Garbatella: Rome's Garden City

Garbatella has its own distinct Roman identity.

Rome's Garbatella neighbourhood, which celebrates its centenary in 2020, was designed primarily to house railway and dock workers working in the neighbouring industrial district of Ostiense.

When Garbatella's ground-breaking ceremony took place at Piazza Brin on 18 February 1920, an event presided over by Italy's King Victor Emanuel III, the fledgling south Rome suburb was considered remote by many Romans.

The area's design was based on the Garden City model developed by English architect Ebenezer Howard, the pioneer of the garden city movement.

The designs were adapted for a Roman context and the houses were built by the Istituto per le Case Popolari (ICP), a state building society dedicated to low‐cost public housing.

The original section of Garbatella, built in the early 1920s, is subdivided into project units, or lotti, consisting of several buildings grouped together around a common garden area, serving as an informal meeting place for residents. Each lotto is numbered and there are 62 in total.

This focus on community as well as the area's relatively remote location - at the time - fostered a strong sense of togetherness and forged a distinct Roman identity among Garbatella residents.

The original Garbatella development is noted for its eclectic mix of architectural styles, with Rococo, Baroque and Rationalist influences, as well as its mass of internal courtyards and urban gardens.

By the late 1920s the area expanded rapidly, boasting the highest population density in the city.

This rush to meet increased demand for housing meant that the newer 'super-blocks' failed to live up to the ideals set out in the original Garden City-style designs.

However the older area of Garbatella remains a joy to explore, with its flowers and shrubs tumbling over garden walls onto the neighbourhood's narrow, winding streets.

As for the origins of its poetic name, there are several theories, the most popular of which relates to a well-loved local innkeeper called Carlotta (or Maria). According to legend, this polite innkeeper, or "garbata ostella", led to the creation of the name we know today as Garbatella.

For the centenary programme of events see city website. Cover photo RomaFanpage

General Info

Address 00154 Garbatella, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy

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Garbatella: Rome's Garden City

00154 Garbatella, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy