Not only do I love Rome, I love Rome’s trash collection ladies. These spirited women maneuver small utility vehicles through the crowded streets and piazzas emptying the always-full trash receptacles. Fit and lively, they don’t let their job get in the way of looking good and dressing well.
Dressed in cinched-at-the waist bright orange jumpsuits with strands of gold necklaces falling from their throats, they move quickly, ferrying trash back and forth. From time to time, they huddle together while wisps of their mostly long blond hair fall in their faces. They take a moment to trade smiles and laugh at their own private jokes.
As they adeptly remove full bags and fit new ones in the receptacles, the only clue to the messiness of this job is the bright red leg protectors they wear to keep the remnants of someone’s picnic lunch or gelato from soiling their outfits.
The first time I really noticed them was one very sunny and hot afternoon. After a lunch of lettuce and fennel salad and a carafe of sparkling water at a cafe near Piazza Navona, Haydee and I were sitting at the edge of the Four Rivers fountain chatting and people watching. The plaza was thick with people that afternoon and perhaps our choice of seat was not the best.
We were not the only ones who wanted to be close to the fountain. As we looked out at the crowds, people were jostling into position to take advantage of the photo opportunity at hand. Several times, our sandaled feet were stepped on as zealous photographers coaxed their subjects into position in front of us and the fountain.
A little too closed in for comfort, we gave up our places to the ready-to-be-photographed and wandered about. It was then that I spotted the trash collection ladies. They were, by far, the best thing happening in the plaza. I watched them for quite a while as we walked and they scooted around. As they disappeared from view, I stood and admired them, smiling at my luck of having discovered them.
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E. Slocum