Explorations and Obstacles around the City

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Now that we have been living in Rome for over 3 weeks, we are starting to notice subtler differences between our homes back in the U.S. and this home, as well as noticing the small details of Rome that generally hide from tourists on their short trips here.

This past weekend, I travelled down to the coast to see more of Italy’s natural diversity and have a short break from the busy city atmosphere.

I wanted to bring along a disposable camera, to record my trip in a more authentic way, to be disconnected from technology, and to live in the moment and what not. I did not anticipate, however, the many obstacles I would face to accomplish this seemingly simple goal…

To start with was my incorrect assumption that something like a disposable camera would be as readily available in Italy as it is in any drugstore in the U.S.. Granted, as digital cameras are increasingly becoming the norm, it makes perfect sense that this would be much harder to find. However, one might assume that at one of the top tourist destinations in the world, there would be more access to this kind of item; instead what I found was that each shop or stand that did sell disposables tried to get me to pay upwards of 17 euros for it, compared to the $4 fujifilms you can find back home. While I finally, after a few failed attempts, did end up paying about 7 euros for a slightly offbrand camera, this turned out to be a funny example of how even after weeks here I still get surprised by the price hikes on certain everyday goods. On arrival in Rome we all marveled over the access to cheap (and delicious) food and coffee; now, however, I am discovering that this comes at the cost of other items we may think of as staples (toiletries, some groceries, etc.).

After finally finding one and bringing it along with me on my trip, I then faced the second adventure of trying to get the film developed. Needless to say, this involved a great deal of hand signaling, google translate, and broken Italian/English. In my attempts to find a photo store that could help me out, however, I stumbled upon an almost unnoticeable little art “exhibit” on the side of the road, across the street from Museo dell’Ara Pacis by the Tiber. As I looked down to my side I noticed a leather glove with a coin in its palm, and a sign in both Italian and English beside it reading: “Meglio di niente/Better than nothing”.

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I backtraced my steps and found the ledge along the sidewalk to be lined with letters and other small, metaphorically meaningful items that one could find abandoned in street corners and bushes throughout the city. Below is a sampling of a few of the little displays:

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Lastly was a small sign that read: “Saying or writing that Rome is an open air museum is too easy. It should be demonstrated even in the little details.”

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I thought this was the perfect summary of this little exhibit, which one could either think of as abandoned trash, or as little examples of the less obvious art that permeates the city. It got me to thinking about Rome as one enormous living, breathing art exhibition.

Tourists are the museum goers: coming to admire the ancient monuments, masterful paintings, and artisanal food; the “artwork” of the city so to speak. The Pantheon, Colosseum, and hundreds of other sites form the main exhibition. But the inhabitants, the graffiti, the sounds and smells are what fill the city with life, give it energy and vibrance, and keep it from fading back into history.

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