It’s been many years since I was in Rome, but I remember my first impression of the city: it’s extremely beautiful, and it smells like poop. Part of that smell comes because Italians tend to have dogs, rather than children. And part of the smell comes because, at least when I was there, public bathrooms are few and far between, and they are coin operated. The phrase “eternal city” takes on a whole new meaning when you are penniless, on foot, and have nowhere to go for hour upon hour.
For a college sophomore spending a semester abroad, this discomfort had its exotic charm. For the thousands of homeless men and women who live in Rome, having nowhere to relieve themselves — and nowhere to shower after a day in city of grit and Mediterranean sunshine– is a daily reality which means nothing but more humiliation.