City (Re)-Planning

January 20, 2012 / Local Interest

While certainly not pervasive throughout Italy, in some of the larger cities less encumbered by shall we say strong moral adherence to the laws, rules, and regulations that govern the body politic, it is not uncommon to find that some citizens often take urban planning into their own hands. Literally.

While walking home in Monti along Via Panisperna from a dinner party that had gone on quite late, I happened to come upon two gentlemen in their late 70s about 30′ from the side street Via Urbana, shuffling, whistling, star-gazing, and generally trying a bit too hard to look inconspicuous.

As I approached Via Urbana and looked down it, I noticed another two doing the same in that direction… and then a couple of sprightly 80-somethings about 30′ further up Via Panisperna!

And sure enough, right at the intersection were three more elderly gents: one with two buckets of paint (blue and yellow), one with a yard stick, and the third on his knees with a fat paintbrush in hand studying his work.

lines2“NO! La “B” non era cosi’!” (No, the “B” didn’t look like that!), one of them said. In half-hushed half-hollered tones a discussion so lively ensued that these three didn’t even notice me.

Basically I saw that new bus stop signage had just been put in at this corner, and probably as per the street superintendent’s bus stop installation manual, it was given about 30 feet of yellow-striped no-parking “B-U-S” zone both before and after it…. sacrificing about 6-8 of the previously and now once again freshly painted blue striped parking spots.

Obviously the Octagenarian Front for DIY Monti Urban Planning crack team were having none of that, and had decided to set things right by “correcting” the no-parking buffer zone.

As I then walked by the couple who were posting guard at the far end, the adorable elderly signora looked me straight in the eyes, equally excited as she was terrorized by her new-found power to effect change, and declared, deadpanned, “Devono sparire!”, (They must sparire!), which I’m guessing referred to the nebulous bureaucratic city planning cloud from which aforementioned superintendent and co. had sprung.

A city such as Rome consists of nothing but patchwork… age-old alterations and subsequent modifications to even older architectural mash-ups of overlapping eras. This leads to a certain “open” interpretation and ductile quality of one’s living space, which in turn only feeds this vicious/virtuous-circle more, as I has just witnessed.

I laughed the whole way home.



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

8 Responses to “City (Re)-Planning”

  1. OOOOppps…
    as I have noticed can happen with expats….there is a slip in translation…..
    especially with commonly used words….English(or whatever) slips out instead of Italian or vice-versa
    “Devono sparire!”, (They must sparire!),…..

  2. Paul Goldfield

    Maybe this commando unit can do something about the pubs sprouting like mushrooms in Monti. Paint will not do the trick.

  3. My husband and I laughed and laughed and then laughed out loud again at this article, GB. So wonderfully true for senior Italians. We adore them!

  4. Arturo Bierman

    GB, Well done mini essay! The real citizens take neglected duties into their own hands. I’ve done that. Arturo

  5. Peter Bloom

    As a now long time Montiite, and close to their age bracket, I loved this – and a great Italian way of dealing with things. Auguri to them!


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