Ostiense, San Paolo & Garbatella
Street Art in the Suburbs
Street art in Rome is edgy, exciting, progressive and a fabulous excuse to delve into the city's gritty southern suburbs when you need a break from Ancient Rome's tourist crowds and top-billing sights. Tourist kiosks have maps marked up with key street-art works, and 15 street-art itineraries can be found under 'Itineraries' at the official tourism website, www.turismoroma.it.
With over 30 works, ex-industrial and alternative Ostiense is one of the best parts of Rome in which to lap up the outdoor gallery of colourful wall murals. Note, however, that these works are ephemeral and many past masterpieces have faded away or been destroyed by development.
Highlights include the fading murals at Caserma dell’Aeronautica, a former military warehouse where Bolognese artist Blu (www.blublu.org) painted a rainbow of sinister faces across the entire building in 2014. He transformed the 48 arched windows into eyes, apparently to represent the evils of homelessness on a building that has been a long-term squat. Walk around the side of the building to admire a fantastical mural of a boat topped by cranes and robots.
The signature stencil art of well-known Italian street artists Sten & Lex (http://stenlex.com) is well-represented in Ostiense with a B&W wall mural of an anonymous student at Via delle Conce 14 (neighbouring a menacing bald gangster spray-painted by French artist MTO, guarding the entrance to the now-closed Rising Love nightclub next door at No 12) and the giant Peassagio Urbano XVIII (2016) emblazoning the pedestrian entrance to Stazione Roma-Ostiense next to Eataly on Piazzale XII Octobre. Nearby, on Via dei Magazzini Generali, a line-up of larger-than-life portraits by Sten & Lex provide an admiring audience for the iconic Wall of Fame by Rome's very own JBRock (www.jbrock.it).
Two alternative galleries give Rome's street-art scene instant street cred and bags of buzz. East of the Appian Way, in the offbeat district of Quadraro, MURo runs highly recommended guided tours – on foot or by bicycle – of the wealth of murals, many by big-name international artists, decorating its streets. In 2017 the ruins of 19th-century soap factory Mira Lanza (1899) in Ostiense opened its doors as a gallery, the Ex Mira Lanza Museum. This public-art project invited French globe-painter Seth (www.seth.fr) to spruce up the site with a series of large-scale art installations and murals. Free guided tours with museum curator Stefan Antonelli can be reserved in advance. See the website for detailed access information to the site.