Tor Bella Monaca

Author:Author: Alessandro Lanzetta

Tor Bella Monaca is located outside of the Grande Raccordo Anulare (G.R.A.* -- Rome’s large ring road), and is delimited by via Casilina to the south and via Prenestina to the north. The neighbourhood is divided into two zones: the “old” and the “new.”

“Old” Tor Bella Monaca is an old residential neighbourhood that began to be developed in the 1940s with the building of private housing no taller than three or four stories. Internal migrants from regions of southern Italy built their dwellings themselves in a process defined as “illegal building due to necessity”.

The new Tor Bella Monaca is located in the northern part of the quarter and was developed in the early 1980s. Spread over 188 hectares with approximately 30,000 inhabitants, it is distinguished by massive social housing buildings: towers with 15 stories and complexes of long buildings of five to eight stories. The neighbourhood was built as part of the Ist Plan for Economic and Popular Housing of Rome, which aimed to alleviate the housing emergency of a population that was severely disadvantaged by social and economic conditions and to a large extent had previously been living in precarious housing. The lack of social services and of immigration policies contributed the problems that now characterise the neighbourhood: social marginalization, unemployment, youth delinquency, and many others.

The neighbourhood is connected by large roads and is surrounded by vast undeveloped and neglected areas which are both unwelcoming and underscore the distance to other parts of society. A walk through these areas imparts a sense of alienation that serves to further reduce the quality and use of the space.

Tor Bella Monaca has become an emblem of deprivation and neglect, of organised crime and drug dealing. But it also represents the widespread and persistent desire for renewal held by many citizens and associations, who have put their hopes into action through the care and management of the abandoned open spaces. These activities, although often marginal, demonstrate commitment in the face of a situation that proves difficult to change.

Francesco Montillo