You may have read about the recent horrid flooding in Venice. One website showed photos of people swimming in St. Mark’s Square! My college classmates, the Mackans, stayed with us in Rome last week and after spending the last four nights in Florence, they’re on their way to Venice today. Keep your feet dry, you two!
Northern and Central Italy were also swamped by torrential rains last weekend, and today in Rome, the normally placid Tevere (Tiber), which begins in Northern Italy, races and swirls to the Mediterranean, leaving a trail of flotsam and surging over its banks. Normally a yellowish-green, the river is mud-brown and silty. Fortunately for today’s Romans, 30-foot walls were built along the Tiber beginning in 1875, so although the river is high and the wide paths down next to the river are underwater, the central area of Rome isn’t threatened by floods—at least so far. I walked down to Isola Tiberina at noon to watch the swirling water. I’m not the only one who’s fascinated—people lined the bridges and walls along the Tevere, oohing and aahing and taking photos; TV crews breathlessly reported the river’s activity; and seagulls swooped overhead. If it had been evening, the starlings would have joined us. They are back for their annual messy, stinky, autumn visit. Ugh!
Yesterday I had scheduled a busy day. I was meeting a friend at 10 a.m. near the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) to take her on a ride on the 116 bus and then to have lunch in Piazza Farnese. Our plan was to take the 271 bus to the start of the 116’s route. Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and we met at 10. We waited for the 271. We waited. We waited. We waited for 50 minutes, and I suggested that we walk six blocks or so down to Via Marmorata and wait for the 23 or the 280, both of which would also have taken us to the 116. As we neared the end of the second block, we could see a sea of people marching up Viale Aventino. The marchers were led by phalanx of police—big police!—so we scooted across the street and proceeded to Via Marmorata. Many bus lines use Viale Aventino, and they were being diverted west on Via Marmorata. The first bus to pass said Teatro Marcello. I knew that would drop us close to a 116 stop, so we hopped on. We drove to the other side of Aventino Hill, and police diverted us back to Circo Massimo. Mala and I postponed our adventure and went home.
As I walked up the Lungotevere, most roads into the city center were closed, and the northbound Lungotevere was jammed. It turns out that several protests against the government’s austerity measures were scheduled for yesterday, including one that was ending in Campo de’ Fiori—right next to Piazza Farnese and just a couple of blocks from our apartment. Another protest was scheduled at the Ministry of Education on Via Trastevere, not too far across the river from our apartment, so the southbound Lungotevere was jammed as well.
Not wanting to call it a day, I decided to go to Trastevere and have Rome’s best cannelloni at Sabatini. As I reached the Ponte Sisto bridge, a bus unloaded a bunch of flag-waving protesters, who crossed the bridge with me but turned right. I decided to forge on. Sabatini’s and the square it’s on were peaceful, the food was delicious, the wine was perfect, and the afternoon was lovely. I’d still be at Sabatini, but I had a doctor appointment at 4, so I had to leave. I got back to the Lungotevere and saw that things were worse, if that’s possible. Traffic wasn’t moving on the southbound side, and no taxis were sitting at the taxi stand. On the northbound side, police vans were driving the wrong way down the Lungotevere (near the front of our apartment) and I could hear loud bangs. People began running over the Ponte Sisto toward the police and the protesters, but I walked the other way, crossing the Mazzini Bridge and taking photos of the flood. When I got to the northbound Lungotevere, not a car was to be seen driving up this normally busy street. It was surreal.
I got home and notified the doctor that I couldn’t keep my appointment because I had no way to get to her office. Then I buried my head in a pillow and took a nap. By 6 p.m. everything was back to normal.