In Rome the four letters S. P. Q. R. are to be seen on everything from dustbins and drains to street fountains and manhole covers.
The letters originated in ancient Rome where they referred to the government, which was made up of the Senate and the Roman People: Senatus Populusque Romanus. Nowadays, S.P.Q.R. forms part of the official emblem of the city of Rome.
During the Fascist period (1922-1943) the letters were often accompanied by the fasces (from which the Fascist party drew its name), a bundle of wooden rods and an axe. In the days of ancient Rome the fasces were carried by the lictors, the figures who escorted magistrates through the streets of the city.
Over time, the famous four letters have come to stand for all sorts of things. To non-Romans, they became Sono Porchi Questi Romani (These Romans are pigs). To anti-clerics, they became Sono Preti Regnano Qui (Only the priests reign here).