Rome is “more”, spelt funny. Sometimes you have to look for it.
A less obvious, more recent past remains to be discovered. Look up! Look around! The city is peppered with signs, sculptures and wall plaques treating a living history that permeates the memories and lives of contemporary Romans. Some examples?
– On 16 October 1943 over 1000 Roman citizens were rounded up in the early morning from the now popular Ghetto area near the Tiber, just off Piazza della Torre Argentina. Their convoy left Stazione Tiburtina and stopped at Auschwitz. Nazis carried out one of their historic Jewish deportation atrocities. On the anniversary the tourist can meet a silent parade of remembrance.
– Six months later, in March 1944, a band of resident resistance fighters ambushed a platoon of German police. The ambush killed 33 Germans. Hitler was consulted and demanded immediate decimation. Ten Italian lives for each to be executed within 24 hours. The Ardeatine Cave memorial is located on the spot where 335 people were shot. Besides the memorial, the bomb damage and bullet holes from the ambush itself are still visible on Via Rasella to this day.
– SS Capt Erich Priebke took part in the executions. He was extradited from his hiding place in Argentina in 1994, fifty years later. On October 11, 2013, he died in Rome, at age 100, a prisoner “unrepentant unto death”. Almost a week later no church nor synagogue discharged the corpse with a burial rite; the family remained indecisive. Rome tourists see strange headlines, they see street mobs following a hearse. Who will dispose of the body and where? That’s one more piece of recent Roman past that needs to be explored.
– The Italian Union of Workers has a thought-provoking plaque near its main entrance on Via Lucullo, 6– a side street not far from Bernini’s Triton fountain. It is of an executed dead worker; his hands are bound; his tools are scattered. The door is open. He might have been suspected of plotting in 1944.. It reads:
In questo edificio il tribunale di guerra nazista durante l’infausta occupazione vanamente tentò di soffocare nel sangue l’anelito di libertà del popolo romano.—-
(In this building the Nazi War Tribunal during their devastating occupation vainly tried to smother in blood the Roman people’s yearning for liberty.)
These are but some examples of ways in which Rome is “more”. Take a stroll. Its complicated history comes alive in many ways. No human emotion is left untouched.
– Contributed by Alexander L. Cicchinelli. Alex is a retired university administrator living in Abruzzo, Roma and Philadelphia, depending on the weather. Still an educator at heart, he has strong interest in improving learning in the Italian pre-university sphere. He has worked with the educational testing center of UNSW, Sydney and is currently collaborating with his associates of the Oxford University Testing Center. In odd moments he studies the 1950’s Muscle Rustle when post war young Italians were enticed to cut sugar cane in Australia. Participants in that scheme and their relatives are invited to make contact and share info. Contact him: alex (at) cicchinelli (dot) com