Friday, May 25, 2007

3rd Annual Roman Neighbor Day

Yes, folks, Mr. Rogers would be quite proud. This is the third year running that someone in the bowels of Rome's public administration has decided that it would be fun to ask all of Rome to have a lovey, huggy, can't we all just get along? kind of day among neighbors.

In 2005, when this "Festa dei Vicini di Casa" first appeared, my cynical side laughed it off completely. But that was not before imagining lively scenes between Roman neighbors, all of which involved a good variety of local swear words and random insults, captioned with something like: Finally! A city-sponsored event that brings you closer to the ones who make your homelife a living nightmare.

Here's the thing. As you probably know, when we talk "neighbor" in Rome, we're not talking about let's chat over the fence while watering our oh-so-lovely green lawns.


It's more like, "so THAT'S who's been cooking all that onion and garlic goodness from morning to night!" Or, "what the HECK are you DOING up there?" I swear... I once lived in an apartment in Garbatella where there must have been an army of kids rolling marbles across the floor upstairs all day long.

My first encounter with a Roman neighbor was when I had only been in Rome for a few days and didn't know you had to close the multiple elevator doors behind you for it to work (and get back to the 6th floor where someone was calling it). I know, that was dumb of me. But let me tell you, there was definitely no neighborly love going on when one of the people in the building caught me red-handed. Non lo so, sono americana!! My all-purpose excuse.

But, back to the point of my tale. Tomorrow is "Vicini Vicini," round 3. Cutesy little play on words there. Vicini being neighbors (vicini di casa) but ALSO, looky here--"close." Close neighbors. Aren't we clever? Since I am finally realizing that this little happy fest doesn't seem to be going anywhere, having firmly taken root sometime during May each year, I decided to take a look at their website to see if I could glean anything from it (read: maybe find something good to make fun of).

Well, let's just get the cheap shot out of the way right off the bat. Totti endorses Vicini Vicini. You know, Totti of the public wedding registry? He reminisces about his childhood apartment building and just wants to wish everyone a happy neighbors day. Thanks, Franceso. Same to you. And wait! Don't you live on the top floor of a really exclusive building with your own private pool on the roof? Perfetto! I imagine you're planning to invite all your neighbors over for a swim, no?

Back to the website, though: there's an entire party kit available for download. (Well, they're calling it a kit but it's really just a flyer and a one-page list of instructions.) Actually though, they're so completely organized, enthusiastic, and well-meaning about the whole thing, and those smiling windows in their logo are just so darn cute... aw shucks, I think the idea is starting to grow on me. The only problem is that in my building I don't have any neighbors except for the tourist guests who stay in the two apartments we rent below ours. Should I start including a "vicini vicini" party in the rental rate? (Rhetorical question, answer: no.)

Things like this have set the tone of the Veltroni government (he's Rome's mayor) and he is often criticized by opposing political parties for sponsoring what are seen as "fluff" events like La Notte Bianca, but not taking care of more pressing issues. Say, for example, like cleaning up the Tiber River. Ask any Roman if he or she would be willing to touch its waters, and you're likely to hear a tirade on the biohazards that would be involved in such a reckless act.

Well, check this out. Thanks to my pal Latta (a.k.a. Fabio) for bringing this to my attention. I'm thinking Veltroni might be just a wee bit out of touch. His quote is:
Il Tevere è così pulito che c'è un eccesso di pesci rispetto alla portata d'acqua.
Now, allow me to translate:

The Tiber is so clean that there are more fish than the water can handle.

Right, Veltrons. They're just jumping up begging to be caught for tonight's dinner. try eating it first.

What was he thinking? Probably too distracted drawing up plans for his apartment block party.

If you live in Rome, have you ever participated in the "Vicini Vicini" initiative?
If your city or town sponsored an event like this, would you organize one with your neighbors?
Do you know your neighbors, or ever have neighborhood get-togethers?


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Where I live people keep to themselves. Not friendly at all. I do know one of my neighbors and that is it. It's kind of sad. I have friends in other parts of L.A., Venice, Silver Lake or Brentwood and there seems to be more of a sense of community in those neighborhoods.

Where I grew up we knew all our neighbors. In NYC and when we moved to the suburbs. One of my sister's closest friends lived two houses up from ours and they have known each since toddler age. My sister is now 31 and just went to her friend's baby show.

I think block parties are a great idea but don't see one happening here. :(

Eryn said...

Hi there, I'm a new blogger and came across your blog many months ago and love reading your Roman stories :-) I studied in Florence for a semester 2 and half years ago and am in love with all that is Italian.

My fiance and I are planning on getting married in Florence near the end of next April. After spending a week there we plan on hitting up Rome for 3-4 days. I remember reading that you rent out apartments and I was wondering if you make arrangements that far in advance and what your rates are.

Here is my blog if you're interested,


Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

NYC: I totally agree with you, I like the idea of block parties too... I just think it's silly that the city of Rome is spending so much money to promote an initiative like this...something that people could easily do on their own, if they wanted to... I remember when I was growing up in WA state we knew all the neighbors on our block and had lots of neighborhood get-togethers, but once I moved out and on my own I didn't know anyone in my apartment building.

Eryn: Write to me at info AT reallyrome DOT com. Grazie!

sebs said...

Lo so, sono imperdonabilmente cafone a scrivere in italiano,ma a quest'ora non riesco a mettere in croce tre parole in un inglese comprensibile.Ma tornando al topic del post: be' io è un pò che pensavo di organizzare un piccolo party per i miei vicini di painerottolo, ma a differenza di totti i miei 65mq di appartamento non permettono grandi spazi di manovra!del resto sto ancora cercando di capire chi sono i nuovi coinquilini, si tratta di un appartamento ad "assetto variabile" a volte non c'è nessuno a volte sento un casino esagerato, bHò! significa che offrirò un caffè alla mia lovely vicina, che ogni tanto mi prepara anche il ciambellone, la adoro :). Un caffè giusto per restare nello spirito della festa. Credo che a roma debba prendere ancora piede, ma so che l'hanno scorso qui sulla prenestina hanno chiuso addirittura un intera via laterale, insomma è stata un successone!scusa ancora se ho scritto in italiano, un abbraccio Seb

Valerie said...

Shelly, your neighbors from Garbatella now reside above us. What the heck causes that rolling marble sound anyway??!

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Sebs: Figurati, piace pure vedere scritto in italiano ogni tanto, anche perchè so che tanti di quelli che leggono questo blog stanno adirittura studiano italiano, perciò, è pure utile! E mi fa piacere sentire che ci sono persone che aderiscono a questa iniziativa, anche se forse la prendo troppo in giro, l'idea è buona, e solo che non voglio immagginarmi i soldi buttati nelle locandine che potevano magari pagare qualcos'altro... vabbè, cmq, buona festa! ;-)

Val: No idea. I swear that the marble sound is so unique that in my mind it can only be produced by, well, marbles! Who knows!? I say, next time you hear it you should go knock and catch them in the act, then report back to us!

Julie said...

I'd run away for the weekend somewhere exotic just to get out of it. Or hide under my bed.

Isabelle said...

Unfortunately in Paris, people are terribly unfriendly ... : some of my neighbours (I've been living in the same building for 5 years bow) have never answered (not even once !!) my greetings when I come across them in the lobby or when we're together in the elevator... It's perfectly incredible !!!
Let's hope it'll be a little different in Rome : I heard my next upstairs neighbour is a French-speaking lady so I think I'll go and bring her some cookies when I arrive down there ;-)

Y B Normal? said...

Hello from Seattle! The city of Seattle has "Night Out" the first Tuesday evening in August. From the web site: “Night Out” is a national Crime Prevention event. It is designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, increase neighborhood support in anti-crime efforts, and unite our communities. It is a great chance to learn about crime prevention, while also celebrating your community and spending time with your neighbors. Great idea, but as usual, I have never participated in it. :-(