Peter Popham: Rome Notebook

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The BMW no one wanted to collect

Italy is the land of great speed and great sloth. The new Fiat 500, as this paper noted last week, is surprisingly fast. Its sibling the new Fiat Bravo is about the fastest thing on the road, as I discovered when I hired one the other day. Its designers have succeeded in transplanting the coglione of a Ferrari into a sub-compact saloon.

But other things go incredibly slowly, if they move at all. Twenty-five years ago, in June 1983, a teenager called Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, was abducted by someone driving a large grey BMW 745i. She was never seen again. The most popular theory about the kidnapping is that it was a bid by the Mafia to stop the Vatican blabbing about the death of fugitive banker Roberto Calvi, found under Blackfriars Bridge in London.

We don't know what happened to the unlucky Miss Orlandi, but somebody knows about the car: Rome's police were tipped off last week that it was parked in a certain bay in the multistorey car park under Villa Borghese, Rome's most important park. Police duly found it and are investigating.

The new discovery may lead somewhere or nowhere. But what is very Italian is that the car had been parked in the same bay for 13 years. Rome is a nightmare for parking, as the world knows. "You turn any street corner in Rome," wrote Bill Bryson, "and it looks like you've just missed a parking competition for blind people ... Romans park their cars the way I would park if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on my lap."

That's because Rome's full up, so Romans improvise wildly. Yet the multistorey car parks are half-empty – and some of the few cars they contain, like this BMW, have been there for 13 years.

WAGs Italian-style

Italy's WAGs are a breed apart. The woman who first notified the Rome police about that BMW was the ex-wife of a Lazio star. And last week it was the turn of Tamara De Rossi, wife of Roma and Italy player Daniele De Rossi, to face the bright lights: the body of her father, Massimo Pisnoli, was found dead near a lonely railway station south of Rome, executed by the Mob – for reasons unknown.

On their uppers

After months of venomous attacks on Italy's gypsies – from the Interior Ministry's campaign to fingerprint them all to the burning down of a camp by Neapolitan gangsters – at last a positive gesture from the Prefect of Rome, Carlo Mosca: they should find work "shining shoes outside supermarkets," he said.

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