notable that Romans in particular should feel so friendly towardsomeone paid to punish traffic infractions, which are notoriously frequent in the Italian capital.
Until the 1970s, every Jan. 6, the feast day of Epiphany, Italians would express their gratitude to the officers by covering traffic pedestals with gifts. The loot was then given to charity, Mr. Grillo said.
That unlikely affection may have had much to do with Alberto Sordi, an actor who frequently played traffic officers in movies, most notably in the 1960 classic “Il Vigile.”
in a museum opened in the actor’s home in Rome, now shut because of the pandemic.
history of municipal police forces in Italy posted on the website of one national association traces their origins to the guardians of a Roman temple in the 5th century B.C. An educational film from the early 1950s from Italy’s national archive, Istituto Luce, however, instead traces the corps’ history to the first century B.C., during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (there’s a nice touch of a chariot segueing into a convertible).
Today, Piazza Venezia has the only traffic pedestal left in the city. “It is part of the architecture of the piazza,” said Mr. Gallicchio, the kiosk owner.
At first, the pedestals were made of wood, and traffic officers would carry them into crossings.
At one point, a fixed, cement pedestal was installed in the piazza, lit up by a spotlight on a nearby building at night when no officer was on duty, Mr. Gallicchio said.
The spotlight didn’t help as “motorists kept smashing into it,” Mr. Grillo said. So in 2006 it was replaced with a mechanical pedestal that rises from the paving stones to welcome officers arriving for work.
Now, with the work done on the piazza this year, the officers say they are keen to get back to a job they love and hopefully, become a focus of tourists’ cameras again after the pandemic passes.
“Maybe we weren’t as famous as the Fountain of Trevi, but we were a tourist attraction.” Mr. Battisti said with a smile. “I bet there are even photos of us in North Korea.”
ROME — On an icy evening last month, Akas Kazi, a 35-year-old originally from Bangladesh, huddled under a blanket in the portico of one of Rome’s main post offices, as Red Cross volunteers distributed hot meals of pasta and tea.
Working in a restaurant kitchen had barely paid the bills, but after the restaurant closed six months ago — yet another casualty of the pandemic — Mr. Kazi found himself living on the street. “No work, no money for rent,” he said.
Job searches had been fruitless: “There’s nothing,” he said. And even sleeping on friends’ couches was not an option. “Everyone has problems because of Covid.”
The winter has been especially hard: Since November, 12 homeless people have died on the streets of Rome, where a growing number of people have ended up because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rome branch of the Catholic charity Caritas.
Community of St. Egidio, a Catholic charity. Capacity there fell to 10 beds from 30, after wooden partitions were erected between the cots to ensure social distancing.
Caritas estimates that some 7,700 people are on the streets. Some social workers put the number at almost twice that. For City Hall, “those are absurd numbers” and don’t reflect reality, said Veronica Mammì, the municipal councilor in charge of social services, who estimated the number of homeless at closer to 3,000.
Daniele Archibugi of the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, Italian Research Council, who is studying the financial impact of the pandemic in Italy, noted that many Italians work in the country’s informal economy and are not recorded, “so one of the problems is to find and reach them.”
isolation shelter, repeatedly testing its guests, who must remain there for 10 days before they are sent to other refuges.
Of the 200 men who have passed through the shelter in the past month, only one tested positive. “It’s almost miraculous,” said Mr. Farneti. (There is some anecdotal evidence that the isolated lives of homeless people make them less vulnerable to the virus.)
Rome’s Red Cross. “And the homeless suffer because bars and restaurants are closed so it’s more difficult to find food.”
association that lobbies for the rights of the homeless.
Twice a week, and more often when it’s cold, the Red Cross team brings food and blankets, as well as face masks and hand sanitizer, to those whom Emiliano Loppa, a volunteer coordinator, described as Rome’s “most isolated people.” They live downtown in makeshift camps under the bridges along the Tiber River, under porticos and even in the nooks of ancient ruins.
died on the streets, including Modesta Valenti, who became something of an icon when she died in 1983 after an ambulance refused to transport her.
Over the past year, the number of homeless people has “clearly increased,” Mr. Signifredi said. with a housing crisis adding to the problem, even though the government made evictions illegal during the state of emergency. “We have said that the pandemic unleashed the poverty of the penultimate — those who barely made it to the end of the month and now can’t make it to the 10th, so they come to us or Caritas,” he said.
St. Egidio has opened several new dormitories and also drafted an agreement with a hotel whose rooms had been empty since the pandemic began. But it’s not enough. “We’ve asked authorities to react more quickly to emergencies,” because the emergency was not going away anytime soon, he said.
“The kind of poverty has changed,” said Claudio Campani, a coordinator of the Forum for Street Volunteers, an umbrella group for some 50 associations that assist Rome’s homeless. “Now you have the so-called ‘new poor’ who go to live in their cars before ending up on the street.” And while many homeless people are immigrants, “the number of Italians has increased,” he said.
For Mr. Pavani, the year has been one long cautionary tale.
“The thread that binds us to normality is so fine that it can take very little — loss of work, a weakness, a separation — for that thread to break and for us to fall and lose our life story and roots,” he said.
ROME — An Italian prosecutor on Saturday asked that two San Francisco men on trial in the 2019 killing of a military police officer in Rome receive the maximum sentence of life in prison.
Wrapping up a nearly four-hour summation in a stuffy Rome courtroom, the prosecutor, Maria Sabina Calabretta, argued that the two men acted with “homicidal intent” when they assaulted Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega and his partner on a July night in 2019.
“A grave injustice” had been “committed against a good man who was working,” she said, and only the convictions of Finnegan Elder, 21 and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, would ensure that the officer “not be killed again.”
The yearlong trial has drawn intense media scrutiny in Italy and headlines in the United States with its focus on the behavior of the two Americans the night of the confrontation and the tragic death of the newly married officer.
this past week, Mr. Elder testified that he thought the two plainclothes officers were “thugs” sent by the middleman whose knapsack they had stolen, and that he and Mr. Natale Hjorth had acted in self-defense after the two officers jumped them. He said he had “panicked,” and stabbed Brigadier Cerciello Rega, who he thought was trying to choke him.
Mr. Elder testified that the two officers did not identify themselves as carabinieri and that they did not show their badges when they approached him and Mr. Natale Hjorth, a San Francisco school friend who had joined him for two days in Rome during the last leg of a summer trip in Europe.
Ms. Calabretta on Saturday challenged Mr. Elder’s account of the confrontation, noting that Officer Varriale had testified last summer that the officers had identified themselves as law enforcement and shown their badges.
The prosecutor also contested the defense narrative that suggested that the two Americans had been unexpectedly tackled by the officers from behind. Instead, she said Saturday, the two officers had approached them head-on and had been assaulted by the defendants without a second thought.
“Cerciello had no time to react,” she said.
“It was a violent, deadly, disproportionate attack,” she said.
Mr. Elder had brought a knife to the encounter, a sign of his “homicidal intent,” she added.
In his statement to the court last Monday, Mr. Elder said he had put the knife in the pocket of his hoodie because it made him “feel safer.”
After the confrontation, the two defendants returned to their nearby hotel unaware, they testified, of the seriousness of Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s condition. They were arrested in their hotel room a few hours later.
In asking for a life sentence, Ms. Calabretta said that neither the young age of the defendants nor their lack of criminal records should mitigate “the seriousness of the crime.”
The two defendants have also been charged with extortion for asking for money and a gram of cocaine in exchange for the backpack.
Ms. Calabretta said Saturday that even though Mr. Natale Hjorth had not wielded the knife that killed the officer he was equally guilty, the mastermind of the plot to exchange the backpack for money.
His lawyer, Francesco Petrelli, said Saturday that the prosecutor had asked for “the wrong sanction for the wrong defendant in a wrong trial.”
A verdict is expected before the summer.
Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, declined to speak to reporters on Saturday. Her lawyer, Massimo Ferrandino, said the prosecutor’s request resulted from an “exhaustive” investigation that would now be up to the jury to confirm.