Thoughts on Italy: Festa de Graffiti

By Christine Simmons

Student in front of Italian graffitiItaly may or may not have a tagging problem. As I sat in my seat on the train from the airport I glanced out the window to find the most beautiful scenery I have ever witness speeding by. The train slowed down at the first stop and that is when I noticed all of the color on the walls and fences I had seen against the landscape was graffiti. I have never lived outside of the Milwaukee area where the graffiti has become more and more scarce over the years. Seeing this display of multicolored artwork actually made me laugh.  It wasn’t funny that someone had purposely damaged such old and historic property but it was peculiar to see so much vandalism in such a beautiful place. I took a video immediately because I was so shocked by this excessive amount of graffiti. After five days in Rome, I started getting use to seeing the vibrantly colored words, which I didn’t understand, all over the place. Sometimes I found it in the most brightly lit, people filled spots. I thought to myself, “How come no one stops this from happening?” and “It is such a busy city wouldn’t they get caught right away?”  For a hot spot city such as Rome, I did not understand why I never actually saw someone in the process of tagging. It was as though the spray painted walls appeared from nowhere.

Magic or gangs? Either way, the vandalism did not stop in Rome. The first walking tour of Cagli I spotted the graffiti again. This time it was different.  The graffiti is still around every corner but it is not as noticeable because of the placement and small size of it.  Darker allies and streets are the main canvas for the spray painted words and symbols around Cagli. The amount of graffiti scattered around these allies are significantly smaller than Rome.  This makes me think that the Cagli people care about their city more. It is a smaller and closer city, so they take care of it and although they cannot prevent all tagging they can certainly limit it.

This small city theory I originally thought would prevent an excessive amount of vandalism was destroyed when it came to Assisi. The day trip to Assisi opened my eyes a lot.  I did not see one bit of graffiti. My guess is this may be due to the strong sense of faith and the respect the people have for this holy city. This may also be that the laws are much stricter. I don’t know the laws of vandalism in Italy but looking at three different cities with complete different assortment of tagging makes me think the laws may be enforced more harshly in Assisi compared to Rome.

So to rephrase my first comment, perhaps all of Italy does not have a tagging problem but some parts do. I compare the places we have traveled to my hometown, South Milwaukee, and see an extreme problem in Rome and even Cagli. My hometown does not have beautiful landscapes, historic buildings, or any kind of tourist attraction spot like Rome and Cagli, but we also don’t have a tagging problem. Perhaps the vandalism will slow down but with the growing amount I spot everyday, it is heartbreaking that these beautiful old buildings have to suffer the consequences.

Christine Simmons is a student participating in the study abroad program this summer in Cagli, Italy. Read more about the students’ experiences on the Cagli Marquette blog.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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