“Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you're seein' double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Steps.”
- Bob Dylan
When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)
The first-century B.C. poet Tibullus dubbed Rome the Eternal City, a name later celebrated by heavyweights Ovid, Virgil and Livid.
For some, Rome is nothing less than Caput Mundi - the Capital of the World.
For street photographer extraordinaire and raconteur Davide Dalla Giustina, Rome is home territory - and the tapestry of so many centuries of history is an extraordinary source of visual inspiration.
“Living in Rome is like having access to the most astonishing museum,” the 41-year-old Davide said. “There is such an amazing mix of art, culture, history and modernity - the entire city is one vast Fellini film set.”
Whether, it’s Felini’s risqué version of Petronious’ Satyricon at the height of Roman Empire decadence, or the restless turmoil of Marcello Rubini (played so masterfully by Mastroianni) in La Dolce Vitae (The Sweet Life) … the film that introduced the celebrity photographer Paparazzo and now gives us the paparazzi … there is no city bookended by so much history.
“In my city,” Davide said, “you can be a reporter, a street photographer, a photojournalist - or a simple tourist with a compact camera to document all these incredible visual gems. The possibilities are simply endless, and each day offers fresh opportunities.”
The capital of Italy - a nation-state not formally organized until 1861 - is now home to 2.8 million people.
“The “Urbe” (city)” Davide said, “is like any person. It’s full of discrepancies and interesting contradictions. The Eternal City can be one of the hardest places to live because of shoddy transportation, the craziness of managing the garbage … and, of course, the age-old issue of political graft and corruption.”
Such is Rome, Davide said. It thrives with humanity in all its glory and imperfections.
Davide may be one of the best ambassadors of Rome. Originally from Venice, the street photographer is seldom without his trusty Leica D-Lux compact camera.
“The camera … and I do love my Leica,” Davide said, “is a natural extension of me. When I walk the streets and see so many people … a treasury box that may well be locked … a little hard to open at first - yet their hearts are good and full of hope.”
According to Davide, Romans are the friendliest and funniest people due to a sense of natural irony imbued with a sophisticated sarcasm - which some regard as the true measure of intellectual shrewdness.
“Moreover,” Davide said, “my unconditional love for the people of Rome is only equal to my devotion to both art and history.”
When Davide assumes the persona of street photographer, he talks freely with people along the streets, on the subway, and in the busses as if a genuine friend for years.
After all, Davide is a raconteur - the real deal. And both through his camera and his love of conversation combine perfectly to make him a natural story-teller, endlessly fascinated by how people in his city - the Eternal City navigate through their daily lives with purpose and hope and tenacity.
If you want to experience a uniquely vibrant city, buy the ticket and take the ride with Davide, as he adds to his masterpiece through street photography.