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Women grab the wheel in Rome's busiest traffic square.

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For the first time ever, police women in Rome have climbed the famous traffic-cop pedestal and are running the show from within the chaotic Piazza Venezia in the ancient city's historic centre.

Monday at noon, the pedestal re-opened after months of repairs and refurbishing, and -- in a move suggesting an opening of male minds at police headquarters -- two women traffic cops took on the high-profile (and likely, rather dangerous) gig.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, the two police officers, Alessia and Alessandra, are the latest recruits to a 12-strong force of volunteers for one of the hardest jobs in traffic control.

''Your head spins a bit at the start,'' Alessia told reporters after her first shift Monday. Added her colleague Alessandra: ''It was hard to get through to the drivers, although I suppose they were a little taken aback to see a woman in front of them."

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(Photo above from the excellent blog, eternallycool)

With their distinctive white gloves, helmet, whistles, and pantomime performances, traffic cops at this focal point in Rome's historic centre have become something of a tourist attraction, as well as a part of the landscape in many movies set in Rome (such as Roman Holiday!)

But the pedestal where traffic cops have worked since 1898 has taken a severe beating in recent years, with increasing amounts of traffic buzzing around the base of the Capitoline Hill and the massive Victor Emmanuel Monument (known to some as the giant white typewriter or wedding cake) which broods over the square.

In response, two years ago police unveiled a high-tech "periscope" version, which used hydraulic pistons to raise the pedestal from ground level whenever traffic cops went on duty. Alas, heavy traffic rumbling over the area's cobblestones took a toll, and the system was shut down for repairs last September.

At noon Monday, it rose again and the two police women took up their posts.

ANSA reports that although Romans may make fun of it, traffic officials are very proud of their hub.

''It's the most visible position in Rome,'' said Angelo Giuliani, the head of Rome's traffic police.

''And I can say with the greatest satisfaction that it has been admirably filled by women, an important step forward.''

Alessandra and Alessia shrugged off the attention and vowed to be just as strict with traffic wrong-doing as their male colleagues.

''The drivers can wheedle all they want but we won't give in to anyone.''

Comments (15)

Cool post, Sandra. I like this. Although I can't imagine doing myself.

Brad'll Do It:

You do have an eclectic nose for news. What was your source for this scoop (that is what they're doing with their hands isn't it, scooping traffic around the cones?) This is actually pretty cool since Italians are not known for putting any women but their mamas on a pedestal!

You go girls! So last year, a woman gondolier and now this...what is happening in Italy?!? I remember seeing this traffic "ballet" when I was in Rome. That is one city that I would never want to drive in! Thanks Sandra, this is a great post.

sandrac:

Candi, I know! I'd be cringing from the traffic all the time.

Brad, thanks -- I do have wide ranging interests (and get pretty tired of talking about monetary policy all day!) It was surprising to learn the Italians are allowing women to conduct traffic -- they don't always seem to get the fun jobs!

Annie, it really is like a ballet, isn't it? Did you post about the woman gondolier? I must have missed it, and it sounds intriguing -- that's definitely breaking down barriers.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, I love it! Cool photos too. Roman Holiday is one of my favorite classic movies and now I want to watch it to see that scene that you mentioned.

Great post Sandra!

I saw the photos on eternallycool this morning. Too cool!! I love her outfit. As Annie said...You go girls!

No, I didn't post about it, I just remember reading about it on various Venice sites last year. I think she had years of struggle to finally get into the Gondola Boy's Club. :)) I was hoping I'd see her in December but I didn't (not much gondola action with all the acqua alta!).

sandrac:

Kathy, I have to say I love Roman Holiday! I thought it was beautifully shot, the stars were charming and the story (and ending) more realistic than most movies. And the scene where Audrey Hepburn makes off with the Vespa was so cute.

Girasoli, the photos looked better on eternally cool, you can see the cute outfit so much more clearly (I love those hats, I wish I had a job where I wore a hat -- so long as it wasn't made of paper!)

Annie, I'll have to look into the female gondolier story, it sounds interesting. That definitely looks like an industry dominated by males. As are most -- I read a new survey this morning showing that men continue to hold almost 93 per cent of the highest paying positions at Canada's largest corporations. That leaves just over 7 per cent of such jobs for women. Some things never change.

This is way cool but it must be a hard job to do. That intersection is quite crazy, with traffic coming from everywhere. I remember one time trying to cross it and shielding myself between a group of nuns.

Have you seen the movie Il Vigile with Alberto Sordi? It has a memorable scene of him directing traffic in Rome, probably in Piazza Venezia. It is hilarious!

Found the scene with Sordi, attempting to direct the traffic and making a big mess out of it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8JwTeKbQ7k

Marcia:

Now this is great, if that is what you want to do with your life. Good pictures, too.

This is cool. Mind you, it isn't a job that I'd want at all. The traffic there is BRUTAL!

I laughed last May watching a female police officer hand out parking tickets in Pienza. It was clear that some of the men were showing her no respect but she was having none of it!

sandrac:

Maria, that link is hilarious! What a debacle!

The original ANSA story on this refered to the movie Il Vigile with Alberto Sordi. I hadn't heard of it, but it made me curious -- so thanks very much for the clip.

That intersection in Rome is something else -- it's about the only place where I willingly take my life in my hands to cross, but there's no other way!

Marcia, I don't think I'd want to stand in the midst of traffic all day -- too hair-raising!

Jerry, I love the way Italian women don't seem to care what anyone thinks! I'm amazed they haven't been directing traffic in Rome before now.

Sandra, this is so cool, thanks for sharing the story!!

Barb Cabot:

Love this! She looks wonderful in her uniform. Happy the job is open to anyone who fits the bill.

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