Do you want your big city mayor to have no experience with corruption?

Many big city residents may want mayors who stay away from corruption but what if that means the mayor is less effective at getting things down and fighting corruption?

Today, Mr. Marino finds himself under political siege in the city he vowed to save from itself. Italy’s news media lampoons him as an honest man in over his head, or as one newspaper called him, a Forrest Gump.

“His virtue is also his main problem: He is not connected to all the rotten Roman relationships,” said Carlo Bonini, an investigative journalist with La Repubblica, a daily newspaper. “He knows the world he operates in too little.”…

Perhaps most damning for the mayor has been the slow-bleeding “Mafia Capitale” investigation, which has exposed tainted bidding for city contracts on a number of services, including refugee centers and sanitation. Even for a country more than accustomed to such scandal, the revelations have come as a shock…

While the corruption revealed by the scandal predated Mr. Marino’s arrival in office, the mayor has been criticized as responding slowly and indecisively. “He has always been a step behind,” Mr. Bonini of La Repubblica said…

The corruption investigation of park maintenance contractors led the mayor to suspend their work, leaving public spaces overgrown. His order to stop sidewalk vendors from peddling near historical sites prompted protests from merchants.

Perhaps this is a situation where you would prefer to be the mayor after the crusading reformer has vigorously taken on corruption. Two other quick thoughts:

1. How much can a mayor do on his/her own to fight corruption? If other governmental bodies are not working with the mayor, it would be difficult to get much done.

2. Cleaning up corruption is a difficult task. Moving too quickly may lead to disruptions. Moving too slowly irritates residents.

Discovering underground Roman aqueducts

A group of amateurs have been tracing portions of Roman aqueducts hidden from view:

The group, which has been exploring underground Rome since 1996, has completed about 40% of its mission to map the aqueducts.”The famous arched, over-ground aqueducts we see today are just the tip of the iceberg; 95% of the network ran underground,” says Marco Placidi, head of the speleologists group, which is sharing its results with Italy’s culture ministry…

Dropping into the hole, Baldi disappears down the Anio Vetus aqueduct, a 3-foot-wide, 5-foot-high tunnel lined with pristine Roman brickwork. As frogs, spiders and grasshoppers scatter, Baldi reaches a maintenance shaft, complete with good-as-new footholds dug into the bricks that lead up to a narrow opening in the woods 10 feet above. Beyond him, the tunnel vanishes into the darkness…

“We have found Roman dams we didn’t know about, branch lines taking water to waterfalls built in private villas, and even aqueducts driven underneath” streams, Placidi said. “We are able to get up close and [feel we are] right back at the moment the slaves were digging.”

As the article notes, the level of construction here is quite amazing to survive roughly 2,000 years. But, without such underground aqueducts, the city of Rome may not have survived long.

What might happen to these infrastructure marvels? Perhaps they could be turned into tourist opportunities like the tunnels under Paris.

Two Italian film directors describe Roman suburbs

Two Italian film directors discussed their new film Et In Terra Pax, which is set in a “Roman council estate” in the Roman suburbs.  Here is how they described these Italian suburbs:

?MB: I was thinking a lot about a story set in the Roman suburbs…

MB: We live in part of Rome both close to the centre and the suburbs, which was useful to observe without being involved. We like Roman suburbs, and we think that in suburbs you can breathe the real Rome. The centre is great but it’s for tourists, rich people or to spend Saturday nights. Real live [sic] is somewhere else…

Can you talk about the idea of the housing complex being like a prison?

DC: A lot of suburbs in Rome are characterized by this kind of view: big grey buildings, a kind of ghetto filled with people. A city can’t grow in this way because the risk is that people can be excluded from the rest of Rome. We consider the building we chose like another character, a metaphor for loneliness. It looks like a prison but it’s full of life and ready to explode (in a good or bad way) at whatever time.

Et In Terra Pax is not an international audience’s image of Italian life. Was it important to show this side of life?

DC: Sure, we think it’s very important to show the dark side our country, not only for international audiences but also for the Italians too.

Compared to the typical American portrayal of suburbs, the land of single-family homes, lawns, and kids running around, this is a different image: large apartment buildings built away from the vibrant city center and illustrating the “dark side” of Italian life.

This discussion hints at how some European suburbs differ from their American counterparts. While most Americans see suburbs as the refuge of the wealthy, some European suburbs are where the low-income apartment buildings are built. The center of the European city is the place to be, not the outskirts of a metropolitan region as in the American case.

I am also intrigued by the idea that the apartment building is treated “like a character.” Elsewhere, they say the building they filmed in was about 1 kilometer in length, housed about 14,000 people, and features “strange, fascinating and disturbing architecture.”