Orchestrating Traffic in Piazza Venezia

Roman Traffic Cop Pierluigi Marchionne conducting traffic at Piazza Venezia. Photo by Paola Barisani.

Pierluigi Marchionne is conducting.  He is on his black and white striped pedestal in the middle of Piazza Venezia in the center of Rome and he is twirling around in the hot summer sun.  A gloved hand flies into the air and with a dramatic gesture he sends a stream of traffic – tour buses, mopeds, taxis, and bicycles rumbling past.  With the other white-gloved hand raised flat in the air, he holds back a line of traffic on Rome’s Via Del Corso.

He adeptly pivots around, stops the traffic on one side, and sends his arm in a gracious curve through the air indicating to the waiting traffic to move on through.

A crowd of tourists stop and stare in awe.  They take pictures and videos.

I went out yesterday into the blistering Roman heat to do a story on new regulations for traffic cops put in place due to the high temperatures in the Eternal City.  After some officers reported dizziness and blurred vision after hours standing out in the hot sun, the commander has ordered the cops to change shifts every two hours.

To our delight, when cameraman Gianfranco Stara, photographer Paola Barisani and I got down to Piazza Venezia to shoot the story we got front row seats for The Marchionne Show– a whirling dervish with elegant moves in the middle of Rome’s busiest piazzas.

There, in the cobblestoned Piazza, surrounded by Palazzo Venezia–where Mussolini once delivered his famous speeches– and the gigantic typewriter monument known as the “Altar of the Fatherland”,  just down the street from the Coliseum, where Roman Emperors declared a gladiator’s fate with a thumb’s up or a thumb’s down, the show goes on. Fortunately the thumbs of the traffic cops are not so fateful for Roman drivers– and yes, sometimes it does feel like you are a gladiator in the ring with the lions when you are driving in Roman traffic.

Pierluigi Marchionne has recently become Rome’s most famous traffic cop.

Marchionne was standing on the pedestal last summer conducting traffic when Woody Allen came driving through looking for locations for his film “To Rome with Love” (see my blog post on that “Covering To Rome with Love“).

Yesterday Marchionne climbed down from the pedestal to tells us about it, “when Woody arrived in this fantastic place in the center of Rome and see ME up on the platform, well, he stopped the car, braked the car, exited from the car and speak with me and say ‘ok,  I want YOU in my movie.”

Marchionne said he answered, “Yes We Can!” (Has he been listening to Obama campaign speeches?)

Rome Traffic cop Pierluigi Marchionne playing himself in Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love."

Here is the trailer for the film that opens with Marchione: “To Rome with Love” Trailer

Also, I cannot put AP Television videos on my blog, but check out this video someone else did with the Traffic cops orchestrating at Piazza Venezia: Roman Traffic Police

 

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Post in: Italiano

Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

6 Comments

  1. Sally
    2012/07/14

    What a cutie! Pierluigi on his pedestal rivals the David of Florence! I might have to see Woody’s movie to see this work of art in action! Thanks, Trisha, for tor this fun, light story. Personally, I don’t think I have the guts to ever drive in Rome. I’ve seen moms on mopeds with children on board take on city busses. Coraggio!!!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/07/15

      Hi Sally – Pierluigi definitely is a cutie. We won’t tell him that the rivals the David of Florence– I think he would believe you. You know how Italian men are…. Let’s just say a bit vain, easy victims of flattery.
      As far as driving in Rome, of course you could do it. I do get angry at Mammas on their mopeds with little children perched sometimes both on the front and back. They are insane! I see moped accidents every single day in Rome, sometimes two. My husband and I have been in a two year resistance war with my 17-year-old son who wants a moped. We have not caved– but occasionally he comes home with helmets so that means he’s been going around on the back of friends’ mopeds. That said, I will admit that sometimes I hop on the back of a moped or a motorcyle of one of my colleagues when we are in a rush to get to a story and there’s too much traffic (see my post From Benedict to Lady Gaga)… and it is such a thrill to whizz through Rome that way.

      Reply
  2. Lisa | Renovating Italy
    2012/07/15

    As we went past this intersection for the 6th time totally lost in our huge 6 berth camper my hubby accidentally sailed straight through past the officer who was waving his arms and yelling at us. As we looked back he was writing in his notebook. Hubby then decided we should go back and try to apologize to get out of getting a ticket. Hours later we gave up and finally found the way out of Roma!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/07/15

      That is so funny! I think your husband did the right thing to go back and try to talk to him. Even if it didn’t work. I have such an anglo-saxon attitude towards these things. I think if I went through the red light and got caught I should get the ticket. I have an Italian friend who is always driving her car in the wrong lane, going through red lights…she just has her head in the clouds. She has gotten into so many fender-benders and gets stopped all the time and always manages to sweet talk her way out of everything. She doesn’t flirt, she just laughs and apologizes and makes some vague excuses and she always gets away with it. A taxi driver told me once that you always have to deny everything or invent some silly excuse with traffic cops and they will usually let you go. He said once he zipped through a red light and just as he was going through he noticed a traffic cop in the intersection. He said he got to the other side, hopped out of the car ran to a nearby tree, and hid behind it and peed. When the cop eventually came over he apologized profusely for running the red light but said he just had to go and he saw that tree and made a run for it. The cop did not give him the ticket! (Can’t exactly see doing that myself, but you get the idea). The point is rules can be flexible in Italy, but you need to know how to work the system for yourself. I have not gotten the hang of it yet.

      Reply
  3. Alexa
    2012/07/15

    Pierluigi Marchionne the director of traffic of piazza venezia is great and the opening of movie to rome with love is a brillante idea.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/07/16

      I agree Alexa!

      Reply

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