“In Rome, nothing works”: citizens despair as municipal elections approach | Italy

Elio Perugini can’t remember the last time he got a good night’s sleep. “It’s a disaster, the noise doesn’t stop,” he said. “I hardly sleep anymore. The worst is Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sleepless nights have become the norm for many in Trastevere, a district of central Rome once appreciated for its old world charm and atmosphere, but now known for its rowdy nightlife, petty crime, garbage piles and walls marked with graffiti.

The neighborhood’s problems are seen as emblematic of what the Romans repeatedly denounce as the Italian capital degrade (decline) and as residents prepare to vote in the municipal elections on Sunday and Monday, they wonder once again if anyone is capable of controlling the city.

Perugini has lived in Trastevere all this life. “It was poorer, but much more livable. Today is richer, but we are ruined.

He said he had not decided who to vote for, but that it would not be Virginia Raggi, the current mayor who is running for a second term. “Most certainly not Raggi, enough of Raggi.”

The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, won a landslide victory in 2016. Photography: Alessandra Tarantino / AP

Raggi, a politician from the Five Star Movement, became Rome’s first female mayor in June 2016, winning a landslide victory after promising “a wind of change”. But it didn’t take long for disappointment to set in as garbage piled up, aging buses spontaneously exploded, parks became more dilapidated, and wild boar sightings more frequent.

Raggi has made improvements to the city over the past year, including repairing some of its roads. It introduced cycle lanes, electric bicycles and scooters, although the latter have become another threat to the streets as cyclists use them with abandon.

Raggi also spoke about improvements to schools and the opening of libraries at a rally in Trastevere last week. But onlookers weren’t in the mood to listen to such achievements, with a woman reminding him of “the streets overrun with trash and boar”.

“Trastevere, like other areas of central Rome, has become run down for a variety of reasons, from the uncontrollable nightlife to potholes,” said Fiorella de Simone, a member of Vivere Trastevere, a group of locals who staged demonstrations against the decline of the neighborhood while taking it upon themselves to clean the streets.

“But it has gotten worse in recent years. I can’t go out the front door in the morning without stepping over some trash. Trastevere is a reminder that there have been no solutions to the problems affecting the whole city.

The far-right candidate for mayor of the Brothers of Italy Enrico Michetti, on the left, with Matteo Salvini.
The far-right candidate for mayor of the Brothers of Italy, Enrico Michetti, on the left, with Matteo Salvini. Photograph: Antonio Masiello / Getty Images

But it remains to be seen if these issues will be resolved anytime soon.

Enrico Michetti, candidate of the far-right Brothers of Italy competing in a coalition backed by the far-right League of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi, led the polls before the start of the ban period . Michetti, lawyer and radio host, glorified ancient Rome during his campaign, asserting his role as “Caput Mundi(Capital of the world) needed to be restored. He also said the stiff-armed Roman salute, which has fascist overtones, should be revived because it was more hygienic in times of Covid-19.

Behind him in the polls was the center-left candidate and former Minister of the Economy, Roberto Gualtieri.

Raggi was in third place followed by Carlo Calenda, the leader of Azione, described as a liberal centrist party.

But with none of the four candidates set to win more than 50% of the vote in the first round, two – most likely Michetti and Gualtieri – will face each other in a second round on October 17.

For his book, Rome il coraggio di cambiare (Rome, the courage to change), author Claudio Cipollini analyzed the promises made during the election campaigns of the last five mayors of Rome, including Raggi, and compared them to what was achieved.

“I discovered that what they said during election campaigns did not correspond to what they actually did,” he said.

Center-left mayoral candidate Roberto Gualtieri.
Center-left mayoral candidate Roberto Gualtieri. Photograph: Antonio Masiello / Getty

Cipollini also studied the agendas of current mayoral candidates, with the findings published in a report by Monitoroma, an election observatory.

“The programs contained some great ideas for Rome, but no one said when and how they will deliver on their promises let alone how much money they will need,” Cipollini said. “Some themes have been treated better by some, and poorly by others. Some candidates have long-term visions for the city, others do not.

Cipollini said the main problem is “the inability of the public administration to run a modern city”.

Before Raggi took the helm, Rome was also a city where progress had been hampered by decades of inefficiency and corruption, leaving it saddled with € 13 billion in debt.

“Raggi has done a few things over the past year, but she hasn’t solved the problem of garbage collection or public transport, and the parks are still a mess,” Cipollini said.

“In Rome nothing works, and I think politicians need to realize that politics is not enough to get things done. They must know how to organize and manage all these difficulties and move the city forward.

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