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. Um...you 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?