Rome: closed city

Appearances can be deceptive: that blue sky turns hazy at midday, with lovely orange-pink sunsets around six. All thanks to the incredibly high levels of traffic pollution. People have been complaining of sore throats and itchy eyes and now we know why. In The Dark Heart of Italy, Tobias Jones claims that Italy has the highest number of cars per capita in the world. I find that hard to believe when I think of the omnipresence of cars in the US. Still, there are too many cars here in Rome. Last week, the city council reintroduced a system of partial restrictions, allowing alternate odd/even licence plated cars each Thursday during rush hours. The stats from the first day showed around 14% fewer cars than normal. However, this was obviously not enough to combat the current spell of pollution as a total ban was imposed on Sunday.

There we were, happily driving round southern Rome to the Cinecitt√ɬ† 2 shopping mall, blithely unaware of the ban until I glimpsed an electronic message sign just before we arrived. something something traffico bloccato blah blah 15:00. “We better hurry up and get home before 3”, I thought. No, explained the Benetton shop assistant, the ban is until 3. Oops…

We were lucky not to have been one of the thousand people fined yesterday. And we haven’t paid our road tax yet (eeek!).

Continuing the old political philosophy of keeping the plebs happy with circuses, the council allowed football fans to drive to the stadium, as long as they could show their tickets for the match.

P.S. The city council is setting up a servizio di carpooling, but judging by the dead links and non-existent pdf files on the site, I guess it’s gonna be a long time coming. Step 1: preliminary discussions on perks for committee members (council family members inclusive) …

Bruno Bozzetto – Champion animator

Click to watch clip

This is Bozzetto’s hilarious take on how the Italians differ from the rest of Europe. I particularly like the cafe scene where you hear how many ways you can order your coffee. They know no shame in being fussy – on the contrary, it’s a sign of fine culture and good taste.

Un cappucco scuro senza schuima, Mario!

For those who want to know exactly what to order, here’s a helpful guide for beginners.

For another of Bozzetto’s masterpieces, this time on driving in Italy, see here.