Organised chaos

To the untrained eye, Rome can seem like a particularly disorganised city. The energy of its squares and markets, the cacophony of the traffic and the enthusiasm of its sports fans and pilgrims may overwhelm, but one of Rome’s greatest gifts to its citizens is its ability to calmly organise chaos.

Take yesterday, for example. With 15,000 runners and nearly two million spectators due in town for the annual Rome marathon, the city was ready to slide into paralysis for at least seven hours from its 9.30 am race start.

Only a certain Pope Francesco was also scheduled to say his first Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at 12 noon, drawing some 300,000 worshippers and tourists to the Vatican. The marathon still went ahead, slightly deviated from its usual course along the flanks of St. Peter’s Basilica, with the traffic of pilgrims guided from the east of the square via the underground stop.

Spare a thought for the workers from Rome’s so daintily named “urban decorum” squad – street cleaners and dustbin-men and women – who installed some 260 chemical toilets around the city, including 20 disabled ones, and spread across Rome in the wake of the Angelus and the marathon in 50 rubbish trucks and cleaning vehicles to restore the city to its glory.

Words © Isobel Lee