Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Rome Journal I: The Whores of Rome

"Death of the Virgin" by Caravaggio (c.1606)
In ancient times Rome was a palace of debauchery. Gore Vidal wrote the script for Caligula, the story of the emperor who epitomized the debauchery that was Rome. In Mamma Roma, Pier Paolo Pasolini tells the tragic story of a retired prostitute who seeks to better herself and the life of her son. Indeed, the poverty of post-war Rome forced many women into prostitution. But today Rome’s primary business is tourism and as you negotiate your way through the buses of American, German and Japanese tourists who flock to the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla and the famed wedding cake, (the monument to Victor Emmanuel II), there’s nary prostitute in sight. Where are the whores of Rome? Well here is a comment on TripAdvisor written by a guest who stayed at a hotel on the Viale Guglielmo Marconi in the EUR, the area where Mussolini built his fascist housing  (remember that scene in Mamma Roma where Anna Magnani goes to locate one of her old sex worker friends in a similar part of town?): “THERE ARE PROSTITUTES ALL UP AND DOWN THE AVENUE!!! SO as you are walking back from the metro to your hotel you are bombarded by women with bras showing and butt cheeks hanging out. I was horrified and immediately felt unsafe.” In an article in The Guardian (“Rome red light district given green light,” 2/7/15) a neighborhood organizer named Cristina Lattanzi, who has lobbied for restrictions and who originally spoke to La Repubblica is quoted thusly, “Eur is already the city’s red light district with more than 20 streets under siege day and night. There are streets for transvestites, streets for very young girls, streets for male prostitution. Us residents need a bit of peace.” So Rome hasn’t really changed since ancient times. It’s just that the prostitutes have merely moved from the great monuments of antiquity, where they once openly plied their trade, to a different part of town.When in Rome...but even in Rome whores today are not what they used to be.


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