A number of my friends and students knew that I was coming to Rome this week and had asked for my views on the city as a street photography destination. Well, we’re coming to the end of an eight day recce trip (not the first!) and I think I know the city reasonably well. 

I had been planning street photography workshops in Rome but have now decided against it. Why? In no particular order. . .

  • There are simply too many people – mostly uninteresting and scruffy tourists; you’ll be lucky to stumble upon stylish locals (unlike Milan)
  • Cars and mopeds now dominate the landscape – its hard to get a clean shot of anything.
  • If you’re expecting to see scenes like those in Roman Holiday, forget it. The essence of this great city has been diluted to the point that there’s now very little of the charm or quirkiness you’d be hoping for. Like Paris has lost its ‘Frenchness’, Rome is rapidly losing its Italian identity and, the old buildings aside, the city now feels bland and commercialised. 
  • Rubbish and dirty streets: there is a growing and well documented waste management problem. Cigarette butts are piling up in the gutters and around every litter bin there’s a huge mound of smelly waste. Even the once-charming Trastevere area is now littered with abandoned e-scooters (this is a big problem in Rome), graffiti on almost every wall and streets which smell of pee (I believe there’s a problem with junkies in Trasevere which has led to a crime wave, mostly targeted at tourists). I’m not averse to street art, by the way, but this is the worst kind of graffiti- ugly and often offensive. 
  • Scammers are all around you. Not a big problem if you’re aware, just a real irritation. 
  • However, crime is becoming more of an issue and the local police are unable to keep up with it – just search for this on YouTube – and don’t go anywhere even remotely close to the Termini railway station unless you absolutely need to (I’m being realistic here, not melodramatic). 
  • There’s a massive police presence in Rome. I can’t decide whether this is reassuring or disconcerting. 

Photographically, it’s a big let-down and so disappointing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m the sort of street photographer who can shoot anywhere and I don’t get too precious about locations – but I’ve never had so few (if any) keepers from an extensive trip. If you just want to take pictures of random tourists taking selfies you’ll get lots – but who wants those (even if they do have layers)? If you’re into the ‘lightscape’ kind of street photography (I’m not) there’s not much opportunity for that either. You may have scope to do something more documentary but you’ll need to go with a firm plan.

However, we’ve had a lovely holiday and there are many great things about Rome – but I’m sorry to say that street photography isn’t one of them. So, if you were hoping for a Rome workshop, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Try Venice instead!!

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