The Tiber River was a central part of Roman development and the reason why Rome is the way it is today. And yet, today the river has almost completely disappeared from daily life. It has ceased to be a part of the community other than providing an inconvenience to cross and a shelter for Rome’s homeless. On Thursday, Tom Rankin, who is trying to revitalize the river, came and talked to us about the struggles to revitalize the river while showing us around the quiet riverbank below the street.
It was shocking to see how Rome has failed to use the river where other major cities like Paris and London have incorporated rivers into their urban landscape. The Seine in Paris has beaches and other nice public spaces for its locals and the riverfront in London has also been utilized as a popular public space. Another city that utilized its river is Greenville, South Carolina. Until recently, it was just an average town in South Carolina. But they revamped downtown to make it more pedestrian friendly and more connected to the river. Now, downtown Greenville is a beautiful place with over fifty local restaurants.
But, steps are currently being taken by Rankin and others to try to change the lack of river use through recently paved bike paths, contemporary art shows, and other activities. Currently, a summer festival is going on; tents have been set up along the river’s edge and at night there is food, live music, and dancing. These are the kinds of activities that will hopefully encourage local use of the river and make the river a destination, not a hindrance.
Hopefully this festival is just one example of Rome once again utilizing its natural landscape and Tom Rankin and others like him can continue to have a positive impact on the city.