It’s no secret how much I love hunting down street art wherever I am in the world. The ever-changing urban art landscape in cities is a silent but booming voice. A creative, unrestricted outlet of freedom of expression often influenced by present social and political issues. On my second visit to Rome I wanted to experience a different side to the Italian capital. A side most people never see when they visit the Eternal City and discover the Rome of today from a Vespa!
Yes, that’s right you can have your own Roman Holiday moment – Move over Audrey! Scooteroma offer a tour where you can hunt down famous murals and street art through the Roman suburbs.
Scooteroma is a Vespa tour company based in Rome, run by Annie and Giovanni AKA Scooter Mavern and Mr G. Together with a scooter squad they provide unique tours of Rome, whether your love is for the classics, food, street art or cinema there’ll be something to entice you onto two wheels.
If you’re qualified you can zoom around on your own two wheels following a guide. My nerves couldn’t handle the pressure of driving in the crazy traffic on the wrong side of the road, so for the safety of all humans I chose to cling on to my trusted and very knowledgeable guide Michele.
With a quick health and safety chat – basically ‘here is your santinised helmet’ – I hopped on board feeling both slightly apprehensive and overcome with excitement. It’s been a dream to drive around Italy on a Vespa – And here I was! Plus in safe hands with Michele – he’s been roaming the streets of Rome on a scooter since the age of 14.
Our three-hour tour took us out of the city centre into the surrounding neighbourhoods. With the sun shining on my face, we zoomed past classic Roman iconic landmarks, such as the Colosseum. I felt like a true Italian. Well ok, perhaps a wannabe. What do you expect when in Rome on the back of Vespa?!
Here are the three well-known areas for art projects and murals we covered on our tour:
The old working class district of Testaccio may not be as picturesque as some of Rome’s other areas, but it makes up for it in great food, history and street art. On the side of an apartment building on Via Galvani is the Jumping Wolf.
Belgian street artist Roa impressively painted this 30 metres high mural in a day. The contemporary she-wolf ready to jump to freedom is a tribute to the ancient symbol of Rome. Inspired by the beast that suckled Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. Quite apt to begin the tour with this impressive art project.
A stone’s throw from the neighbourhood of Testaccio is Ostiense, the industrial heart of Rome. On our way to some famous murals, Michele stopped at the Modern Colosseum as it’s locally known. The abandoned gasometer is a piece of Rome’s industrial glory, a relic of the past now at odds in the district being hugely gentrified. Nowadays it holds parties, concerts and exhibitions, carving itself a new role as a contemporary and creative space.
Edgy with remnants of the Industrial Revolution all around, it reminded me a lot of my own home town of Manchester. Explains why I felt so at home there.
A famous mural not to miss in Ostiense is one by Italian street artist Blu. The former aeronautical barrack on Via del Porto Fluviale has been a squat for the last decade and became a sanctuary for Rome’s multicultural community. The rainbow faces have become a symbol of the struggle for the right to housing for the immigrant families who still call it home. Painted in 2014 the colours have faded somewhat but not the impact.
Not far is the Wall of Fame on Via dei Magazzini Generali, it’s JB Rock’s 200-foot mural featuring an A-Z of some of the world’s most famous faces, from Frida Kahlo, Barack Obama to Malcolm X. Touching to see the special tribute for the letter M from the artist to his own Mother, containing his tag.
Opposite is a black and white image of a jaguar with a woman’s face emerging by Italian stencil artists Sten & Lex. The strategically parked vespa made it irresistible to take a snap.
One of my favourite murals on the tour is a realistic portrayal of an owner of a hardware store. The store, housed in the building since the start of the industrial age in the 19th century is an empowering symbol for girl power. Incredible to think a woman in that time was at the centre of an industry that helped build the city.
Traditionally a poor working class quarter east of the city, Pigneto is fast becoming the hipster capital of Rome. A mix of bohemian bars, trendy restaurants, eclectic architectural styles and graffiti lined streets lends the same shabby charm Londoners find in Hoxton or Shoreditch.
A hangout of director Pier Paolo Pasolini, he shot his first film Accattone (1961) on these mean streets. Pasolini’s eye gazes in black and white over Pigneto. A work by Maupal titled the eye is the only one that can see the beauty after a poem by Pasolini about beauty and vision.
We made a short stop too at the most iconic watering holes in Pigneto – Necci dal 1924. Pasolini’s favourite, so the perfect place to sip our coffee and where Michele filled me in on the director’s filmography and life. It’s also where I offloaded my dismay on not spotting a classic vintage car on my short weekend break. Particularly as the next day was Sunday and we all know what I love posting on Instagram the last day of the week (hold that thought!).
It’s not all about the huge murals either, you need to keep your eyes peeled when hunting down pieces from the well-known street artists. This smaller piece by Alice Pasquini can be spotted on a huge rusty iron gate.
With the tour coming to an end, we began our zig zag journey back to the historic centre. Luckily enough, Michele spied a new piece from Alice on our way back. It was great to stumble across it in full vibrancy.
So you know when I told you to hold that thought! Well you can unhold now…Check out the picture below!
Michele drove me to a vintage rare yellow Fiat 500 L and took the best #asundaycarpic, whilst I sported my best nonchalant look with a fab piece of street art – The cherry on the cake! I mean could the tour have ended on a higher note than this – I think not!
Needless to say this tour this was the best thing I did in Rome. It really did differ from the many tours I’ve experienced on holiday. Not only the coolest ride ever, but also the most authentic. Interwoven through the street art stops and history of the different neighbourhoods, were Michele’s personal stories. I discovered where his mother worked, where he was born, where he learnt to play his African bongos, enjoys to hang out and how he perceives the changing face of Rome’s suburbs. Experiencing the city through the eyes of a born and bred Roman gives you a deeper connection to the city. Hands down, probably the most un-touristy tour I’ve ever been on. More like hanging out with a friend, which would explain why the three hours whizzed by so quickly.
Obviously having your own private tour on a Vespa is not the cheapest way to explore Rome’s street art, but trust me when I say it’s one of the best and worth every penny. When in Rome, remember not to miss this ride!
For more information on the tours and prices head to the Scooteroma website.
Disclaimer: I received a media rate for my street art tour with Scooteroma. However, all views, opinions and photos unless otherwise stated are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
Below are more posts from my Rome adventures:
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