Rome tourism surges: good for the economy (perhaps) not for residents (for sure)



The other day I left my apartment in Via della Scala to walk three blocks to get to Piazza Trilussa and  the Lungotevere (the river road) where I was meeting someone. I could hardly get down the street. I kid you not. There were enormous groups of young tourists, one group wearing straw hats and green t-shirts, another group attired in red t-shirts, and yet others – all separate groups – in blue t-shirts. My take on this (confirmed more or less a couple of days later when I was driving through a far-flung suburb known for its convents and religious houses and saw other large groups of the same type) is that these were mostly Catholic groups who come to Rome on the cheap, stay in outlying areas and then bus down to the center to see the sights, although God (I pun) only knows if they really have any idea what they are seeing.

There is now doubt that the presence of the new and seemingly beloved Argentine pontiff has stimulated a lot of new tourism, such as when almost the entire population of Poland came here, but by bit, to see/hear John Paul II address the faithful. But tourism in Rome, particularly this summer, seems to be booming in general with groups having a growing presence that, quite frankly, does not make us residents happy. I have lived in Trastevere for several decades and until a year or two ago, most tourism here was made up of highly-sophisticated visitors who knew that there was more to Rome than just the Vatican and the Coliseum places crowded by the hoi polloi. Now there are groups of Germans, Dutch, Japanese and who knows who else being led down Trastevere’s narrow streets by a guide wielding an umbrella or a folder, and making those of us who live here grit our teeth. Sure. It is probably good for the Italian economy although not being quality tourism they are more prone to buy the junk – mostly not made in Italy junk – sold by the throngs of unlicensed peddlers that are another blight the city government has chosen to ignore – than more expensive quality merchandise.

Many people, me included, this summer have been taking refuge “in provincia”, that is in the small towns where some of us have second homes or friends who have second homes. And this is likely to be the trend for me for the near future since a recent study shows that the post popular tourist destinations in Italy continue to be the same-old, same-old such as Florence, Milan, Sorrento  and  Venice getting the most attention. Rome  remains at the top of the list for mass tourism so I think I will be spending more and more time .

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