Street Art in Rome

Give me a great bit of street art and I’m a happy bunny. I know that Rome doesn’t have the same kind of gritty urban reputation as New York or London, but it’s actually a great place to find some unexpected gems on a wall or in a shop window, in between checking out ancient ruins (which I’m glad haven’t been covered in spray paint, but have more subtle additions).

Here are some of the best examples that I could find during my visit, from bizarre animals to a religious art interpretation.

Cat or owl graffiti on a street in Rome

A surreal double-ended owl, or it could be a badly sprayed cat, kicks off proceedings.

This first piece was close to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. I like it because it makes no sense and I’m still not 100% convinced that it’s meant to be an owl in sunglasses. My first thought was a cat. Either way, I couldn’t resist taking a picture. Cat-owl, I salute you.

Names carved onto the walls of the Colosseum in Rome

Look closely and you’ll see carved graffiti left on the Colosseum walls.

The Colosseum isn’t just great for the history of the building itself, but for the people that passed through it, whether they were rich or poor. The walls are covered with markings, many of which probably aren’t that old in comparison to the arena itself and were probably carved by bored children on school trips, but they add yet another layer to it.

Green garage door with multiple layers of graffiti in Rome

Just another door down an anonymous alleyway in the city, but I love the colour combinations here.

So this one isn’t exactly poetry in motion – more like rival tags being sprayed over each other – but there’s something about it that I think still works. Each colour stands out in its own right, from the yellow circles to the purple squiggles in the corners. I’m sure if I went back in a month or a year it would look totally different.

Saint Sebastian mural graffiti

Here’s the street interpretation of Saint Sebastian.

Looking a bit cooler than when I studied him in History of Art lessons, here’s San Sebastiano who was martyred and hit by arrows. Here he’s got hair worthy of a L’Oreal advert, despite being mortally wounded: proof that Italians consider style at all times, even in their street paintings (because they’re worth it).

Colourful street mural in Rome - cloaked man with orb

Channeling Assassin’s Creed, it’s a Roman cloaked dude.

The one that intrigues me the most is this mural, which has stylised red writing that you can just about make out, saying: ‘Sancta mapsia ad nives‘, or ‘Maps to the snow’, translated from Latin. Google didn’t throw up any results as to what it relates to, but maybe I’m missing something here, as I’m not a local (it could relate to a local landmark or saying) and I’ve also never studied Latin. If anyone has any ideas then let me know!

Male mannequin in a city street, Rome

At first I thought it was a mime artist, but this turned out to be a mannequin.

Maybe more a case of accidental art (it could well have been a clothing shop making use of space outside), I stumbled upon this mannequin propping up a lamppost. I don’t think much of his outfit or the 90s haircut, but he did make me laugh.

Pinocchio with drill drawing in Monti, Rome

An unhappy Pinocchio puts a drill to his head, as displayed in a shop window in Monti, Rome.

Italians seem to have a serious thing about Pinocchio, but so do tourists when they pass through. There are little wooden puppets and fridge magnets in every souvenir shop in the city, so you can’t get away from him. This quirky drawing caught my eye because it reminded me of the Book of Bunny Suicides series.

There was so much to see in Rome, but the street art was something that constantly surprised me, maybe because it wasn’t like anything I’d seen before. New York and London might have huge murals and famous artists, but this is just a taste of what Italy has to offer in response.

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