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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Quarticciolo: A Visit to Rome's Working-Class Periphery

We knew almost nothing about the quartiere of Quarticciolo when we spent a couple of hours there this Spring, except that it was a working-class enclave with a leftist reputation. It's located on Rome's periphery, a third or fourth-tier suburb east of the city center, not far from the GRA that encircles the city, and bounded on the west by a quasi-highway, viale Palmiro Togliatti. Coming from the center on via Prenestina, we turned right on the first street after viale Togliatti and parked the scooter, just a few feet from what appeared to be an abandoned "ape" (a small, three-wheeled truck) and amid the first of many low-rise apartment buildings. 

Across the street was a church (completed in 1954) and down the way, built into one of the apartment buildings, a substantial altar to the Virgin Mary, constructed in 1950. 

Quarticciolo has been described as the last of the "borgate" (towns or "working-class suburbs") constructed by the Fascist regime. The first buildings--all of Quarticciolo was, and probably still is, "public" housing--were erected between 1941 and 1943, during the war. The units were intended for very large families. The first 300 apartments were designed for families with at least 7 children, and the next 100 were for those with 4 or 5 kids--depending on need, part of the Fascist encouragement of large families.

The north end of the community, where we began our trek, is now the site of a large chain grocery store (and other stores); the basic apartment buildings were not designed for "mixed use." It also has a recently built community sports center ("From the Borgata, for the Borgata," reads the lettering at the top of the building below, an interesting pride in the term "borgata").

Moving along via Alessandrina into the center of Quarticciolo, we came upon what appeared to be a multi-story city hall (although not marked as such)/community center, covered with graffiti and other materials that revealed much about the quartiere. Along one wall, large graffiti letters "Essere un comitato e' prendersi cura della borgata" (to be a committee--the common council, one presumes--means taking care of the town).  

A plaque (far left in the above photo), placed on the building in 2010, honors the anti-Fascist partisans of Quarticciolo who resisted the German occupation of 1943-1944. Quarticciolo was one of several communities, moving east from the center, that were prominent in the resistance to Nazi occupation; they included Quadraro, Torpignattara, and Centocelle (all of which we've written about many times; one post is linked here to each community). 

In the rear of the building, a line drawing appears to show a rapacious capitalist with little regard for needs of the ordinary people. 

The rear façade is decorated with two multi-story figures. Not sure what they are supposed to represent.

And a sign proclaims "Insieme Tutto E' Possibile" (together, everything is possible), more evidence of a desire for community solidarity (it's signed "Quarticciolo Ribelle" [Quarticciolo Rebel]. 

Both sides of the building feature a rich variety of graffiti, old and new. 

Across the street from the community center (maybe the municipal hall) we were surprised to see a theater and library. Although the building has some 1960-era features, it was constructed quite recently, apparently in 2007, on the site of a public market (probably the victim of the supermarket).

The town is long and thin, and in a few minutes we had reached the other, southern, end. Time for a 2nd coffee of the day--served in glass cups, quite unusual for most of Rome--in a nice bar with many patrons, inside and outside.

On our return to the scooter we found lots of evidence of Quarticciolo's liberal (and radical) politics. On the liberal side, we came across a center for volunteers and, next to it, a free book exchange (there aren't many in Rome) housed in an old cooler. 

Housing is a major issue, as it was 80 years ago. A larger banner proclaimed "Stop Sgomberi" (stop evictions), and a sign made a point of the comitato's recent efforts to move the community in an ecological direction: "How can one make an ecological transition when it's raining on your head inside your house?" 

"Stop Evictions. We all have a right to a house!"

"The ecological transition doesn't make much sense when it's 
raining of your head--inside your house!"

Low-income communities such as Quarticciolo are likely to be anti-prison (anti-carcere), and signs confirmed that perspective. We also found standard Communist stuff--Viva Stalin (really?) and a hammer and sickle with the date, 1917, of the Russian Revolution.

And an enormous and striking portrait of (to us) a person unknown.   

One last photo, this one not so political--and yet it is. The wall sign reads, "Quarantine in 20 square meters: You can't do it." 

Thanks, Quarticciolo, for having us!


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