I haven’t stopped thinking about David Laskin’s beautiful, moving remembrance of Rome’s sinister days in last Sunday’s New York Times. It’s not everyday you read a Rome feature that focuses on the difficult-to-digest components of the city’s history. These horrors occurred just 70 years ago, a gentle reminder of how lucky us Rome inhabitants are to reside in the Rome of now.
The Eternal City glamoured me from day one (If you’re immune to falling under Rome’s spell, then there’s something Rome with you!), however, it was my second visit that sealed the deal: I was determined to live here, damn it, if it was the last thing I did. From the picturesque architecture and cobblestone streets and the warm orange-and-pink-hued color palette to its crucial role history and culture, it’s easy let Rome bewitch & beguile you. It’s the city of La Dolce Vita after all! For me, a large part of its appeal is how streets, sites and attractions still look as they did for generations–some dating back to antiquity. But there is a part of Rome’s history that’s not so sweet.
There’s a street in Monti called Via degli Zingari which translates to Gypsy Street. I walk down this street at least once a day. I got my hair colored at this Contesta Rock Hair location before my friend Elena opened the Testaccio shop, and at the end of the street–in Piazza degli Zingari–sits one of my favorite destinations: Fatamorgana. I think it’s safe to say that I frequent this gelateria at least three times a week, but it wasn’t until The Rome Digest‘s gelato aperitivo here that I learned from my friend Hande how the street & piazza got its name. During the Nazi occupation, many Rom, Sinti and Camminanti gypsy communities lived here and were deported to concentration camps. A plaque (photo above) was put up in their honor. I don’t know all the details–I’m sure they’re out there somewhere–but that doesn’t make the story’s impact any less profound. All of Italy–and all of Europe, too, I’m sure–has stories of this nature. Then there’s all the other places in the world that have experienced/are experiencing devastating times with stories of their own.
I think what I find the most unsettling about all of this is that nowadays, it can seem like there’s no end in sight for merciless, sinister and barbaric acts, and there is still genocide happening today. In a sense, history does repeat itself and I can’t help but feel a little heartbroken for the world in general. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up hope.