Rome’s Promised Artificial Riverside Beach Opens After Delays; Faces Criticism

By Maria Michela D'Alessandro, Special to The Epoch Times
September 20, 2018 Updated: September 20, 2018

ROME—Surrounded by daily traffic jams, the numerous signs on the Ponte Marconi bridge, located in the southern part of the Italian capital, simply say “Tìberis, the beach of Rome.”

Officially inaugurated on Aug. 4, 2018, the 10,000-square-meter (107,639 square-foot) artificial beach is inspired by the City of Lights’ Paris Plages, where temporary beaches pop up along the Seine in summer. The long-awaited beach is open every day—for free—until the end of September, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Tiberis
Beach volleyball courts in Rome’s artificial beach, Tiberis, on Sept. 12, 2018. (Maria Michela D’alessandro/Special to The Epoch Times)

“If the summery temperatures of this period last over the next month, the beach might be open until the first days of October,” Daniele, one of the beach cleaners, told The Epoch Times on Sept. 12.

In contrast to the Tevere Village, a man-made beach set up on both sides of the Tiber River between the central Ponte Sant’Angelo and Ponte Umberto in 2005, Tìberis sits along the Tiber just south of the bustling historic center between the San Paolo and Marconi districts. Tìberis literally means Tiber (river) in Latin.

“Of course, Tìberis is different from a typical beach; it isn’t possible to take a soak or swim in the river—the Tiber’s too polluted for swimming—there is not a cafe or a restaurant and it is small, but it is for free, it is clean and calm, and it is not easy to find something similar nearby,” said Daniele, who went to the beach to get a tan during his day off.

Every day, a cleaner working for the Colser Cooperative is responsible for keeping the bathrooms and showers clean, while for security reasons, two retired unarmed policemen supervise the area. They both requested anonymity and were unable to talk about their job, but said there have been no incidents since the beach opened. Both said it was a needed place in Rome.

Other beachgoers weren’t so sure.

Criticism

“It looks like a horrific place, I do not like it at all,” Barbara Li Donni told The Epoch Times. For the woman, who reluctantly went to the beach with a friend, seeing it only confirmed her dissatisfaction with the project.

As the sun goes down and people leave, the feelings of Emanuele and Martina, both in their 20s, are clear. “It is our first time here and we really like it; we can finally go to the beach without going to Ostia, 24 kilometers away,” Emanuele told The Epoch Times.

Tiberis
Rome’s artificial beach, Tiberis, on Sept. 12, 2018. (Maria Michela D’alessandro/Special to The Epoch Times)

This oasis in the concrete jungle of the city was indeed supposed to be an alternative to the coast and a summertime gift from Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, a member of the Five Stars Movement. But some criticisms have affected the overall impression of the venue.

There was the delay in opening. While the city administration began discussing the project a year ago, it wasn’t announced until the end of the year that the first new beach in the city in more than 10 years would open in June.

There also were ideas to privatize the area, but in December, it was announced that the site wouldn’t be privatized, but rather managed by the city and its newly established Special Office for the Tiber. The office was set up as part of a larger plan to regenerate the Tiber and make it more accessible to residents.

The delay became evident, as piled-up sand and access ways onto the site near Ponte Marconi were still idle by the end of July.

Regeneration

Despite not opening until well into the summer, the 22 umbrellas and 48 sunbeds, drinking water fountain, portable toilets, eight changing rooms, and eight showers provided by the city seem to satisfy the citizens who frequent the beach.

“For years, the land was abandoned and dirty, and once known for illegal shantytowns. Today, we see the first part of the development of an area where people and children can play beach volleyball—there are two courts—and to let citizens appreciate the natural and faunal beauties of the Tiber that few know,” Silvano Simoni, an engineer in the Department of Environmental Sustainability, said during the inauguration of the beach.

The city started the reclamation of the area one year ago, with the removal of about 90 truckloads of garbage. The trash was replaced by a sandy beach and grassy areas, along with the other amenities. While there is currently no refreshment area, there are vending machines that sell drinks and snacks.

“I grew up in Rome, in the Trastevere district, and now that I am retired, I enjoy coming here,” said city resident Anna Maria. “Today, I decided to come with my little niece to show her how nice this place is. I think the city of Rome has done a great job; only one year ago, there were gypsies, rats, and garbage. People who don’t appreciate small things cannot enjoy this beach, they can only complain. I am satisfied.”

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