Rome’s other world: life on the banks of the river Tiber
The Tiber, known in ancient times as Albula, then Thybris and finally Tiberis, is Central Italy’s main river. Its stories “unfold at a level beneath that of the Eternal City of Rome, scrutinizing it from below.” (Maria Margarita Segarra Lagunes, Il Tevere e Roma, Storia di una simbiosi). Its banks still remain places that are wild and hard to access: with the exception of the better known stretch running through the city, the river belongs to a community of marginalized souls who have transformed it into a sort of fascinating, hidden city where infinite personal stories unfold.
Once such location is the small area of the estuary, known as Fiumara Grande or Passo della Sentinella, a “neighbourhood”
that is home to around 700 families who over the years have drained the area and requested on a number of occasions the regularization of their living situations and their rights. In 1933 the land was requisitioned by the state that took it from an aristocratic family to create a radio telegraph centre, but the project never came to fruition and since then its situation has never been fully resolved. Its inhabitants frequently risk having to leave their homes, which in any case are not connected to the sewage system, public lighting and connections to public transport networks.
The area of Isola Sacra is home to Henryk Pawel Chrobok, a Polish sailor and boat builder who has experienced many adventures during his 78 years. He lives on a boat that he is currently building with the aim of sailing to Antarctica. And then there is Gurjeet, an Indian shepherd who doesn’t speak a word of Italian and Rita, a retired architect who lives under a bridge beneath the river. Rita was a close friend of Antonio, the artist who mysteriously disappeared in August 2020 and was known among the inhabitants of the Tiber for the native American style tepees he used to build as well as his painted murals and his poems.
These are just some of the stories taking place in the urban and rural settings of this green-coloured lined that bisects the millennia-old territory of the Eternal City.