A man takes a picture of a woman standing next to an old Fiat 500 car parked in front of a pile of rubbish in a street of central Rome on July 23, 2016. (AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)

Rome's sad decline sums up Italy's problems

Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT) March 5, 2018

Rome (CNN)Few cities in the world bear the scars of such a tumultuous past as the ancient city of Rome. It has been sacked by the Gauls and the Goths, by the French and the Fascists, with each invader leaving a layer of history that adds to its complexity.

But lately, the city has fallen victim to a different kind of threat -- that of indifference and questionable city governments that have left its grandeur dirty and decaying.
The mosaics and frescoes are still safe within the fortified walls of the great palaces and museums, but it is far more likely that any recent visitor will instead remember the graffiti and the garbage spilling over onto the cobblestone streets. Buses don't run on time and frequent labor union disputes lead to strikes that shut down public transportation altogether.
Rome has been suffering from a chronic rubbish collection issue since Christmas Eve.
So dire is the situation that a group of city activists who work under the banner "Roma Fa Schifo" (Rome is Disgusting) chronicle the degradation on a website and Twitter feed with more than 150,000 followers.
This city is also lately filled with migrants who suffer from a recent backlash that is pushing right-wing anti-immigration parties to the forefront ahead of Sunday's elections.
Rome has no official center for migrants waiting for word on their political asylum requests, so many camp out near the main train station or settle in any number of shanty towns that have sprung up along the banks of the city's Tiber River.
In January, CNN visited an abandoned multi-story university building known to its inhabitants as the Selam Palace, where nearly 1,000 Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali refugees who have been granted legal refugee status squat illegally because the city can't find legitimate housing. There are more than 50 other abandoned office buildings just like it throughout the city.
Migrants warm up around a fire at a makeshift camp in Rome in February.
Donatella D'Angelo, a medical doctor with a nongovernmental organization called Cittadini Del Mondo (Citizens of the World), visits the center once a week to provide basic health care.
"It is unthinkable that a European capital treats refugees and migrants like this," she told CNN while volunteers cobbled together wires with duct tape so she had enough light to treat patients. "This is Rome? This is the best we can do?"

A frozen city

On Monday morning, a dusting of snow brought the city to a complete standstill, closing schools for two full days and paralyzing traffic. The city's buses had to be called back to the depot after it was confirmed that the city government had apparently overlooked funding for all-weather tires.