February 18, 2012
On Saturday, February 18, eleven students and two SLAs set off for the Garbatella neighborhood, nestled between Ostiense and EUR in southern Rome. The excursion was a product of the Student Activities Committee; Rome Start student Caroline Sletten-Larson is organizing a program—‘Explore Rome’—in which a professor, SLA, or full-year student leads a group on an informal tour of a non-central neighborhood. The tour includes a lunch in which each person pays more than the food costs, and this extra money is given to charity.
Garbatella is a beautiful neighborhood. Constructed in the 1920s using Utopian philosophy, it was originally public housing designed to ease the psychological transition for post-World War I migrant factory workers coming from the countryside. Strolling through the quiet streets that wind their way through the lotti (houses and small apartments collected in groups around internal gardens and one of the Garbatella’s defining features) the group struggled to believe they hadn’t arrived in a small country town. They were captivated by the ‘public housing’—bizarre, irregular architecture that had been carefully and lovingly planned as opposed to the square, boring, thoughtless public housing common to other Roman areas as well as many American cities.
The group enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Casetta Rossa, a popular community spot. They paid very little for a whole lot, allowing them to contribute 80 euro to the charity fund. The students were treated generously, given free wine and coffee as well as the opportunity to return whenever we want for Italian cooking lessons. After lunch they continued to enjoy Garbatella’s unique and pervasive communal energy through its public spaces; its courtyards and piazzas, parks and urban gardens.