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Un Angelo Vola Su Monti

Posted on Oct 27, 2009 | 14 comments

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…’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.



  1. amazing story Jess-you never know in life what little kind gesture or words will affect someone. I'm sure Angelo was smiling that day to see his grand send off

  2. Great job of writing, Jessica. Your picture illustrates the story very nicely.

  3. What a lovely tribute, Jess. I guess we never realize how much someone can affect us or how we can affect someone else.

  4. So true…Yesterday, I also took part in the funeral and was moved to tears (multiple times!) to see the amount of people who converged from all over the neighborhood, Monti, to celebrate this life we all knew so little about. It really made me think about all those people that play such little supporting roles in your life (the barman who makes your coffee, the woman you see on the same tram every morning on her way to work, etc.) and how much they affect you.

  5. What a lovely and touching gesture, irrespective of who he was, and how he lived, the local came out to honour his passing and to pay their respects.

    It reignites your faith in the human race. God bless him and all those who showed him this respect and dignity.

  6. What a beautiful tribute Jessica.

    That is a real neighborhood.

  7. That's so special that the people of the neighborhood cared about him so much.

  8. This is a beautiful tribute. I love that you are able to share your life with us.

  9. Lovely article, and beautiful pictures (come sempre). It made me teary, and I never even saw Angelo. I love knowing this kind of community spirit exists…

  10. Well done tribute Jessica. It's interesting how much an individual can affect anothers life. It's also sad that this is usually not realized until it is too late.

    Angelo was blessed to be in such a nice community. The world needs more of this.

    You are young and wise for your years. Your images and stories tell us so. Count your blessings and never take anything or anyone for granted. In the long run, you will always be a better person for it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Dear Jessica,
    Wow what a beautiful and absolutely touching story. Thank you so much for writing it. We need to be reminded that there is nothing like the connection between human beings regardless of our circumstance. We don't know Angelo's story as such but we do know Angelo's story in that he personified strength of character and the community in which he resided demonstrated the same!
    I hope you don't mind but I have written about you on my blog at Keep doing what you do!!

    Toronto Canada

  12. Hi all,

    I haven't responded to comments because I don't think there's much more that I could add to what I've written. However, I want you all to know it really made me happy to see how many people were touched by the post I wrote and, in turn, Angelo as well.

  13. Aw, Jess. Your comments made me cry. Angelo truly was embraced by Monti. That makes me really happy that so many people came to his funeral.

  14. That is the true meaning of community right there.

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