When you think of street art in Italy, you probably think of it as a modern phenomenon, picturing underpasses and apartment blocks covered in graffiti. There’s actually a long tradition of Italian street art. For centuries, talented artists have decorated the streets and walls of cities, either for financial gain or pure creative expression, or both. In the 16th century, for example, it was common practice for artists known as “Madonnari” to create images of the Virgin Mary. These images could often be found on the roads and pavements of the town centre, mainly during festivals. These temporary artworks would then be washed away by the rain.
The tradition of street art in Italy remains, but it’s taken a different form. You’re more likely to come across animals and superheroes than religious iconography. Also, unlike the creations of the Madonnari, the modern masterpieces by the following Italian artists are here to stay.
Street art in Rome
Art is everywhere in Rome. Like Florence, it’s essentially an open-air museum. And while you would expect the historic centre to be full of art, this isn’t the case. You will be surprised by the amount of masterpieces that are hidden away in unexpected places. A vast portrait of the Italian noblewoman Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso covers the entirety of a steep flight of steps in a residential part of Trastevere. This portrait is a creation of the Roman street artist David “Diavù” Vecchiato. A huge wolf (the symbol of Rome) takes up the whole wall of an apartment block in Testaccio in a work by the Belgian street artist Roa.
Many of the most striking works of street art in Rome are located in residential neighbourhoods far from the centre, such as Tor Marancia and Tor Bella Monaca. Unless you’re a real Italian street art enthusiast, you may not want to make the journey. However, the Ostiense, Pigneto and Torpignattara neighbourhoods are all worth a visit. Also, these neighbourhoods are full of colourful masterpieces by some of the most talented Italian street artists.
Roman street artists
- Alice Pasquini – One of the most celebrated Rome street artists. Pasquini’s work, mainly dreamy murals of female subjects, can be found all across the world. Look out for her portrait of lovers kissing in Pigneto, as well as work on the wall of the Testaccio market.
- Blu – The identity of this internationally renowned Italian street artist remains a mystery, but his works are some of the most striking examples of street art in Rome. His colourful, symbolic murals cover buildings in the Ostiense and Marconi neighbourhoods, and have become icons of Rome street art.
- David “Diavù” Vecchiato – A famous Roman artist who’s best known for his giant staircase portraits of women. The artist has said that one of his aims is to make up for the lack of “feminine” monuments in Rome. Check out his website for a map of his works, which are mostly located in the suburbs.
- Solo and Diamond – Two street artists who have created many of the best works of street art in Rome, including the comic-book-style “The Mummy of the Red Devil” (Via Flaminia, Solo). Also, they have created a beautiful wall with art nouveau influences (Tor Marancia neighbourhood, Diamond). Although they have quite different, distinctive visual styles, they’ve also collaborated on numerous projects in Rome.
Other street artists in Rome
- Iena Cruz – This street artist from Milan is behind one of the most beautiful and important works of street art in Rome – a gigantic “smog-eating” mural on a busy street in the Ostiense neighbourhood. The symbolic image of a heron perched on a barrel of oil sends a strong message, but what makes this mural really special is the materials. The paint has special properties that help to absorb and purify the smog from this polluted intersection. This, of course, makes the artist’s environmental statement even more powerful.
Street art in Florence
Florence doesn’t have an international reputation for street art to the same extent as other cities, but there’s definitely a flourishing street art scene. In recent years there’s been a boom of street art in Florence. Currently, the city has a mixture of Italian and international street artists filling the city with colourful murals, stickers and sculptures.
Some good starting points for discovering Italian street artists in Florence are the Sottopasso delle Cure (an underpass filled with street art, located north of the city centre) and this map of Florence street art.
Florentine street artists
- Blub – A Florentine street artist who has filled the city centre with images of famous figures underwater, wearing diving masks. See if you can spot a submerged “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, Dante or Freddie Mercury as you stroll around the centre. The artist often creates his artwork on electrical junction boxes.
- Il Sedicente Moradi – A painter and sculptor with classical training who works in the Santo Spirito neighbourhood. His sculptures are very unique as he makes them out of wood and other material he finds in nature. The artist is best known for his beautiful wooden animal sculptures, which were placed around the city.
Street art in Naples
The vibrant city of Naples is full of exciting street art. One of the most iconic artworks is Banksy’s “Madonna with a Pistol”, but there are plenty of works by Italian street artists too.
Neapolitan street artists
- Jorit Agoch – Perhaps the most famous Naples street artist. He is famous for his giant, hyper-realistic mural portraits of subjects. In the past he created murals of San Gennaro (the city’s patron saint), Diego Maradona and Che Guevara. His work is noteworthy for its classical influences and strong social statements.
- Roxy in the Box – A street artist who brightens up the streets of her native city. Roxy in the box is mainly known for pop art portraits of saints, artists, and various iconic public figures.
- Francisco Bosoletti – This artist is from Argentina, but he deserves a place on the list as an honorary Neapolitan. You find his beautiful murals across the city (particularly in the Materdei and Sanità neighbourhoods). Don’t miss his work “RESIS-TI-AMO”, which decorates the wall of the Church of Santa Maria della Sanità. This mural depicts a true love story.
Are you interested in discovering more Italian art? Whether it’s Raphael frescoes in the Vatican or contemporary urban murals in residential neighbourhoods – we’ll show you where to go. Contact Roads to Rome Private Tours to learn more about planning your Italian art tour!
Read more: Ten Italian cities where you can see amazing works of street art (Alitalia)
Written by Alexandra Turney
(Source cover picture blog: unpodipepe.ca)