Day eight: People of Pigneto

My stay in Rome is slowly coming to an end so I will spend this day by interviewing as many people as possible to collect various points of view.

I begin in the market that is closing.

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“Mondays there are only two of us, other days you find maybe 5 stands… The market used to be much bigger before, but nobody’s doing it anymore… It’s a tough job! You have to pack all the stuff in the afternoon, drop it in the stock and in the morning build everything again.  Some markets are covered and there you just lock your stuff in the end of the day. But this is hard…. Saturday is the strongest day. In the morning we open at 6:30 and all the old people that are used to get up early come here. In the afternoon we have to close, we have to respect the opening hours. Before the market was until very late, my uncle was a vendor and I was helping them, I remember very different regime of this market.”

 

I continue my tour passing around Contesta Rock Hair

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“You couldn’t catch a better sun than this. Such light you don’t get it anywhere else, maybe a little bit in New York but only during spring. […] This Contesta Rock Hair (chain of salons) was the first one, now we have branch in Florence, Miami, Shanghai… But it has all begin with this one, twenty years ago. It was always like this, very particular. So you can imagine the reaction that it caused twenty years ago. When we were celebrating the anniversary, we made a huge party here on the street it was beautiful.”

 

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“We have this shop for 15 years. Before the business was much better, now we have only few customers. We have a flat right above the store. I have to say that i didn’t like this place in the beginning, it was too messy but now it is nicer. We still have strong hours in the evening, but it is nothing compared to what it used to be like. Everybody goes to eat and drink to the restaurant …. Now there is also a new restriction for us – from May to October we cannot sell alcohol after 10 PM, it is valid for four months but we can feel the difference.  Our customers are mostly between 18 and 35 years. A lot of them are tourists as well, because now there are many accommodations around. We don’t really interact with neighbors in any way, in our house they also change very often, every three months there is somebody else living. There are 3 other Bangladesh shops around, but we have very good relations, we don’t see each other as competing businesses.”

 

Pigneto is extremely busy today. The Feminist cafe Tuba is organizing a literature festival of woman writers. The visitors are mostly from other parts of Rome or even from another cities. I interview 2 girls from Florence:

“Me and my girlfriend came just because of this festival, we are staying here in the hotel. We very very nicely surprised when we got here. We like it here a lot! It’s a very particular place, somehow isolated from everything else that is surrounding it. I’d say it’s perfect for a festival like this! “

 

My attention gets caught by an old women carrying heavy wooden tables outside of the bar. She explains:
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“This is a bar of my granddaughter. Now i’m waiting for her to arrive. They should open in a while. I am old… I do something, i put candles in the vases, I do what I can.  […]  I was born here in Pigneto and I lived here all my life. My mother had the first stand at the market, she was selling delicacies. That was one hundred years ago and it was beautiful back then… the world was pure, my darling, drug didn’t exist before, now the world is not pure anymore.  […] The bar closes practically in the morning, they work all night. Today is Saturday so they will close very late. I go to sleep very early, at 7 PM I am already in bed. Then I wake up everyday at 3 AM and I come here around 5 in the morning and I put everything in order. Because when girls close at 3 in the morning they are very tired and they don’t have energy to clean. I always need to do something, the day I will stop I will die.”
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“We are doing the cleaning events with people from the shelter. It’s a way of taking them out, doing something meaningful and slowly integrate them in the society by presenting them in a good way. Everyday we go to a different place, we provide them with some food from charity and in the evening I take them back to the shelter. I went through all this before, but now I work for the shelter as a mediator, i try to create the bridge between them and the outside world.”

 

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“You are a student and you are way to nice. Let me buy you an ice cream by Filippo.”

 

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I come back after a couple of hours and the nighttime mode is on.

 

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– I lived here for almost 8 years but now i don’t live here anymore. This pedestrian area was a project run by an ex mayor, before it was a horrible place! There were just pathways on both sides, road in the middle and it was very dirty and smelly.

– Now it’s all bohemian. All my friends that live here now, you know they are no hippies or junkies, they live a very nice life here now. And there are also a lot of people from the city center coming here, I came all the way from Flaminio. As you see now there are all these restaurants, before there was just street food but now there are different kinds of places even for wealthier people. […]

– I don’t feel weird about all the policemen, they were always here. Now there are maybe more of them because of terrorism as well. And there is also this new restriction to not to drink alcohol outside after 10 PM. But I don’t see any logic in this, if they would go around to find people that are making mess.. But they are making fines to everybody drinking outside which is not the same thing. I can get equally drunk in the bar and become a jerk, but because of this I cannot enjoy my beer after work on the bench.

– We like to come here in the evening and we stay maybe until 2 in the morning.

– The prices are good and honest, so you can still meet many local residents in the bars.

 

 

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– We come mostly during the evening or night. Few times it happened to me that I had my way through here in the morning so I saw the market.

– I never did, I’ve only seen this place in the dark.

– To stay here until 2 AM during the weekend is very normal. But you rarely hear or see the local residents, I don’t even have any idea about who lives here.

– Yes I remember times before the pedestrian area was made, the nights were much calmer. I think they made a good job with the re-qualification of the neighborhood. On the other side it was more intimate back then, less popular.

Day four: All that glitters is not gold

I dedicate this day to see parts of Pigneto that I don’t know yet. I don’t ride my bike the quickest or the nicest way, I try to get intentionally lost. I am observing the urban structure, village looking low rise houses mix with mid rise mass housing. I never know what to expect turning in one of the hundreds one-way streets.

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Very soon I find a market which existence was hidden from me. The market reminds me more of a Viennese style markets or the ones I know from other parts of Europe. It is organised within a courtyard, the stands are officially established, but at least half them is closed.

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I talk to couple of vendors and apparently the rent is too high and customers are not many. Outside of the courtyard there is a woman selling garlic without any licence.

“Before I also had stand inside. But I was paying more than I could earn.. “

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Another pair of randomly chosen turns and I find myself in front of Parco Nuccitelli. The fence is covered by numerous posters that catch my attention.

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Translation (short version)  

“ALL TOGETHER FOR PIGNETO!

NUCCITELLI-PERSIANI: PUBLIC SQUARE!

FREE USE AND FREE ACCESS!

The administration of municipality has expressed a negative statement to a proposal of “ urban regeneration” that came from the owner of the new bar: we will keep this position and we want to make it respected in its all content.

The one that speaks about the “regeneration” or “development” will in reality use this place and its surroundings as another of many bars that will attract hundreds of clients during the day but mostly during the night!

We want to defend ourselves from the decay and from the wild nightlife that would eventually invade even this part of Pigneto.

With this cheat of “regeneration” we could completely forget our constitutional right to silent hours and the quality of the dignified life.  …

We demand the respect for the residents of Pigneto.

The next meeting 21st September. 

People that regenerate the neighborhood are these who live here, not those who want to commercialize it! “

So this is something interesting! An event I cannot miss.

 

I enter the park to speak to two man swinging their kids and they explain me more:

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“I was born here so I can tell all the changes this place went through! This used to be a quarter for poor people! Even if some of them were drug addicts it was still nicer than now. People came and build their houses from bricks, there was no plan for this area, just look around – each house is different… But now these houses are worth fortune, people are selling them and so they turn into BnB or bars and restaurants. It is all becoming a part of this radical chique society and to be honest it is making me sick! We are losing even this little of the public space that has remained to us.”

Day three: Necci, the heart of Pigneto

In order to map the differences of nighttime and daytime I decided to spent this day in Necci. It’s a famous place loved by the locals, many of them come here for breakfast, to swap few words and to read the morning news. I am sitting, writing, observing and taking pictures.

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Breakfast hours turn fluently into lunch time. Clients come and go. I can distinguish foreign languages, some people are obviously tourists. Suddenly I notice a lonely man, a Jamaican i guess because of his long gray dreadlocks. I quickly explain my intentions and we soon begin a wonderful interview. So Bedlu, do you often come here?

We are all addicted to this place. The first thing I do after getting up in the morning is to come to Necci. Sometimes I spent entire days here, during the day it is a place that belongs to this quarter, but in the evening it becomes a bar as any other and many people from other parts of Rome come here for dinner. So in the evening I usually go somewhere else because here it temporarily loses its atmosphere.”

I am surprised by the perfection of his spoken Italian. As I got to know, he lives in Pigneto for 10 years already. He will be the right person to tell me about all the changes!

“Oh yes, it has changed so much! Especially the last two years, the commercial aspect has developed. Plenty of new bars and restaurants have open, but who are these people? They are the clever ones, that already had bars in Trastevere or in the city center and now they understood that Pigneto is becoming cool. Somehow they bring this unfamiliar culture here, there are girls in front of the bar inviting you inside… “

Exactly! I noticed that some bar have even the menu written in English! I was shocked..

It seems almost like an antithesis of the meaning of this place.. The pedestrian island is now a trap for clients, I don’t go there anymore i prefer these parts now, if feels like the local spirit is moving in this direction, further away from the center.”

Are you afraid that Pigneto could become a new Trastevere, where you hear more American than Italian now?

“Look, now many other neighborhoods are opening bars that were typical for Pigneto. Centocelle, Tor Pignatara.. All of these local people prefer to stay there and they create they own communities. So I can’t say that something is positive or negative, it is all changing all the time. Everything is just process, I am not scared that this place could become a new Trastevere, I am only a guest here. Even if I feel this space in all my veins and I could not live anywhere else.”

We exchange our mutual affection for this place and my new friend sums it up perfectly.

Pigneto is one of the most particular places in Rome. It unites various cultures, sexual orientations, ethnicities, generations … Pigneto unites everybody that is insecure or somehow problematic, everybody that felt unsettled in their life, all that felt disturbance and the danger. Here it’s all based on the fragility that demonstrates itself in various ways.”

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Bedlu keeps greeting all his friends that are passing around us, so we get often interrupted by a stranger that only confirms what he’s saying. He continues..

“The thing I like the most is that when I walk the street I say Ciao to a 80 years old signora, to a baby girl that is 4, to her 30 years old dad, to a beautiful chick that is 24, to a drug dealer, to a butcher, to a trans, but also to a young fascist haha…. It’s like to stay in a perpetual vacation here. In very precarious conditions, possibly without money but it is still a wonderful place to be because everybody is accepted here. Were you a robber? It’s not a problem. Were you dealing drugs? It’s not a problem. Here people don’t judge the others, they help them and integrate them.”

 

After more than one hour I turn off the recorder to enjoy the rest of the evening surrounded by the “addicted ones” that already accumulated at our table.

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