Giorgio Ghiglione in The Guardian: “It is 6am on a Sunday and the streets of the Ostiense neighbourhood in southern Rome are empty. The metro has just opened and nearby cafes still await their first customers.
Seven men and women are working hard, their faces obscured by scarves and hoodies as they unload bags of cement and sand from a car near the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.
They are not criminals. Members of the secret Gap organisation, they hide their identities because what they are doing – fixing a broken pavement without official permission – is technically illegal.
City maintenance – or the lack of it – has long been a hot-button issue in Italy’s capital. There are an estimated 10,000 potholesin the city – a source of frustration for the many Romans who travel by scooter. Garbage collection has also become a major problem since the city’s landfill was closed in 2013, with periodic “waste crises” where trash piles up in the streets. Cases of exploding buses and the collapse of a metro escalatormade international headlines.
The seven clandestine pavement-fixers are part of a network of about 20 activists quietly doing the work that the city authorities have failed to do. Gap stands for Gruppi Artigiani Pronto Intervento, (“groups of artisan emergency services”) but is also a tribute to the partisans of Gruppi di Azione Patriottica, who fought the fascists during the second world war.
“We chose this name because many of our parents or grandparents were partisans and we liked the idea of honouring their memory,” says one of the activists, a fiftysomething architect who goes by the pseudonym Renato. While the modern-day Gap aren’t risking their lives, their modus operandi is inspired by resistance saboteurs: they identify a target, strike and disappear unseen into the city streets.
Gap have been busy over the past few months. In December they repaired the fountain, built in the 1940s, of the Principe di Piemonte primary school. In January they painted a pedestrian crossing on a dangerous major road. Their latest work, the pavement fixing in Ostiense, involved filling a deep hole that regularly filled with water when it rained….(More)”.