When I came to work in Italy for the first time last year, I was shocked at the graffiti all over the trains. I saw it as mean-spirited vandalism. I was also surprised by the old trains rattling around Rome’s Metro system. I expected sleek, shiny high tech trains like I’m used to in Hong Kong for example. I will say though the Rome Metro is good – it’s very easy to use Metro A or B lines and change between them at Termini station. This year, I’ve noticed a few newer, air-conditioned trains too.

And I’ve come to really love the train graffiti. While I’m waiting for my train at Piramide station, which choofs me off to Laurentina, I get to see the trains pulling in and out of the opposite side of the station. As they’re disgorging passengers and taking on new ones, I check out the graffiti.

Is it vandalism or public art I’m looking at? Frankly, I’m changing my mind and seeing it as the expression of individuals living in a populous city in times of recession, rather than some sort of urban trash. What conclusions can we draw about a society where train graffiti is so prolific? Especially one whose economy is well, in the toilet.

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