The Eco-Ludic Machinery

Luciana's Merry-Go-Round (b&w)

Kids like it. True, there are few exceptions: the ones who, for some reason, are afraid of kinetic force, of too many people around them, or something else that can’t be named. But most kids two to eight year-old – those who can safely take a ride on it – definitely seem to like, in fact love, Luciana’s extraordinary merry-go-‘round, one of the most precious “small things” that I have ever seen in Rome. Environmentally friendly in every single detail, including its beautifully crafted rubber horses (made from used tires), it is propelled, through a customized bicycle, by the tight muscles of athletic Luciana, and it is literally animated by her spontaneous playfulness. Hence, it is an “eco-ludic machinery:” the combination of an indeed remarkable non-electrical, non-fossil-fueled amusement machine – from what I know, the only one of its kind at least in continental Italy; there’s another, by the same maker, in Sardinia – and the no less unique performance by this utterly Roman woman, who entertains her little customers with games, tricks, and down-to-heart yet exquisitely light jokes worthy of a character from a Fellini or a Pasolini movie, and who does all of that while pedaling on. As they circle around, the kids look at her as if hypnotized, and so do many of their parents!

Luciana's Merry-Go-Round (color)

Luciana Basta, 38, born and raised in Rome, is a History graduate from La Sapienza University, whose so far rather unsteady career has taken an unexpected turn. She was formerly a restorer of classic and vintage furniture and, briefly, even a construction worker – a newsworthy one for that matter: she was once the subject of a feature story on the daily Il Messaggero, as the only female in the city to climb up building scaffolds for work (!). An amateur painter with a high school degree in art, she also collaborated in the making of scenography at the Cinecittà studios for the 2005 BBC-HBO co-produced historical drama television series Rome. And now, though (fortunately) she might not be fully aware of that, she has truly become an artist, as far as I can tell…

Luciana Basta

Luciana is also a small entrepreneur, though, in typical Italian fashion, she’s had some difficulty, to run her atypical business squarely within the law, since she started it over a year ago. The problem is that sweet spots for traveling spectacles in Rome’s central areas, where money is to be made, have all long been assigned by the city government. It is, of course, an apparent oxymoron, since one would assume that these things move around and that there must be at least some opportunity to get into the business at some point somehow. But in this circumstance, as in so many others in the eternally decadent Eternal City, personal connections obviously trump market competition. So, after attempting for quite some time to get a permit, struggling with the bureaucracy while sympathetic local police officers regularly turned a blind eye on the whole thing, good Luciana decided, a couple of weeks ago, to contact directly the newly-elected mayor, Ignazio Marino, a passionate cyclist, who has stirred controversy for planning the closing to traffic of Via dei Fori Imperiali, the super-central four-lane avenue between the Forum and the Coliseum. She first tried to reach the mayor via fax and then, the very same day, fortuitously met him on a sidewalk a few blocks away from his office at the Capitol. Cornered by the fiery Luciana, he committed to help, and as a result, her merry-go-‘round is currently the subject of an expressly customized pilot project by the city government. Hurrah!

Ignazio Marino

We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, you can visit the Eco-Ludic Machinery, as I chose to name it, at the tiny but gracious Parco degli Scipioni, located just off Porta Latina, along the Aurelian Walls. It’s totally worth it, for adults too. Ask the kids! You can also read more about it and her on La Repubblica and (again) Il Messaggero. Finally, thanks to Raffaele Tavano for the beautiful black-and-white picture of Luciana at work.

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3 Responses to “The Eco-Ludic Machinery”


  1. 1 Anonimo ottobre 16, 2013 alle 7:33 am

    That’s a nice and interesting story. Rome is a fecal-like city, however, like amidst the feces you can always find some diamonds. Thank you Zio! Ciruzzo

  2. 2 loziodamerica ottobre 16, 2013 alle 3:46 pm

    Dai diamanti non nasce niente, dal letame nascono i fior…

  3. 3 shaintalle ottobre 18, 2013 alle 10:39 am

    Good luck to our fiery Luciana!


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