Rome Rebibbia museum Casal Pazzi

Discover The Unique Area of Rebibbia In Rome

Share with your friends

The article introduces Rebibbia, a peripheral area in the northeast of Rome that has recently gained fame due  to the collaboration between the cartoonist Zerocalcare and Netflix.

Where is Rebibbia

La via Tiburtina

Rome’s “blue” metro B line splits at the “Bologna” station. In practice, those traveling from south to north on metro B must be careful which train they board. Those who board the train in the direction of “Jonio” reach the neighborhoods of Trieste Salario, and Monte Sacro. Those who get on the train in the direction of “Rebibbia” reach the important high-speed train station “Roma Tiburtina”, to continue the route along Via Tiburtina.

rome rebibbia metro mural zerocalcare

The Via Tiburtina is an ancient Roman communication route that connected Rome to the nearby city of Tibur, which is today’s Tivoli. Later, the Roman authorities decided to extend it until it reached the city of Aternum, today’s Pescara. Today, Via Tiburtina presents itself as a place with an uncertain urban fabric. It features small shopping centres, cheap gaming halls, tackily decorated bars, all interspersed with dilapidated buildings and a large prison.

Ponte Mammolo

The “Rebibbia” metro stop is located immediately after crossing the Aniene river, a tributary of the Tiber. Via Tiburtina crosses the Aniene river thanks to the Ponte Mammolo, the bridge that gives its name to the neighborhood, which includes the Rebibbia area.

rome rebibbia sunset park trees

The Mammolo Bridge was an ancient Roman bridge, located in a strategic position for entering the city. Legend has it that the Carthaginian leader Hannibal crossed the bridge as he approached Rome during the Second Punic War.

The name is said to derive from Giulia Mamea, the woman who decided to restore the bridge. Giulia Mamea was one of the most powerful women in antiquity, because she was the mother of the emperor Alexander Severus and regent of the Roman Empire when her son was too young to govern. Later, when Alexander Severus came of age, her mother continued to have great influence.

rome rebibbia via tiburtina shadow

In the 19th century, French troops besieged the Roman republic to help the Pope restore his power. During the siege, the French generals destroyed the Mammolo bridge. Subsequently, the Italian authorities abandoned the remains of the ancient bridge and rebuilt the Mammolo bridge about 400 meters away from the original.

The center of Rebibbia

Rebibbia Prison

The Rebibbia area owes its name to the powerful Cardinal Scipione Rebiba, who held large possessions in the area in the 16th century. If the traveler walks past the “Rebibbia” metro stop, he can observe the remains of the LEO penicillin factory and the large and oppressive prison.

rome rebibbia metro stop tiburtina

My wife and I went to this area, and we passed the Chamber of Labor, a building that houses the largest Italian trade union, the CGIL. These offices are responsible for labor issues in the entire eastern area of Rome.

We visited the area during a rainy day, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to resurface after the first wave. The experience was alienating, also due to the place overlooking Via Tiburtina, which appeared like an open-air construction site.

Behind the Chamber of Labor, the Rebibbia prison darkens the traveler. The architect Sergio Lenci designed the Rebibbia prison with the human rights of prisoners in mind. In 1980, terrorists from the communist formation “Prima Linea” attempted to assassinate the architect. The crazy terrorists wanted to kill the architect precisely because he had shown himself to be humane towards the prisoners.

In fact, the terrorists believed that they would have more difficulty recruiting militants for the communist revolution inside a human-scale prison. In 1995, Sergio Lenci’s story inspired the film “The Second Time”, starring the beloved director and actor Nanni Moretti.

The prison in popular culture

Rebibbia is a gigantic, heavily guarded prison that contains four different sections, three of which are male and one female. Literature and cinema have often mentioned prison. The main work is undoubtedly “Caesar Must Die”, a film awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2012. The film depicts a theatrical performance by prisoners in the Rebibbia prison, while they recite the tragedy Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

Furthermore, the writer and actress Goliarda Sapienza used up all her belongings to write her best-known novel, “The Art of Joy”. Italian publishing houses initially considered the book scandalous and published it only after the writer’s death. Goliarda Sapienza was therefore left penniless and stole some jewels. The police discovered her and briefly locked her up in the women’s section of the prison. The writer recounted her detention in her autobiographical work “The University of Rebibbia”.

Opposite the Chamber of Labor is the former LEO penicillin factory. The Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Armenise inaugurated the pharmaceutical factory in 1950, in the presence of the Nobel Prize winner for medicine Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. Unfortunately, Giovanni Armenise died in 1953. Since then, the factory changed ownership numerous times, until it closed in 2006. Today, the abandoned buildings await a use that is slow to arrive.

Zerocalcare

Today the area is famous for being the main setting of the stories of the cartoonist Michele Rech, aka Zerocalcare. First with his comic book volumes, then with two fabulous animated series produced by Netflix, Zerocalcare made Rebibbia a familiar place for young Italians.

In the animated series, the character of Zerocalcare often sits with his feet on a bench in Piazza Lino Ferriani, near one of the Roman residences of the poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. Here, Zerocalcare discusses with his friends, highlighting the relationship problems and insecurities of the generations born in the 80s. One day, caught up in the enthusiasm for the animated series, I asked my wife to photograph me in the same position as Zerocalcare, on the bench in Piazza Ferriani.

In Piazza Ferriani you can also read an inscription commemorating the residence of the poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. The plaque says:

“Ah, days of Rebibbia

that I thought were lost in a light

of necessity, and I now feel so free.”

The inscription quotes the poem “The crying of the digger”. The author included the poem in his most famous collection, “Le ceneri di Gramsci” of 1957

Parco Regionale Urbano di Aguzzano

Next to Piazza Lino Ferriani, on the opposite side of Via Tiburtina, stands the enormous area of the Aguzzano Regional Urban Park.

rome rebibbia aguzzano pinewood path

We passed by the park after visiting Piazza Lino Ferriani, where we observed a wonderful sunset where the warm colors of the evening mixed with the plants and a moon that appeared cut perfectly in half.

rome parco regionale aguzzano moon

The park represents a piece of countryside within a densely inhabited area of the capital. Among its paths, the traveler glimpses large trees, including 150-year-old pines, ditches and canals.

rome regional park aguzzano directions

If he is lucky, he may encounter the varied fauna which also includes foxes and badgers, as well as the inevitable green parrots. You can also see children’s games and various farmhouses containing a library and environmental awareness centers.

rome park aguzzano path clouds

We visited it on an autumn afternoon, wandering through the wide streets, observing the farmhouses and encountering the urban vegetable gardens that highlight the citizens’ love for their territory and the products it creates.

rome rebibbia aguzzano park art

Archaeological Area

Museo di Casal de’ Pazzi

On a wall of the “Rebibbia” metro station, travelers admire a splendid mural where they notice a large mammoth with the inscription “Welcome to Rebibbia” above it. Zerocalcare created the mural in 2014 and it immediately became a symbol of the neighborhood.

rome rebibbia zerocalcare mural elephant

The mural recalls the most important attraction of Rebibbia, namely the Casal de’ Pazzi museum, which houses a small archaeological area. The museum opens from Tuesday to Friday from 09:00 am to 02:00 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays it opens at 10:00 am and closes at 02:00 pm. Only on the first day of the year are the opening hours special, from 11:00 am to 04:00 pm. The museum closes on Mondays, December 25th and May 1st. Entrance is free.

rome rebibbia museum zerocalcare elephant

The museum tells the story of the life of the flora and fauna that populated this area bathed by an ancient river, about 200,000 years ago. The most important finds are the thirty ancient elephant tusks, the largest of which measures 3.50 meters in length. Furthermore, the archaeological area has given birth to the remains of rhinos and hippos, wolves and hyenas, as if a piece of Africa had lived in Rome, a long time ago.

The museum accessed in small groups. We climb a ladder that allows us to see the archaeological area from above, where some elephant tusks can be seen above all. Then, on a wall, a film is projected showing the life of our ancestors surrounded by the fauna and flora of the time. Once down the stairs, we can admire some fossil remains of animals and primordial tools used by man.

I Pazzi

The museum takes the name of Casal de’ Pazzi because nearby there is an ancient residence of the Florentine Pazzi family. The farmhouse is now a private residence and therefore cannot be visited, but it is suggestive to think that this was a place of dark plots. Here, the Florentine family conspired against one of the most important figures in history, Lorenzo the Magnificent.

rome rebibbia street art wall

The Pazzi were in fact a noble family who came into conflict with the Medici who governed Florence during the Renaissance. The Medici, in particular Lorenzo the Magnificent, governed the Tuscan city at the height of its artistic splendor. Lorenzo was also a well-known patron and writer of poems, the best known being “The Triumph of Bacchus”.

rome rebibbia casal pazzi mural

The Pazzis plotted with Pope Sixtus IV of the Della Rovere family to eliminate the Medici and seize control of Florence. The conspirators killed Giuliano de’ Medici in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, while Lorenzo the Magnificent managed to escape. Thanks to the support of the population, Lorenzo regained control of the city and took ferocious revenge on the Pazzi.

San Basilio

Unpleasant meetings

Anyone continues along Via Tiburtina in the direction of Tivoli enters a new neighborhood, San Basilio. The neighborhood was born as one of the suburbs designed by fascism to expel the poor from the center of the capital.

rome san basilio art liqen

San Basilio initially experienced significant expansion thanks to Marshall Plan funds and later became a destination for immigration from farmers in Umbria and the Marche.

rome san basilio hitnes cat

Due to high immigration, San Basilio became a neighborhood full of proletarians in eternal housing emergency.

rome street art liqen crane

The allocation of public housing, the continuous occupations of poor people and the subsequent evictions by the police seem like problems that continue to repeat themselves in an infinite loop.

rome san basilio duck art

Today, the press considers San Basilio a seedy, unsafe place and mainly famous as a drug dealing square. At the same time, the neighborhood is animated by the SanBa redevelopment project.

rome san basilio birds mural

The heart of the project is located in Parco Giulietto Minna where the Roman artist Hitnes created the 6 splendid “Animals” murals, with which he depicts animals with a human expression, including cats, peacocks, bears and ducks.

rome san basilio park minna

Our first impact with the neighborhood is terrible. When we are outside the park to take panoramic photos of the murals, a woman approaches us and aggressively asks us what we are doing.

rome basilio hitnes mural bear

We calmly reply to photograph the works. She doesn’t calm down, she imagines that we are photographing children in the park, and she threatens to break the camera.

rome basilio park minna art

She appears out of her mind and full of preconceptions, it is useless to explain that we are not interested in children. To avoid having problems with her, we move away from the park.

Pleasant meetings

Things change when we photograph the work of the artist Blu which recalls the occupation of public housing in 1974. The occupation triggered a revolt in which the police killed the young Lotta Continua militant Fabrizio Ceruso. The work depicts Saint Basil breaking the locks and allowing residents to enter public housing.

rome san basilio fountain whale

Here two young girls ask to be photographed. Mindful of the bad encounter, we reply with a smile that we are only interested in the mural. Below, a group of kids asks us what we are doing. After my answer, one of them makes me smile when he says “We hope you speak well of San Basilio, last time we ended up on Italia Criminale”. I promise not to speak badly of it.

rome san basilio mural houses

When we reach the whale gardens, an old lady asks us the usual question about what we are doing. After our response, she starts a rant about how much San Basilio sucks. You have the sympathy of the controversial elderly people who have seen their world change for the worse, abandoned by the institutions. Unlike the young man, she encourages me to speak badly of her neighborhood.

rome san basilio game street

Before leaving, we observe the wonderful mural by the Spanish artist Liqen. A work of hope, where a rake collects the garbage of consumerism to reveal the sprouts of a brighter future.

rome san basilio liqen mural

Our little trip shows us how Roman villages are much more complex than what the media portrays. Drug dealing damages places and makes people harsher, but the village remains a diverse ecosystem. Many people continue to want to live there and are not resigned to the degradation, both with the polemical streak of the elderly and with the hope of the young.

rome san basilio mosaic art

Series and movie

These two series by Zerocalcare below can be watched on Netflix:

Tear along the dotted line (Strappare lungo i bordi, 2021)

This world can’t tear me down (Questo mondo non mi renderà cattivo, 2023)

The movie Caesar Must Die (Cesare Deve Morire, 2012) by Taviani Brothers can be watched on: Amazon Prime and Apple TV

The movie The Second Time (La seconda volta, 1995) by Pippo Calopresti can be watched on: Google Play and Apple TV

Written by Enrico, translated by Hua, and photos from Hua


Share with your friends