It's not the Vatican or the Trevi. It's not where tourists flock for selfies or drop coins in fountains. Quite the opposite of a postcard side of Rome, it's barren, gritty and real.
The art district of Ostiense.
Originally an industrial area, and a neglected working class neighbourhood, Ostiense has seen a sort of a 'revival' in recent years. It reminded me a lot of Hackney in London. This neighbourhood has become a mecca for artists and hipsters... and boasts of some of the most talked about street art in Rome.
Artists are using the shabby barren walls of abandoned buildings, industrial warehouses and estates, the underside of flyovers as their own personal canvases, to create spectacular murals.
On a hot summer afternoon, we went street art hopping in Ostiense.
This former Ostiense Air Force building, occupied by families with housing problems hosts on it's facade a mural by Blu. Completed in 2013, this has become a landmark of the district. The multicoloured sailing ship carrying an urban building site, this dystopian apocalyptic image is the first striking piece as we began our exploration.
And it kept getting better as we walked down and the building came in full view, the enormity of it. The colour coded alien faces with broken windows as eyes is creepy at the same time cute. Amidst a housing crisis, this old and deprived structure has become a symbol of the community.
Further down, hidden in one of the alleyways, is this 'Wall of Fame' by JB Rock. A long wall from one end of the street to the other, filled with portraits of famous people- real and fictional.
Just across this orange wall is a blue wall with another set of portraits by Sten Lex. This, in contrast is a bunch of anonymous people. Common people in black and white.
'Paint Over The Cracks'
Giant Gasometers, nicknamed the 'Steel Colosseum' form a backdrop for this piece by Kid Acne. The message representing the desire to repair the cracks in our present world.
This abandoned building became a canvas once again for street artist Blu. I began reading about him. Blu is well known and had always shown great interest in social and political problems in the city. This building owned by an energy company now stands disused, occupied by students in search of housing.
A whirlwind of yellow cars, chained together- a symbol of slavery.
Graffiti Gothic Letters by Brus adorn the facade of this building. In between are a series of famous quotes by Goethe, Niel Liefer, Milan Kundera and Ansel Adams.
This one's a cute mural by Agostino Lacurci. Odd little characters feature on the long wall smoking pipes and cigarettes wearing nerdy glasses.
'Fuga de capitales' or capital flight, referring to the global economic crisis and numerous scandals. This dark silhouette piece on the Via Ostiense underpass is by Argentinian duo Gaucholadri.
The underpass is like an art gallery of sorts! Illustrated by Senza Titolo and crew. Together they regenerated this area with a series of illustrations. Here's another striking piece.
Ostiense has far too many art walls to cover in a single trip, but we quite enjoyed this 'taster', a chance to see a different side of Rome.