Free Garbatella: A photo tour through Rome’s revolutionary ‘garden city’ known for its street art

A mural is seen on a wall along a steep hilly road, with a baroque building in the background.
A mural depicting the resistance of a Kurdish fighter against ISIS, with Garbatella visible in the background. Bruno Federico for Insider
  • 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.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Garbatella is a working-class neighborhood in the outskirts of Rome. It’s known for a century-old housing project that serves as a reminder of how good urban design can make for happy urban spaces. It’s also home to some of the most interesting street art in the Italian capital.

Built in 1920 to house workers from nearby factories, Garbatella was itself a revolutionary idea: A garden-city with low-cost housing, and space to relax and commune with neighbors.

Today, Garbatella remains a wonderful example of the barochetto Romano. While high-rise buildings would become the dominant form of public housing in the later years of the mid-20th Century, Garbatella, with its winding streets and lush courtyards, 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

The neighborhood is rich in social and culture initiatives and its walls and building facades tell a story of rebellion and 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 neightborhood 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 Casetta Rossa Social Center is a local bar and cafe, but it’s also much more than that. The group offers 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