Un Angelo Vola Su Monti
Cities are built on tiny little communities. Little boroughs and pockets that flourish internally to the larger whole. This was true of Boston and of London, but I really feel that here in Rome. You may have noticed many photos of the Monti neighborhood of Rome, which is due to the fact that I work in the area and probably have spent more hours there than any other area of the city. It’s an amazing little area, on the brink of gentrification but with old Roman tradition at the core. Being there every day you can’t help but get to know everyone, whether they are people you talk to or just people whose faces you know.
Yesterday I received news that Monti had lost one of its most recognizable faces, Angelo. If you spent any time in the area, you know who I’m speaking about, whether you knew his name was Angelo or not. Angelo lived on the street, I’m not sure for how long, but at least the more than four years I’ve been frequenting Monti. You can call him homeless, a barbone, what you will, but the fact is that he was a big part of Monti. I would mainly see him in Piazza Madonna dei Monti, sitting by the fountain. Sometimes he’d be drinking wine, sometimes he would be sipping tea, but he was always there. I personally didn’t speak to him much, but one of the last interactions we had was my colleague buying him a gelato this summer – he specifically requested his favorite flavors. You’d see him with a freshly trimmed beard every so often or a sandwich…..you’d see him get angry and yell at the local bar for not giving him wine, but you’d also see him pick up trash people threw in the piazza, making his “home” clean. You’d see him help Roberta put out the morning papers. All of these little things that even as I write, my eyes begin to tear up. Yes, for sadness that he is gone, but also at the beauty of this community, this neighborhood that came together to embrace him and become his “family.”
It’s ironic that we heard of his passing yesterday, as just this weekend I was thinking of him and thinking that I hadn’t seen him in a little bit. I wanted to photograph him, ask him for a portrait. I waited too long and now I won’t get the chance.
Flyers went out yesterday that a service was to be held this afternoon in the local church. My colleagues and I planned to be there and as we rounded the corner it was astonishing to see how many people were there. He filled the church. The banners created – “Come va lei?” (His standard morning greeting…always in the formal tense) and “Un Angelo Vola Su Monti” (An Angel Flys Over Monti). A beautiful sentiment playing on his name and fittingly describing the mark he has left on our neighborhood. Young and old were there, everyone from the neighborhood – people who live there and people who work there, like me. Local teenagers helped bring the casket in the church as we all applauded. I wonder if he knows how many people were touched by his presence? There’s not a lot people know about his background, why he was on the street, or how he passed. There are rumors, of course, and we found out he had been in the hospital for awhile, but nothing concrete as to why.
I will miss seeing him in the piazza, his presence there was comforting, like an old friend. But I will never forget what I saw today, this “family” of strangers and friends, coming together to celebrate someone who they embraced, both for good and bad. I will always regret I never got his portrait when I had the chance, but I will post this one from Flickr by Nash72.
Rest in Peace Angelo….I know you are in a better place and I know you are watching over us in the piazza.