Street Art in Quadraro: A Painting of Roman Life
November 05 2015
Rarely do visitors to Rome explore the vast city outside of the ancient home in the heart of the city centre. Most will spend their holiday commuting between their hotel or bed and breakfast, and the tours of the Forum, Colosseum, and Vatican that are understandable must-visits. Some will take a metro in the direction of the Trastevere neighborhood, to walk around the tight medieval streets at night in search of an authentic Roman restaurant. But, very few of them will spend that time exploring the rich, local-filled neighbourhoods of Ostiense, Pigneto, or maybe Quadraro.
They’re all missing out.
They’re missing authentic and cheap cafes, with locals sipping espresso throughout the day. Decades-old family restaurants that look dusty on the outside, yet on the inside offer the most mouthwatering food you can find in the city.
Gradually, things are starting to change in the outer neighbourhoods, and the communities are becoming more inviting for travellers. For the most part, it’s because of the increased number of cheap holiday apartments through airbnb, but another large driving factor of the change is that people are becoming more interesting in seeing the real city and the community that give it life and meaning.
Within Quadraro in particular, you’ll be able to see that, for the average working Roman, life is as ordinary as your own life is at home. There are no tour buses passing through, and if you’re looking for a souvenir shop, you’re straight out of luck. What you will see, however, is a neighbourhood with a rich tapestry of a story that’s alive throughout the day – played out by real-life people, not actors dressed in mock-gladiatorial attire.
The History of Quadraro
Ask any of the oldest residents in the neighbourhood about history, and they’ll be able to tell you how much they miss the lira, how things were better ‘back in my day‘, and – depending on who you ask – that Mussolini wasn’t all that bad. One subject you might not hear about during all the discussions is the Nazi occupation of Rome during the middle of the 1940’s.
The Romans who lived within Quadraro during the end of the war are proud of the resistance they put up against oppressive Axis forces, who tried to put boots within the tight streets and amongst the grumbling, red, plaster-covered brick buildings that you can still see today. The only trouble is that many of the voices who can tell the true story are slowly starting to be lost to old age and the eternity of life’s end.
Keeping the narrative alive is important, as noted succinctly by Edmund Burke:
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.“
Recording every story and making it accessible to all is a necessity that isn’t easy to fulfill. Unless you have a can of paint.
M.U.Ro. – Urban Art Museum of Rome
The street art and murals of the M.U.Ro. – Urban Art Museum of Rome has a duel purpose. It’s not only an interesting use of space in colour in an area of Rome to promote more foot traffic and exploration by tourists, it’s also a record though which colour shapes of the story of “the hive of Quadraro.”
Traced along a winding route from the metro station to newly built apartment blocks, the street art created by the select team of international artists is exceptionally well-done and conjurers up the same mixture of knowing and misunderstanding that every piece of artwork always leaves you with. They tell stories or ideals, yet they can be read in a multitude of ways. What one viewer might see as a mocking of popular, well-recognised icons such as Mickey Mouse, might actually represent an altogether different message, one on climate change, and not capitalisation.
Some of the full-size murals are the first pieces by artists who are typically illustrators by trade, others are replicas of the same, typical trademark design that the artist has employed across Europe and – potentially – the world.
Che Guevara surrounded by a typical spray of communist red brightens a dull pink-tinted wall.
Seven wasps represent each decade since the removal of Nazism from the streets of Rome.
A cartoon deer centred on a monochrome scene, by artist Gary Baseman, can be read in so many ways, and hopefully can also be seen as the intended story of his Polish partisan father, who stood against oppression in his home country.
The street art on the grey and faded walls of Quadraro are the story of Quadraro.
Complimented with the sounds and smells of the city they represent, everything there is to know about the past and the present of the inner-city neighbourhood. Hopefully, this painted path through the city will remain to educate and enthuse both locals and international travellers with the story of Quadraro for many more decades to come.
You can see more about the off-the-path parts of Rome in Dale’s latest article, Unusual Things To Do in Rome.
Have you ever visited the neighbourhoods of Rome? What’d you think about them? Let us know your thoughts down below!