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I have recently visited Rome for about a week and the city looks as if the municipality has serious issues maintaining the city. Many monuments are well maintained, the public transportation is quite reliable, but everything else seem to be rather poorly maintained:

  • there is garbage almost everywhere. While this might be explained by the large number of tourists during the season (large crowds typically leave a lot of garbage behind), this is strange in November when the number visitors heavily decreases (off-season, more rain)
  • several subway stations seem to be full of structural dampness which might affect people's health condition
  • air pollution seem to be very high
  • graffiti can be seen virtually everywhere (this is especially true after the stores close)

This RT article mentions a large public debt of about €12 billion, which might explain the difficulties.

The city’s debt essentially consists of financial and commercial debt, with other types affecting the figure to a lesser extent. Basically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, more than half of the debt is in the hands of banks, whereas private debt makes up just over a quarter of the €12 billion.

However, this is rather strange if we look at the figures from tourism:

Rome is the 3rd most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7–10 million tourists a year, which sometimes doubles on holy years. (..) Rome charges a tourism tax which contributes towards the maintenance of public transportation and infrastructure. It ranges from €3 to €7 per person, per night, based on the hotel or other type of accommodation used.

Rome, already Italy's biggest destination, was the chief beneficiary of the boom: the capital's tourist takings rose by 20.3 percent last year, to €6.74 billion

Question: Why does Rome municipality seem to have a hard time maintaining the city?

I am interested in answers that provide a local politics perspective, focusing on causes that are related to town hall or city council.

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    Wait until you visit downtown Brussels, especially at night. The EU has got quite the capital :) – JonathanReez Supports Monica Nov 12 at 8:28
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    Not just Rome (though it's probably one of the worst), there are multiple Italian cities that have had a garbage problem for years now. – Mast Nov 12 at 17:07
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    "graffiti can be seen virtually everywhere (this is especially true after the stores close)" I'm confused what this means ... do they have glow-in-the-dark grafitti in rome? – Azor Ahai Nov 12 at 21:32
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    @AzorAhai If you see graffiti after stores close, it might be painted on shutters. – Nayuki Nov 13 at 1:28
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    This is probably not relevant here, but I'd avoid using RT as a source in general. Wikipedia lists it as unreliable with the caveat "However, such sources may be reliable for determining the official postitions of their sponsoring governments." – JollyJoker Nov 13 at 8:41
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This article has a lengthy backstory. In short, it's been corruption scandal after corruption scandal for the past half decade or so, on a backdrop of mobsters running rampant. Also, Rome only has one waste processing plant, which is buckling under the strain.

Crime families in Italy have long held control over large parts of the country's waste management systems.

In 2014 the capital was shaken by revelations that the city administration had, for years, been infiltrated by a mafia-style network which syphoned off millions of euros destined for public services. [...]

Italy's anti-corruption body in 2015 warned Rome lacked the "antibodies" necessary to fight the infiltration of gangsters.

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    Half decade? You mean half century. Or half millennium. Maybe some scandals surfaced in the past 5 years. Here is a study which correlates corruption with default probability. Money quote: "Corruption is an extremely important factor in explaining government issuers’ credit risks, which is surprising given that economic fundamentals have comparatively little effect." Of course actually going belly-up is preceded by long-term mismanagement. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 9:57
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    Oh, and obviously this is a problem of all of Italy. Rome is probably relatively sane compared to Naples or Sicily. Yea, and this is arrogant northern Europe speaking. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 9:59
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    Crime families run everything on this planet. It's just that the ones in Rome are more corrupt than some of the others. – J... Nov 13 at 13:09
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    @J... I'd say the Mafia is more blatant, not more corrupt. – Ian Kemp Nov 14 at 7:55
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    @IanKemp Historically, perhaps. These days... less so. – J... Nov 14 at 12:47
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Not a full answer, but when I was a tourist in Rome, I recall discussing the graffiti issue with a local who spoke decent English. The gist of the explanation is that it was cultural differences in prioritization. In the U.S., graffiti is considered something of a sign of urban decay, whereas in Rome at least, it's seen in a more artistic light, and while they are good at keeping it off the historical cultural buildings, graffiti in Rome has existed since the times before they had that "New" Coliseum that the city is famous for.

And the reason we know so much about the Roman civilization is in part because the cultural use of graffiti (back then it was chiseled into stone, rather than painted. The word "Graffiti" comes the Italian word "Graffiato" which means "To Scratch"). Pompeii has some of the best preserved Roman Graffiti, which allowed a unique snapshot into life in Roman and allowed for a reconstruction of the Vulgar Latin (most Latin used today is formal, as it was preserved in books and formal documents used by government officials. Vulgar Latin is how the (literally first) plebians spoke among themselves. Pompeii includes examples of Graffiti ranging in topics from literary quotes and references, poems of lost love, political slogans, the names of women to "contact for a good time" and crude humor such as the drawling of male anatomy with the words "Handle with care" written beside it. In short, the thematic range of the "art form" hasn't progress much since the time of Jesus Christ (Pompeii was buried in 79 A.D., some 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus as recorded in Roman historical documents.).

In fact, if anything, the Romans seemed to have the same attitude about Graffiti that was depicted in Monty Python's "The Life of Brian" where Brian (Graham Chapman) is tasked with writing (in Latin) "Romans Go Home" on a wall as a form of political protest when a Centurion (John Cleese) catches Brian in the act. The Centurion isn't upset with the graffiti so much as the poor quality and berates Brian for writing "The Romans They Go The House" and makes him do it 100 times properly.

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    This is a great zoom in the graffiti aspect from ancient cultures in the Italy's history, but despite that, it doesn't really answer the question. – Adriano Nov 13 at 1:56
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    A good list of translated graffiti from Pompeii: pompeiana.org/Resources/Ancient/Graffiti%20from%20Pompeii.htm – Luris Nov 13 at 7:42
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    @Adriano I disagree. It offers a frame challenge to "Rome [has] a hard time maintaining the city", by disputing that graffiti is evidence of lack of maintenance. – JBentley Nov 13 at 13:25
  • @Luris: Thank you for that. I recalled the gist of the first quote, but not the exact one. Wanted to include it but couldn't find the source.. – hszmv Nov 13 at 14:23
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there is garbage almost everywhere. While this might be explained by the large number of tourists during the season (large crowds typically leave a lot of garbage behind), this is strange in November when the number visitors heavily decreases (off-season, more rain)

Garbage collection and disposal is an issue Rome has been dealing with since several years (link in Italian). Landfills in the area are overfilled, and recycling centres are not working properly. Tons and tons of garbage has been sent abroad (at a cost) to alleviate the issue, but decades of political malpractice are not solved by the occasional virtuous administration.

Example: the previous mayor closed down mafia-infested companies/associations, only to be re-opened/re-allowed by the current one (another link in Italian, sorry).

See also Denis' answer on this.

several subway stations seem to be full of structural dampness which might affect people's health condition

Working on Rome's subway is a non-trivial technical challenge. Any excavation is bound to find some artefacts. The works for a third metro line are severely delayed and over-budget because of this (after being planned for decades).
The Metro A (the line that most tourists use) is also very deep underground. Moreover, the lines would probably have to be shut down during such works, not an easy thing to sell to inhabitants and tourists alike.

air pollution seem to be very high

Depends on the day and the wind, no wind for a few days can worse the problem momentarily, but with respect to other areas of Europe, it's not that bad.

There are regularly days when cars are not allowed (or half cars, on an odd/even licence plate basis), and some areas of the historic city centre are permanently closed to most cars.

There has been also a push in modernizing private heating systems, that cause(d?) most of the city's pollution.

graffiti can be seen virtually everywhere (this is especially true after the stores close)

Some graffiti can be nice, many admittedly are not. It is definitely not on the list of priorities, for what I know.

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