Today was Festa della Repubblica in Italy, which celebrates the day in 1946 when the public voted thumbs down on the monarchy and thumbs up to a new republic. All male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile. Here in Rome, the day is commemorated by a military parade that is presided over by the president. There are whole company formations of various armed units, military bands, police, firefighters—basically if you wear a uniform here for your job, you’re in this parade. I was somewhat hesitant to go because I’m not great in crowds, but I wanted to see the famous frecce tricolori, the aerobatic demonstration by the Air Force’s ten fighter planes, which fly over Piazza Venezia and leave a trail of green, white and red smoke. In general, there’s not a lot of flag waving here—basically the only Italian flags you see are on government buildings or in souvenir shops and tourist T shirts. But today is different — today everyone is patriotic, and I wanted to experience that.
I missed the first fly-by because I was stuck on a bus in a gigantic traffic jam, but I soon made the rounds of the parade highlights, once or twice getting myself trapped in a bottleneck of chaotic humanity. Luckily, it didn’t last long, and eventually I found my way to more open spaces. I did catch the second and third fly-by of the frecce tricolori but wasn’t fast enough to capture a good photo—all I got was the tail end of the colored smoke, as pictured below.
Eventually, I departed from the parade crowds and crossed the bridge to Trastevere in search of a quiet, cool spot for lunch. I really like this neighborhood. Even with lots of people it feels calmer, away from the action. I like that the streets are windy and narrow and you can get lost here. But today, unlike years ago, it’s just about impossible to get lost if you have a cell phone. I make an effort to put my phone away and only when I want to find my way home do I take it out again to get my bearings with GPS. I walk home along the Tiber foot path until I reach Castel Sant’Angelo. The footpath has got to be 4-5 stories below street level—there are a lot of steps down to the river from the street. I’ve heard stories of the Tiber flooding but wow, it’s got to get incredibly high to breach these walls. I try to compare it to the Schuylkill in Philly, where it doesn’t take that much to cause a flood. How is it possible that these steep walls can’t contain the raging river? The foot path is not so busy, but then again it’s a holiday and all the action is elsewhere. I welcome the quiet. There’s another person taking photos, and like me, he stops at all the opportune photo ops—we take turns taking shots of what we hope will be a great image.
In my photography class I picked the Tiber River as my subject for my semester project. This walk home along the river is a good opportunity for me to add images to this ongoing project: a look at Rome from the point of view of the river. It’s there wherever you go, cutting a swath through the city. As a tourist or a commuter, you are constantly crossing and re-crossing the Tiber River, often at a standstill as buses wait their turn at the busy crossroads. Down below it’s a different world, and I want to show this city from that angle. Next week a summer festival along the river will begin and I’ll get to photograph the festivities at night — but today I focus on a weekend afternoon.