Postcard from... Rome


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The Independent Online


Economic doldrums mean extravagant holidays are out of the question for many Romans. Instead, locals are making the most what their city has to offer, even in the torrid August heat.

Mayor Ignazio Marino has declared the temporary pedestrianisation of Rome’s most famous street, Via dei Fori Imperiali,  which runs from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, “a present for those who remain in the city and for the tourists”. He’s referring to those stuck at work when it’s 35C or those visitors silly enough to be walking around, risking sun stroke.

Ospol, the union for the local police service, said the “torrid heat along with carbon monoxide and particulates has created a pollution cocktail to torment police officers, traders and residents”.

But for those with time off who don’t have extended families with homes by the sea, there are other options.  On 15 August, the Ferragosto holiday – Italy’s most important – was not only celebrated in the traditional family way, but thousands headed for the nearby beaches at Ostia.

And at the seaside resort’s coolest bar/restaurant, Mediterranea, you could almost imagine you were at the gay beach in Ibiza, as the beautiful people celebrated the Assumption with suntans and Speedos. The sea may not be as nice, but the food is certainly better. Only a passing light aircraft trailing a political banner for tax criminal Silvio Berlusconi, disturbed the peace.

For the evening entertainment, the city has opened up the banks of the Tiber,  River Thames-style, with temporary bars and restaurants. The highlight is the Isola del Cinema festival on the river’s lovely Tiberina Island. Appropriately, patrons have been able to see Paolo Sorrentino’s Fellini-esque La Grande Bellezza – a celebration of the city itself.