Rome burns and stinks – the decline of the Eternal City

Rome burns and stinks – the decline of the Eternal City

Italy’s capital was hit by the fourth major fire in just a few weeks over the weekend. At the same time, the waste crisis is coming to a head again – and for political reasons there is no end in sight.

At the weekend, the Romans were reminded of the images from the Ukraine war: a column of black smoke several hundred meters high was hanging over the Centocelle district on the south-eastern periphery of the capital, explosions could be heard, the sirens of dozens of fire brigades wailed, Firefighting helicopters rattled in the air.

The fire broke out in a large, derelict park and spread to a car junkyard, where hundreds of demolished cars went up in flames. The explosions were caused by the fuel and motor oil still in the tanks and lines of the vehicles.

Extinguishing action by helicopter after the fourth major fire in Rome within a short period of time.
Extinguishing action by helicopter after the fourth major fire in Rome within a short period of time.

The black cloud of smoke could be seen all over the city – also from the Circus Maximus, where 70,000 fans had gathered for a concert by the Roman rock band Maneskin, or from the Trinità dei Monti above the Spanish Steps, where models were showing the latest creations presented by the fashion designer Valentino.

It was already the fourth major fire since mid-June, when a waste treatment plant was destroyed on the site of the former giant Malagrotta landfill. A week ago, the Pineta Sacchetti pine forest near the Vatican caught fire. Emperor Nero, who set Rome on fire in 64 AD, would have enjoyed the series of fires.

Rats and wild boars on streets and squares
The new ruler of Rome, the social-democratic mayor Roberto Gualtieri, has disappointed all expectations since his election last fall: Anyone who believed that things would only go up for Rome after his predecessor, the overwhelmed five-star politician Virginia Raggi, was voted out could, soon saw himself taught better. Gualtieri had kept his most important election promise, namely to rid Rome of garbage by Christmas , with a lot of noise and extra shifts for garbage collection.

But the rubbish – and with it the wild boar, seagulls and rats that feed on it – has long since returned to the streets and squares and rots and stinks in the summer heat. The failure of the Malagrotta waste treatment plant due to the fire has further exacerbated the crisis.

Cloud of smoke over the Colosseum in Rome.
Cloud of smoke over the Colosseum in Rome.

The residents of the Eternal City vacillate between anger and resignation. A citizen of the noble and wealthy Prati district recently filmed a scene with his mobile phone and posted it online, which confirmed an old suspicion of the Romans: the video shows the garbage collectors emptying the containers with the glass, paper, Dump plastic and green waste separately in the same garbage truck.

Ultimately, however, the main problem is that there is still not a single waste incineration plant in the metropolis of Rome, which has a population of three million. Gualtieri finally wants to change this and is also supported by Prime Minister Mario Draghi. But the corresponding decree has been politically blocked for weeks by Virginia Raggi and above all by the party leader of the Five Star Movement, ex-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Conte is even threatening to withdraw his ministers because of the planned oven, thereby provoking an end to Draghi’s government. Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn, rot and stink.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.