While the appearance of the internet has undoubtedly changed many ways of doing things in Italy over the past thirty years, that is, since I finished my course of studies here in 1988, some things remain unchanged. One of them is the announcements of coming events that are printed on small or large paper posters and attached to the sides of buildings, free standing walls or stands made of metal, specifically designed to have such notices attached.
Be it an announcement of an exhibit of paintings by Pinturicchio, the famous Sienese artist of the 15th century taking place at the Capitoline Museum or a forthcoming opera performance, these signs are quite useful for notifying the public of events taking place or soon to occur in the city of Rome. The signs are particularly useful for people who may not spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet gathering information. I am among that group.
Living in the historic center of Rome, near many famous sites, I presume there are fairly strict ordinances regarding what kind of notices can go up, where they can be and how long they can be there. I also see many “no posting of notices here” around town. Also, and not surprisingly, with presumably regular surveillance, there seems to be little graffiti in the historic center of the city. There are, however, a fair amount of paper signs as described above around the center of Rome.
Another place where important notices can regularly be found is on bulletin boards in the city’s churches. Rome has literally hundreds of churches, with many or most of them open to the public during the day and evening, every day of the week. Other churches are rarely open and some not at all.
The notices posted inside of churches often announce forthcoming conferences, retreats, chant classes or organized pilgrimages to shrines, such as San Giovanni Rotondo, where Saint Pio of Pietrelcina is venerated, as well as news of special Masses that may be coming up with a distinguished celebrant or guest speaker.
Sometimes the announcement on a church bulletin board is about a special anniversary of a parish, such as our local parish of “Santa Maria in Campitelli in Portico” that celebrated eight hundred years of existence on April 5th this year. A number of us here at our Sant’Ambrogio curia attended the Mass that evening. Our pastor, Padre Davide, had personally invited us, but there were also notices of the event inside and outside the church for some days prior to the celebration.
I know that the pastor and the other priests who take care of the parish, members of the Order of Mater Dei from Italy, Africa and India, were grateful we came. The parish church is an impressive structure, and though the present building does not date from eight hundred years ago, it is still remarkable to think that a parish has had an existence for eight hundred years! My own home parish in Portland, Oregon, is just a little over one hundred years old.
For news of upcoming events, I also try to remember to go to Sant’Anselmo, the international Benedictine center on the Aventine Hill, where I lived from 1985 to 1988. It takes approximately twenty minutes to walk there from where I live at Sant’Ambrogio. In the main cloister at Sant’Anselmo are several bulletin boards containing notices of events taking place in the city sometime in the future. I have found more than one worthwhile notice there.
Not that I attend a fraction of what I see advertized in the city, but there is at least the chance to make a decision by taking note of the posted announcements on city walls or in churches around town. In some cases it has been a matter of “how did I possibly miss this or that announcement?” regarding an event already well past that I might have liked to attend, but completely overlooked the announcement. But it happens!
As a slight diversion, some signs that I have seen in churches, such as at the famous “Basilica di Sant’Andrea della Valle,” the setting for the opening of the opera “Tosca,” by Giacomo Puccini, remind visitors, in English as well as Italian, not to give to people who may be begging in the church, and in fact to notify the police if visitors are approached by beggars. I presume there is a definite history behind this warning.
I am not seeing much of another type of sign in the historic center of Rome, but perhaps it is more common outside the city itself. I certainly saw this form of signage in Naples earlier this year and near Siena where I was in August. I am referring to large, printed death notices of local personages, famous or not, whose date of birth and death and a bit about the deceased, sometimes including a photo, are printed and attached to the side of buildings or a perhaps on a stone, brick or cement wall.
Such signs are normally on thick white paper, usually about two feet wide and a foot or so tall. As in many death notices, the text and photo are framed in a black border. These tributes are definitely “from the heart,” and another means of “getting the word out” of what has recently transpired for the information of local residents.
Humans are people who, among a myriad of other things, communicate in one form or another. Even animals, we now know, have developed forms of communicating by the sounds they make, such as, “here comes an enemy,” or “this is my tree,” or “you are my pal.” The printed word is a common and fairly direct form of communication for people throughout the ages up to the present.
Today the forms of communication may be quite diverse, especially with the presence of the internet and the World Wide Web, but it is refreshing for me to see a very basic form of communication, words printed on paper, fairly neatly displayed for clear comprehension, still in force in the city of Rome.