Graffiti in Italy - Modern Expressionism or Vandalism?

First time visitors to Italy are usually appalled by the amount of graffiti they encounter along the way. They think: “how is it possible that amidst all of these beautiful and ancient buildings lives bold and sometimes seemingly non-sensible acts of vandalism/graffiti?” And that’s what I first thought too when I visited Rome as a kid in the 60s. Today, it’s even more prevalent but graffiti in Italy has a much longer history than 50 years ago.

Man has always made its mark by painting on walls since the beginning of time. In fact, Argentina has cave paintings dating from around 9,000 B.C.. Pompeii has markings forever preserved in volcanic ash. There is a drawing in Rome that dates from 200 A.D. depicting one of the first known impressions of Christ. Now, only time will tell if today’s scrawling will have a similar historical impact but today, many of the drawings often times have symbolic political references.


Graffiti has always been illegal in Rome but for centuries it was overlooked. Recently though, Rome’s mayor increased fines from €25 to €300 along with the promise of enforcement. My guess is that as buildings are painted over exposing a fresh canvas more graffiti will reappear.


For now, you will need to be content that amongst the true vandalism, there is art and self-expression. In time, all of it will be painted over and new ones, good and bad, will take their place. It's you that will have to decide which is which.



Have a look at some that we encountered on our recent 25 for 25 Tour.

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