Water from Rome’s Acqua Vergine aqueduct, the modern version of Aqua Virgo (19 BC), feeds the Trevi fountain (1762) we see today. It’s a working day (and night) for many in the shadow of Palazzo Poli, the spectacular backdrop of one of Rome’s most famous monuments. To be disturbed, rudely interrupted, or just plain harassed by Bangladeshi males when out with friends in the centro storico is par for the course these days. They do not possess one ounce of respect for others in their tireless quest to extract money from anyone at all, by attempting to sell what one can only describe as ‘ horrible crap’, if you’ll pardon the expression.
We all remember polaroids. Cheap, cheerful, colourful, and seedy; instant photographs for the impoverished masses. Visit the Trevi fountain at any time of day or night and you’ll find yourself in bad company. Pushy Bangladeshi males pester couples (with cameras) for business. The price for a polaroid pic? FIVE EUROS. Good work? Pay me, I say. However, a far more insidious trade goes on, something which we found most unpalatable yesterday evening.
Moving carefully between groups of friends, families, lovestruck couples and lovelorn onlookers in a very mixed crowd, we noticed a pair of unkempt middle aged men loitering around the edge of the fountain, both of whom were staring into the pool with intent. Without disrespecting Naples, they were not local to Rome. I didn’t see it, but my companion did. The elder of the two produced some kind of penny picker which he had kept well concealed on his person. He proceeded to lift what could only have been 2 euro coins from the pool, and then they were gone. No one seemed to pay any attention. The only advice we can give is to throw your coin or coins into the water and throw well, to be sure that your token of love in Rome does not end up lining the pockets of a petty thief from you know where or anywhere else.
Tour companies and travel agents blogging about the history of Rome and Vatican tours is not uncommon, articles about both are ubiquitous and it is something we’ll be doing less of. Expect more words about the joys and ills of modern day Rome between now and summer.