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By Sarah Shapcott
The Via Cavour runs through the heart of Rome. Beginning with the modern day transport hub, Termini, it winds down to the steps of the ancient city; the Forum and the Colosseum. But a dry, lifeless city road this is not. Far from it. Aptly named after an Italian Prime Minister the Via Cavour is the essential path for any march through Italy’s capital.
At the start of the summer a spent a week in Rome and, quite inadvertently, managed to get myself entangled in the lifeblood of Italian passion that so often courses through the Via Cavour. The first hint that something was amiss was the signs taped to the metro gates. For days I pushed pass, unable to understand the language, and just assumed that all was well.
How wrong I was. One morning I arrived at Pyramide Metro all ready to take the train to the Lido for a day lazing by the sea – but curiously it was shut. Travelling back into town I opted to get off at Termini, the only transfer point between Rome’s two metro lines, but again the other line was closed. I had, of course, stumbled into that not-so infrequent Italian affair – the strike.
Compared to the English strikes I’m used to – where after months of bickering everything is entirely shut down – the Italians are really rather polite about voicing their grievances. Exiting at Termini I caught up with the processions winding its way down the Via Cavour. The march had started late in the day as, kindly, drivers had worked throughout the rush hour that morning, and finished for the evening rush back.
It was relaxed – a flag waving and drum beating affair. The atmosphere was carnival-like than any intense kind of protest. It didn’t surprise me when I later found out that this was a fairly regular state of affairs. The Italians quite simply took it all in their stride.
A couple of days later, walking home, I once again stumbled across a passionate Via Cavour. With police motorcycles closing down the stretch of the road I hung around to see what all the fuss was about. Then, beginning faintly, pop and dance music began blasting out of vans with people dancing, drinking and partying in the hot Italian sun – it could only be Pride Roma.
Just like the transport workers the Italians Pride-goers don’t force their agenda. The marchers from the previous few days were protesting over changes to contracts which made it easier to dismiss workers; an unpopular move amongst unions but the march was not hating or forceful in sentiment.
Similarly the political protest messages that formed part of Pride were at their most powerful in their subtlety. A man dressed as the Pope with a rainbow coloured umbrella was a potent message of how far the Pride movement has come and how it struggles in Italy and especially Rome. This seeking of Catholic acceptance was the clearest message of the marchers – numerous flags depicted the cross and a rainbow whilst one placard likened the Vatican to the Taliban.
It was the first Pride I’d ever been to and the sheer delight and fun-having of everyone involved struck me the most. Incredible outfits and costumes, immensely decorated vans and cars with each blasting out a personal music choice – with this sheer exuberance it was impossible not to enjoy yourself.
Just minutes after the transport strikers and Pride revellers passed through the Via Cavour the road was back to its usual self. Italian police simply swept in ahead, then swept out behind – no fuss. Used to passion playing out on their streets it was quite simply just another day in Rome.