A Tour Through Rome’s ‘Garden City’ Known for Its Street Art

  • Located in the outskirts of Rome, Garbatella is known both for its revolutionary, century-old housing experiment and as one of the best places to see Rome’s street art. 
  • Photographer Bruno Federico visited Garbatella to capture its spirit of rebellion and creativity. 

Garbatella is a working-class neighborhood in the outskirts of Rome. Today, Garbatella remains a wonderful example of barochetto Romano architecture. It’s also home to some of the most interesting street art in the Italian capital. 

Garbatella is known for a century-old housing project, also known as Garbatella, that was built in 1920 to house workers from nearby factories and was itself a revolutionary idea: A garden-city with low-cost housing, and space to relax and commune with neighbors.

While high-rise buildings would become the dominant form of public housing in the later years of the mid-20th Century, Garbatella serves as a reminder of how good urban design can make for happy urban spaces. With its winding streets and lush courtyards, it is a place where greenery and urbanization coexist. 

A gate leads to a green area surrounded by residential housing.

Housing units at Garbatella surround a central garden, which serves as a place for residents to linger and socialize.

Bruno Federico for Insider

A cut-out of Don Quixote appears next to a quote

The lyrics to a song by Italian singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini: “Day and night we’ll spit hour heart on the face of the injustice / We are the “Greats of La Mancha” Sancho Panza and Don Quixote!”

Bruno Federico for Insider

A man at a water fountain at the base of a long outdoor staircase

The steps and public water fountains are among the best known features of the neighborhood.

Bruno Federico for Insider

Garbatella’s walls and building facades tell a story of rebellion and of the struggle for a better future. Walking through Garbatella, you’ll see art that takes on the destruction of the environment, racism and the criminalization of the migration, the dystopic model of the city, and the cause of Free Palestine. 

A common site along one street is Mrs. Gisella, who is 81 and likes to stay at her windows to greet neighbors and people-watch. She says that Garbatella it is a quiet and pleasant place to live. 

A woman is seen at her window alongside a street.

Mrs Gisella, 81, watches passerby from her window.

Bruno Federico for Insider


The entrance of one of the social housing projects.

Bruno Federico for Insider

Murals along a roadside.

Murals in support of Palestinians.

Bruno Federico for Insider

Murals also celebrate the neighborhood’s past, like the lady “Garbatella” who is thought to have given the neighborhood its name, and the Roman singer, Alvaro Amici, who grew up in Garbatella. 

One mural pays tribute to Enrico Mancini, an Italian anti-fascist partisan who was captured and tortured by the Nazis. He was among the 335 civilians and political prisoners killed by Nazis in Rome on March 24, 1944, at the Fosse Ardeatine massacre in Rome.

A mural of a woman holding a shawl covers the side of a building.

A mural of Garbatella, a lady who, some say, gave her name to the neighborhood.

Bruno Federico for Insider

A mural of a man singing passionately into a microphone by the side of the road.

A mural depicts the Roman singer, Alvaro Amici, who grew up in Garbatella.

Bruno Federico for Insider

Apartment buildings are seen, partially covered in shadow.

A view inside Garbatella.

Bruno Federico for Insider

The neighborhood is rich in social and culture initiatives. The Casetta Rossa Social Center is a local bar and cafe. It’s also much more than that, offering free classes to migrants, organizes cultural and social activities, and runs a food bank. 

A woman is seen holding a crate of goods while others sit at tables or wait in line.

The cooperative Casetta Rossa, in the middle of the neighborhood, organizes social, political and cultural events and acts in solidarity with the migrants. In the photo they are distributing food to people in need.

Bruno Federico for Insider

A man's face is painted onto the facade of a building.

A mural celebrates the anti-Fascist partisan, Enrico Mancini.

Bruno Federico for Insider

A huge mural shows a storm-rocked sailing ship under attack by pirates.

A huge mural from the Italian artist Blue shows a storm-rocked sailing ship under attack by pirates.

Bruno Federico for Insider

Mary E. Alvarez

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