Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BCers Visit Italy, Switzerland & France; Pt 9: Graffiti Begs For Attention In Rome

HIDING HER FACE from passersby, this woman was hoping for coins from kind strangers. Perhaps she was oblivious to the scribbles behind her or to the idea that graffiti like begging is entrenched in most cultures.

Graffiti is a worldwide problem. In some circles it is viewed as art. Sometimes it is a political statement or an unruly defacement of structures to vex the government in power.

Mostly it is unattractive nonsense with no redeeming value born of disrespect.

In ancient times, special announcements were scratched on walls. This undreamed of precursor to the "facebook wall" was achieved with such tools as chalk, coal or sharp stones.

I've read “graffiti” means scratches in Italian. Connected to the word historically, it is perhaps oddly fitting that Rome, the capital of Italy, and neighboring Florence seem to possess more graffiti than the other places we visited in Europe. It is a dubious distinction that begs to be resolved.

A local guide said that as soon as the graffiti is painted over fresh graffiti appears. Although the most iconic historical places guarded around the clock are generally clear of it, much of Rome is not. It takes a contortionist in some cases to leave a mark behind gates and fences, along bustling highways, edges of bridges and on city walls where people and traffic scurry by.

Unfamiliar with the language, I don't know what, if anything, is being said in my photographs of graffiti.

Nonetheless, it is bewildering and disturbing to find such persistent markings in juxtaposition to exquisite art and architecture and some of the world's most precious historical monuments.


  1. It must take the graffitist a long time to paint some of those things. I've often wondered about the ones on boxcars - do people deliberately go to the railyards in order to paint things on the trains?
    I can understand how this must have been disturbing to someone expecting history and art in Rome. Perhaps it all started there? And made its way to Canada and elsewhere by some strange route?
    Most mysterious, and slightly disturbing.
    I'm sorry you had to see graffiti where you expected history but, perhaps, this is history of a kind you and I don't understand?
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  2. Kay, although there is, indeed, a disturbing abundance of graffiti, it could not outshine the layers and layers of architectural and artist wonders we found at every step in Rome.

  3. I did not think that graffiti was happening in Italy like it is here in Canada and the US. Hope you were able to enjoy the sights of the city without the interference of these ugly graffiti all over. It disgusts me that people do these things. Surely there must be another way to create instead of defacing beautiful old buildings.

  4. Graffiti is a worldwide problem for sure. I've heard it explained as a way for people (mostly male) to express themselves because they feel like they are not being heard. I don't know if that's true or not, though.

  5. Very interesting photos. A different perspective to the Italian landscape and scenery we see on television, movies and travel magazines. I guess it is a form of 'modern day' art ? You are a great photographer with a keen eye.Have a wonderful cheery Christmassy December! Michelle

  6. that is an excessive amount of grafitti, yikes!


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