Ostiense is one of the main areas in Rome where you can find murals. It is also the first neighbourhood in the Italian capital where street art spread legally and started to manifest itself in huge dimensions.
Ostiense district used to be not only the main supply centre for restaurants and market throughout Rome, with its warehouses and the nearby slaughterhouse in Testaccio, it was also an important industrial area. This past is still alive in the names of the streets in the neighbourhood and is a fundamental part of Italy’s industrial archaeological heritage, one that is recognised by the Ministry of Culture.
Read also: Centrale Montemartini Ostiense, where industrial archaeology meets classical art
When the factories in Ostiense moved to more remote areas, they left behind large and vacant spaces with an irresistible urban charm. This has occured in many large cities around the world: the first parts of town to become ‘street art districts’ are almost always those with an industrial past.
- Read also: “Street Art in Rome: A Guide to Ephemeral Art in Italy’s Eternal City” the ultimate travel guide to the top 26 neighborhoods to find street art in Rome, with handpicked local tips to eat, drink and shop in Rome like a local.
Rome Street Art Map: Ostiense walking tour
Use my free street art map to find the best murals in Rome!
- Rome Street Art Map: Ostiense walking tour
- Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via del Porto Fluviale
- Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via dei Magazzini Generali
- Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via delle Conce
- Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via del Commercio
- Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via Ostiense
- Poster Art and more Street Art in Ostiense: The two underpasses
Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via del Porto Fluviale
The most famous work by street artist BLU in Rome is probably the mural that covers two facades of the bygone warehouse of the Italian Air Force, which has been occupied by numerous migrant families since 2003. Playing with the architectural elements of the building, BLU created 27 faces with (originally) very bright colours. Perhaps these colours have faded somewhat, but the work has not lost its fighting spirit. Without omitting references to the history and architecture typical of Ostiense, each character depicted tells a different story: of social injustice, exploitation of environmental resources or, for example, inequalities caused by capitalism.
In 2014, BLU returned to the same building to create a work on its side façade. This time he painted a construction site on top of a huge ship which is being attacked by pirates while sailing through a storm. It’s a metaphor for the urban metropolis on the verge of sinking.
Among the murals in Ostiense there is one that holds a very special record: it is the largest ‘ecological’ mural in Europe. Conceived by Milanese street artist Iena Cruz in 2018, this mural in Via del Porto Fluviale was painted with 100% eco-sustainable paint that purifies the air, i.e. paint that ‘eats’ the polluting dust of one of Rome’s most congested neighbourhoods and transforms it into harmless salts.
In the same street there is a work called ‘Fish ‘n Kids’, painted in 2011 by Agostino Iacurci: an idyllic scene of peaceful coexistence showing a man happily swimming among colourful fish. This work can also be interpreted in relation to the fish market below, where fish – now lifeless – wait to be bought, cooked and served by the many restaurants in the area.
Around the corner, we find a nostalgic mural by Axel Void. In his typical hyperrealistic style the Miami-based street artist painted the owner of a hardware store that used to be in that building back in the days when Ostiense was still the city’s industrial engine. The owner is a character who is remembered with great affection by the neighbourhood’s elderly.
Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via dei Magazzini Generali
It was in the Via dei Magazzini Generali that the famous Outdoor urban art festival began, one of the first urban art events in Rome. Among the interventions of the first edition (2010), there are two murals on both sides of the street that are in dialogue with each other. Both works were made by street artists from Rome.
Created by JB ROCK, ‘Wall of Fame’ is a red carpet for the icons of our time. It is the first large mural in Ostiense which has long been the symbol of its urban regeneration.
On the opposite side of the street, the duo STEN & LEX painted the viewers of this gallery of celebrities: a series of portraits of imaginary Ostiense inhabitants. The technique used testifies to a bygone era for the duo, who now paint large facades in an abstract style (a magnificent example of which can be found in the neighbouring Garbatella district).
In the Via dei Magazzini Generali there is also an advertising mural commissioned by Cartoon Network, the American company whose Roman headquarters is in this very building. The work was painted by the Rome-based street artists OMINO71 and MR. KLEVRA and depicts the TV channel’s most popular characters.
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Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via delle Conce
Another mural in Ostiense that bears witness to STEN & LEX’s past depicts a student (‘Alberto’) whose image was taken from a university yearbook. The artists created it in 2011 using their signature ‘stencil poster’ technique: after affixing the stencil to the wall as if it were a poster, they painted over it and then destroyed the stencil, or allowed weather conditions to do so.
Next to this work, on the other side of the entrance to the nightclub ‘Rising Love’, the French street artist MTO painted in his hyperrealistic style a not very welcoming bouncer. Entitled ‘Silvio’s House’, the work dates back to the period when former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s escapades didn’t precisely help to hold Italy’s image high.
Opposite these two works is Herbert Baglione’s mural, a metaphor for contemporary society in which we float in isolation, unable to bridge the distances that separate us. The Brazilian artist’s characteristic monochrome figures appear enveloped by a dark, dense sea.
Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via del Commercio
In the context of Outdoor Festival 2011), world-renowned artist KID ACNE drew inspiration from the Roman saying ‘Mettice ‘na Pezza’ for his 65-metre-long mural that reads ‘Paint Over the Cracks’. Apart from being an encouragement to fill the nooks and crannies of the city with art and creativity, the work is also a manifesto for the transformation of Ostiense from an industrial area to an open-air museum.
While some murals in this street are now gone (most notably, a mural by MOMO and one by Derek Bruno), a new piece appeared under the gas holder by Roman street artists Diamond and Flavio Solo, who often paint together.
If you are curious to see some photos of street art in Ostiense that isn’t there anymore, check out my old article Street Art in Rome: San Basilio, Ostiense, Tor Marancia
Murals in Ostiense: walking along Via Ostiense
Somewhat further away from the other murals in Ostiense, but not to be missed if you’re on the hunt for BLU‘s most beautiful works in Rome, is the mural on the facade of the Alexis social centre. It denounces the heavy traffic in the metropolis, represented by a chain of padlocks made in the shape of cars.
Seemingly unrelated to the theme of this work is the portrait of Alexis Grigoropoulos painted in the bottom right corner. Grigoropoulos was a student killed by the Greek police in 2008 that Blu wanted to honour in his work.
Poster Art and more Street Art in Ostiense: The two underpasses
Ostiense is also where you can find two underpasses frequently hit by local and international poster artists, one on Via delle Conce and one on Via Ostiense. In the latter, some street art pieces from the Avanguardie Urbane festival, which took place in 2013, are still visible -albeit either faded or painted over.
Find these, and many more, murals in my Rome street art map
You can see the best of street art in Ostiense in this vlog: