It seems that each time that I walk through Piazza di Spagna, which is almost every week day morning, and I count the boarded-up shop fronts with signs that read "chiusi" "vendita totale" and "prossimamente" (closed, total sale, coming soon). I've been watching the piazza developments probably more anxiously and eager than a helicopter mom watches her brood in Park Slope. The upcoming line up reads like the front end ads in Vogue: Sephora, Nespresso, IWC Schaffausen watches, Versace and potentially another Louis Vuitton in place of Barcaccia.
Before we call foul and cry wolf about Piazza di Spagna impersonating Times Square, let's take a look around the square:
Piazza di Spagna is not and never has been cento per cento Romana (100% Roman). The name alone should give a clue. From the mid Renaissance forward, the French and Spanish bickered, with the French eventually taking reign atop the hill at Villa Medici and Trinita di Monti and the Spanish holding steady with their prime piazza presence. The piazza itself, and surrounding streets have almost always catered to the international community in Rome. In fact, the British Tea house Babington's has been on the square since 1893.
It may be all about economics. Survival of the financial fit. However, Times Square it is not. Piazza di Spagna is luxury shopping with a broad representation of small and large Italian brands - Missoni, Frette, Sergio Rossi, Moncler, Furla Sermoneta, Alexandra- and non-Italian such as Dior, IWC, Sephora, Camper and Woolrich. If we must persist in fitting Rome in to the square box of New York terminology, Piazza di Spagna is more like Madison Avenue, with a mix of 5th. (I have to admit I am tired of the comparisons and likewise the never-ending chatter about real Rome- the area has five schools alone and hundreds of families, for realz). What's happening is a growing up where little Bermuda triangles like Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Augusto Imperatore are cohesively and dare I say fashionably coming together as the connecting streets are also upgrading shops and quality. Yes, there is an influx of non-Italian shopping immigration but is this really bad? Isn't part of the appeal and a requirement of a capital city?
The question I was asked by the construction team at the soon-to-be new Barcaccia (yes, it will still be in Piazza di Spagna, just a few doors down), "La piazza sta cambiando per il peggio o il meglio"? (Is the square changing for the better or worse) seems metaphysical. With the elections about to burst and the Pope resigning, Piazza di Spagna may appear to be an insignificant blip on the radar of Italia in crisi. But it is definitely a reflection of the times. Piazza di Spagna is changing for the better, which I think is the fading hope for the upcoming elections. Kind of hope for the best, expect the worse-- an expression that seems to overstay its welcome here. I've stuck on my new voting sticker and I'm ready for changes.