It was assumed that the beach facing the river was a summer gift from the troubled mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, for its citizens.
Called "Tiberis," an old name for Rome's main waterway, the municipal beach had been touted as Rome's response to the facilities on the Seine side of Paris.
But when it finally opened this month, after doubts about whether it would open or not, given that the season was almost over, some Romans rejected the area – a group of beach chairs and umbrellas, two beach volleyball courts and machines vending machines. (who maybe had not even visited the beach) as very little, too late.
More than a symbol of the progressive government of Raggi's party, the Five Star Movement, Tiberis has become another lightning rod for the Romans to express their dissatisfaction with the mayor, who is entering the third stormy year of a five-year term .
Taking to the social networks, some eyelash banter that the basic beach, in a populous suburb of Rome, was the most suitable for the most regular regulars of the Tiber: its rats.
Others complained that, unlike other European capitals such as Berlin and Copenhagen, whose urban neighborhoods include swimming pools or other areas suitable for swimming, sweaty bathers in Tiberis could only opt for showers in plastic cubicles.
"Many untreated wastewater is still discharged into the Tiber, so it is very polluted," said Giorgio Zampetti, general director of the Italian environmental association Legambiente. "It's a shame, and a problem that we have often raised." But cleaning the river would be an immense and expensive undertaking for the city.
"A beach without water is ridiculous," said Tom Rankin, former director of Tevereterno, a nonprofit that promotes artistic projects for the Tiber, including a 2016 mural along an embankment of South African artist William Kentridge.
Although Rankin praised the effort to bring citizens to the edge of the Tiber, he said the City Council could have "thought more about the initiative to achieve something better."
Other critics pointed out that the mayor had announced the project in December and that eight months should have been enough to create something more impressive.
A newspaper renamed the beach "Spelacchia", or scabies, a tribute, of some kind, to the abandoned Christmas tree in Rome, also known as Spelacchio, whose decadent appearance illuminated the Internet last year. (Paola Taverna, a senator who belongs to the Five Star Movement, replied on Twitter that Spelacchio became a tourist attraction and predicted that the banks of the Tiber would be "repopulated" in a similar way).
It did not help that a Rome newspaper reported that the city had reached a secret agreement with a neighborhood chief nicknamed "Zorro" to try to make sure the beach was not smashed.
City officials called that report "false news."
Other Romans said that the city had missed an important opportunity to re-establish a substantial connection with the Tiber, which was once central to the identity of the Italian capital, but which today is mostly neglected and overlooked.
"The operation was badly done," said Giuseppe Maria Amendola, president of Consorzio Tiberina, an association that seeks to promote the Tiber. As designed, the Spartan beach could have been placed anywhere, even in a parking lot, because "it does not give anything to the Tiber," he said.
"This is not the way the city should think about renewing the river," he added.
According to legend, Rome was established on the banks of the Tiber, where Romulus and Remus, mythical twin founders of the city, were rescued and nursed by a wolf.
The high travertine embankments were built along the extensions of the Tiber after the disastrous floods in 1870, effectively separating the city from the river, but for centuries before, the Romans had direct access to the river and ports that dotted its banks.
Until a few decades ago, the Romans did not disdain to submerge or even submerge in the Tiber during the hot summer days.
The bathing establishments facing the city's river also served as a backdrop to beloved Italian films such as "Poveri Ma Belli", which detailed the dreams of post-war society.
Coincidentally, a scene from the 1975 film "Fantozzi" was filmed on the beach site of Tiberis, which even then was a desolate wasteland.
Silvio Parrello, protagonist of Pier Paolo Pasolini's provocative first novel, "Ragazzi di Vita", recalled swimming in the Tiber in front of what is now the beach of Tiberis in the mid-1950s, when the neighborhood was still a mosaic of gardens and vineyards.
Pasolini himself said that he would visit that area of the river, diving from the pylons of an adjacent bridge "with the older children". He captured those moments in his 1961 film "Accattone."
"I want to die using all my gold, like the pharaohs," says the title character before plunging into the Tiber.
"The Romans may not get involved with the river, but it has a strong presence in the cinema, it has always had one," said Angela Ermes Cannizzaro, president of La Scatola Chiara, a non-profit organization that last year organized walking tours. of shooting locations along the Tiber during the annual Rome film festival.
In recent years, restaurants, bars and stalls have become summer staples along the banks of the Tiber center, attracting residents and tourists. But municipal administrations have had difficulty finding long-term solutions to the river's negligence.
Tiberis, one of the first projects of the new municipal Special Office for the Tiber, was a start.
Amendola, of Consorzio Tiberina, described as "praiseworthy" that the city's administrators were "thinking of people who may not be able to go on vacation or to the sea," but said that Tiberis had overlooked the brand. "At least it created a bit of noise around an important issue," he said.
On a suffocating August afternoon, about two dozen Romans who roamed the Tiberis were not so given to that negativity. They were stretched happily in pristine armchairs (some in sand, others in grass) under a ruthless sun.
A child chased a ball on the hot sand of the beach volleyball court, oblivious to the heat. Her father, who identified himself only as Franco, said that they liked the beach so much that they had visited it three days in a row.
Two women wearing chadors took a group of children chatting to picnic tables and handed out sandwiches.
Instead of driving to Ostia, the coastal town of Rome, some 27 kilometers away, Giorgio Maria Mariani, a retired Alitalia pilot, and his wife, Maria Grazia, opted to visit Tiberis.
They said they were happy that they had done it. The beach was clean and silent, he said, adding, "And everything is free." In the establishments by the sea, beach chairs and umbrellas are usually rented for at least 5 euros a day and, sometimes, much more.
An employee of the advertising agency, Marta Di Matteo, who lives five minutes away, said she "tickled Tiberis" and added that "it's like having a beach under your house."
He discarded the diatribes that had filled the pages of the newspapers for days. "The fact is that before there was no beach, and now there is," he said. "We're going to enjoy it."