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 Ancient Rome's tourist crowds and top-billing sights tire. Tourist kiosks have maps marked up with key street-art works, and online street-art itineraries can be found at www.turismoroma.it and www.ostiensedistrict.it.
With over 30 works, ex-industrial and alternative Ostiense is one of the best parts of Rome to lap up the outdoor gallery of colourful wall murals. Highlights include the 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.
Further up Via Ostiense is another work by Blu, depicting interlocking yellow cars, that covers the entire facade of a now-derelict building. Known as Alexis, the mural immortalises Alexis Grigoropoulos, the 15-year-old student who was killed, allegedly by a police bullet, during demonstrations in Greece in 2008 – the mural incorporates his portrait and the date of his death.
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 experimental museums give Rome's street-art scene instant street cred and bags of buzz. East of the Appian Way, in the off-beat district of Quadraro, M.U.Ro runs highly recommended guided tours – on foot or by bicycle – of the wealth of murals, many by big-name international artists, decorating its streets. More recently, in 2017 the ruins of 19th-century soap factory Mira Lanza (1899) in Ostiense opened its doors as a museum, the result of a public-art project by 999Contemporary which invited French globe-painter Seth (www.seth.fr) to spruce up the site in 2016 with a series of large-scale art installations and murals. Home to a handful of squatters today, the ruined factory-turned-museum is open 24 hours and free guided tours with museum curator Stefan Antonelli can be reserved in advance. The advertised address: Via Amedeo Avogadro, first hole in the net behind garbage bins.