Why Rome is Currently the Luckiest City on Earth

6 Nov

Italians have a way with turning unfortunate events into fortunate for the “victim” of said event.

Take, for example, the most unpleasant occurrence of having a bird decide that you’re his or her target practice and suddenly finding yourself with a nice big stain on your shoulder, jacket, pants, or even worse… in your hair (happpened to a former university student I worked with here). And so there you are, stuck in the middle of the city with no way to clean up, and people look at you smiling and saying “Porta fortuna!” — “It brings good luck!” You’ve gotta love that.

Well, folks, let me tell you: if you’ve always dreamed of winning the lottery or making it big in Vegas, now is the time to consider a plane ticket to Rome your ticket to everlasting happiness. Because this city is becoming a serious source of good fortune if you equate the current level of bird crap with the level of luck.

People, don’t laugh… I am serious. This year, “bird business” is invading our city like never before—and I have had about enough of it.

I should back up for a moment.

Any of you who have been to Rome in the fall/winter months have probably seen the effect that the starlings have on the city. They fly in the thousands and make strange formations. At first it seems interesting and, dare I say it, even poetic at times. No harm done.

This year though, it seems like the city has totally dropped the ball in terms of preventing them from using Rome as their public toilet. I mean, I have never seen the likes of it. There are entire areas COVERED in the stuff, just covered, and smelly. I’ve seen cars that are so covered that I literally have no idea how the owners are going to get them clean again without having to just sell the car for parts and head to the dealership for a new one. I’m not going to describe this in any more detail than necessary but suffice it to say that it’s a nasty green and black, sticks like glue, and is, of course, totally disgusting.

Every evening these creatures come out and start their nightly dance. They make a bunch of noise, fly around, and it starts to rain, but not water. I swear it’s worse than an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I’ve read up a bit on this and here’s the scoop from the City of Rome’s Animal Rights Office:

– The starlings arrived in Rome in the winter of 1925-26 and have progressively increased since then.

– The Animal Rights Office estimates current numbers of these creatures in the city at around FIVE MILLION.

– Following are the most problematic areas (or areas most likely for viewing if that’s what you’re looking for):

Prati: via Andrea Doria – via delle Milizie – via Barletta – viale Angelico – via Monte Santo – via Sabotino – piazzale Clodio- piazza dei Quiriti; Piazza Cavour;
Re di Roma: piazza Re di Roma – via Appia Nuova;
EUR: viale Europa- viale America;
Ostia: via della Stazione Vecchia;
Stazione Termini: piazza dei Cinquecento – via Terme di Diocleziano – piazza della Repubblica

Apparently there is a campaign in place to get these flying crappers under control, but so far I haven’t seen any positive effects. It’s so bad that it even made the nightly news the other night. The Animal Rights Office says that the only humane way to control this epidemic is by sending out a “distress call” to disperse the birds and make them go away. So their 2007/2008 campaign proposes:

– Fixed loudspeakers mounted on trees in the “Milizie” area (Prati). They figure having them in the trees delivers the distress signal best, because it’s direct and isn’t affected by traffic noise.
– Individual workers carrying portable megaphones that send out the distress call.
– Portable CD players that send out the distress call, which they’ve electronically recorded onto CDs. No idea how they plan to disseminate the call from CD players.
– Studies of the different phases of the distress call in order to determine which particular phases are most effective. (“H” and “I” just in case you’re wondering).
-Lights to increase disturbance to the birds, mounted on trees and flashed quickly and in random patterns.

Well, God bless ’em for trying, but so far I sure as heck haven’t seen anyone walking around with a megaphone and sending out a distress call. In fact, I myself am about to send out a major distress call of my own. The other night I went out onto the roof of our building to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. This video might make you kind of seasick because I was moving the camera around a lot, but it’s just because I wanted to try to portray the vastness of it all. And let me tell you that there were at least 3 loud “splats” on my roof as I was filming. I was trying to crouch near the door so as to not “get lucky,” so to speak.
[please click through to the post to view, if you’re reading from a feed reader]

Look, here’s what I’m thinking. Just give it a few more years, and the video below will show you exactly the kind of effect you’re going to see in Rome. It’s not a pretty picture, folks. They’re coming for us. Take cover while you still can.


21 Responses to “Why Rome is Currently the Luckiest City on Earth”

  1. Giulia November 6, 2007 at 12:24 pm #

    OH MY! I remember once, back home, when a whole mess of black birds totally swarmed my back yard. I was scared as hell wondering what on earth was going on?! I watched from the safety of my home but if I were outside when it happened, I surely would have gotten pelted, in more ways than one!
    I hope they can find a solution to this problem.

  2. Gina November 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm #


    What a valiant effort, Shelley. Thank goodness you weren’t “hit.” They look less like birds and more like a swarm of insects.

    I got hit by pigeon coming out of the Duomo in Perugia a few years ago. Right on the head. Good aim. Everyone clapped.

  3. rinaz November 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    Gosh, thats alot of birds. I would be scared stiff to do anything in your situation.

    Unrelated to the topic, thats a beautiful sunset that you’ve captured there. Most gorgeous if it wasnt dotted with those birds :\

  4. eva November 6, 2007 at 2:32 pm #

    I recall reading you live in Trastevere, have you noticed the new influx of these birds on Viale Trastevere?!? I’d never seen such “crapped-up” sidewalks before on this streets, but now if you go down the viale (from s. crisogono toward the standa) the whole right side of the street is literally smeared with bird shit- it’s sickening and suprising because we’ve never had that problem in this area.

  5. Maryann@FindingLaDolceVita November 6, 2007 at 3:32 pm #

    That’s way too many birds! Why don’t they employ hawks?

  6. qualcosa di bello November 6, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    a little hitchcock in the eternal city…thanks for the not-heads up!!!

  7. Robert November 6, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    My sister told me about her experience with these birds when she lived in Rome. She and her friend had to take shelter under a bus stop when it started to ‘rain’ in the evening as the birds were coming in to roost.

    Apparently they are attracted to Rome because it is so much warmer in the city than in the surrounding countryside.

    Also, thanks for the clip from ‘The Birds’ – a classic!

  8. Nancy November 6, 2007 at 3:44 pm #

    Well I agree 100%. I was in Florence and Rome last February and while I wasn’t blessed by these little buggers in Rome, I was while eating a gelato in Florence. The little sucker got me right on top of my head! Ewww, luckily I was right down the street from my hotel and was able to clean up! Yuck!

  9. Sherry November 6, 2007 at 4:17 pm #

    Ummmm yeah, I was real “lucky” when I visited Rome a few months ago. Thank goodness I had my trusty antibacterial wipes with me. They got me on the hand and it was disgusting.

  10. nyc/caribbean ragazza November 6, 2007 at 4:59 pm #

    Can they give the birds birth control (wait, as I wrote that sentence I remembered that Vatican might have something to say about that.)?

    In Hollywood they are having a MAJOR pigeon problem. The city said it was a health hazard and started using birth control to get the population down.

  11. cheeky November 6, 2007 at 9:11 pm #

    Oh pooh!
    My mom got pooped on by a pigeon once while we were waiting for a table outside a restaurant. It was utterly disgusting. I cannot even imagine the problem in Rome. I guess everyone will need to carry a parasol on a regular basis now?

  12. Kelli November 6, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    This happened to me today for the first time! What serendipity that I should read this. I had no idea it was a sign of good luck. 🙂

  13. Janavi November 7, 2007 at 12:13 am #

    I have been “lucky” many times here in NY because
    of the pidgeons.
    We also think it’s good luck-so strange.

  14. Isabelle November 7, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    Yep, I’ve noticed it from my window one or two days after arriving in Rome…
    one awful place is near largo argentina, there’s a small park with 2 or 3 trees, totally invaded by birds at 5pm… Scary…
    Thanks for the small excerpt of The Birds 😉

  15. Shelley, At Home in Rome November 7, 2007 at 5:04 pm #

    Rinaz: You’re right, it really was a beautiful sunset! And it’s like Gina says, they totally look like insects, so sadly it kind of spoils it.

    Eva: OMG, totally. It is soooooo disgusting. I’ve heard the reason why all of a sudden Viale Trastevere is so coated is because they’ve started cutting the trees in Prati (I think just the branches) so they are all flocking to the trees that line Viale Trastevere. I swear to God the other day Ale and I purposely crossed the street just so we didn’t have to walk in front of S. Crisogono, it’s really one of the worst spots right now. How the heck are they going to clean all that gook off the street? And have you seen the unlucky souls who chose to park in front of the church? Their cars get so messed up.

    Maryann: Apparently hawks are considered inhumane so they are only resorting to the distress call, at least that’s what I understood from the website I found and from the news.

    NYC: That’s really funny, I didn’t know they could use that as a method but hey I’m saying whatever works at this point. They come out in the mornings too and it’s getting out of control.

    Look how many lucky people commented!! 😉

  16. Marianne November 7, 2007 at 5:07 pm #

    Wow. How long each night do they stay around… hopefully not the entire night, every night?

    I suppose car insurance doesn’t cover the damage to the cars. Geesh…what about restaurants with outside seating? Ick.

    Thanks for the videos, especially “The Birds”. A trip down memory lane!!!

  17. Francesca November 7, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    Consider me lucky too – it happened in a park right near Via Arenula to me when I was in college there. Water bottles do come in handy in a pinch!

  18. Elle November 7, 2007 at 10:09 pm #

    I have amazing picture of a car i took here, literally so covered you couldnt see the original colour! I have never seen anything like it!

  19. Cinzia November 8, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    Just a note to say something that will not sound “human” to “Animalisti”: Hunting storni-sterlings has been forbidden since some years now. The farmers were happy if hunters hunted them cause these birds ruin olive trees plantations and I bet any animalista who has a car is not happy at all, either.
    I don’t like fanatici of any type. So while I wouldn’t hurt an animal anyhow, I don’t have problems killing scarafaggi and so on. I might be strange but animalisti are even more in my opinion.

  20. Valerie November 8, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    On the one-year anniversary of living here I received la buona fortuna from a flying crapper. Such a lovely gift, I tell you. Everyone said, ‘ah! Good luck follows!’ Speriamo di si, but having to go home and shower all over again didn’t seem lucky to me! Thankfully I was only a few minutes from our apartment and *able* to get home to clean up!

  21. Rachele January 13, 2008 at 12:43 am #

    uffa!!!! the birds are no longer romantic dancing around in what looks like graph theory……i have been pooped on and ridden in pooped on cars….it is becoming a problem, you are right. Sometimes there are so may in one tree that you start to get freaked out and think its progressivly getting louder and they are going to attack. or kind of like being in a pub with loud music and you have to yell over it to talk…eeekkk

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