The first person you meet arriving at Santa Galla market is Cesare, barman since ’68. It’s a must of any tour around the market: anyone stops there, even who doesn’t work at the market anymore, as this frozen food seller who sadly tells us “I had to close, I couldn’t even cover the expenses. But I come to the market anyway, to do some shopping and have a cup of coffee” sipping his coffee.
A walk through the stalls
Cesare is happy to tell his and the market story: born ‘open air’ in Magnaghi road, it moved to the historical site of Passino road in ‘52, where he opened his bar in ’68 as mentioned above. “We spent 10 years there, then in ’78 we had to move out to allow a major refurbishment, I remember it well because my daughter was born in the same year”. And then moved back in until 2001, when Passino road site needed to be renewed again. Now the covered market is ready, but the traders don’t want to go back inside “We were in the heart of Garbatella, but after ten years customers got used to coming here and then the market structure in Passino road doesn’t have a parking – says Sandra, who, with her clothes stall, is the president of the sellers association. – Time is already tough, if we move is will be a total disaster. Even here things are not so well, as the location should have been temporary. Now the market is not very nice to see, some stalls are closed and some old ones, recycled from another market, show the signs of time. Mine for example used to be a butchery stall, when I ‘transformed’ it into a clothes one I didn’t think I would use it for over 10 years”.
At each step of the market ‘pilgrinage’ some sellers left: there were 120 stalls in the Sixties, approximately 80 at the first moving on the road, 60 when they arrived at Santa Galla road and as of today only 45.
But the market survives with its wide offer: fruits and vegetables, as on Gerardo’s stall who complains: “I have a beautiful cauliflower, which I sell at 60 cents per kilo, but people don’t buy it because they think it’s too big. I make a sale to sell fresh products and people think they are old”. Then there is fish (among the oldest license, Grazia’s and Massimiliano’s one, who have inherited the stall from their parents, who had inherited it from their grandparents themselves), some “pizzicherie” (sort of grocery store selling cheese cold cuts etc), meat, but also clothes, lining, household products, and even a ‘bath products’ stall, including bubble bath, shampoo, body lotions and even make up.
“I’m 65 years old – adds Sandra – and I am one of the oldest at the market, but there are many young people who have to pay a loan and really struggle. We cannot let the market die, we have had three different mayors with different political views, but didn’t get any results”. The market seller had actually made a proposal five years ago: they wanted to remain ‘open air’ on a land slot in Capitan Bavastro road. There have been inspections, meeting with unions, even a map with stalls arrangement, but then nothing out of it. But the market, struggling, survives.
“I went to Garbatella market a few days before Easter and it was all a blaze of (sweet) doves, chocolate eggs, little eggs and candies. To be honest, I have a big passion for lollipops. Don’t tell me about candies, jellies or mints. I love lollipops. And chocolate, of course.
I saw some giant (chocolate) eggs her, wrapped in red and yellow which are the colors of Daddy’s team… and also that other team, that I don’t really know about! And then I saw some cute chocolate characters, among which a little rabbit. Mummy bought it for me and placed it on shelf waiting for Easter. When it finally arrived I was so happy, I was looking forward to eating the rabbit and see the surprise inside. But when we opened it… bummer: the rabbit was milk chocolate and there was no surprise inside. But then luckily my grandma Giuliana brought me a big dark chocolate egg and I even found a little necklace as surprise!”
Just around the corner
As said, throughout the years, Garbatella market has found itself out if the neighborhood, moving for some time in a sort of ‘no man’s land’ between Cristoforo Colombo road and Ostiense road, called Circonvallazione Ostiense. Born as a transit zone, it’s becoming the place where happen some of the most interesting urban transformations in town.
One of them might have not been really appreciated by the market sellers, but has given some hope to those who don’t accept the degradation of many structures in town: we are talking about the AIR TERMINAL requalification. In 1990, this name was given to the station that should have welcomed travelers, tourists and fans landed at Fiumicino airport for the world soccer championship.
With its vaulted ceilings and large windows, the project of the Spanish architect Julio Lafuente aimed at giving a contemporary flavor to the large stations of the early twentieth century, with classical art echoes suggested by the references to the monumental Roman baths. But his creation destiny did not match the expectations: not really taken into account by travelers in transit, soon all shops closed and left the station which soon became a refuge for homeless. Unfortunately a ‘failure’ story of many Italian works: a big event, a famous architect, high expectations and big investments, then waste, bad management, lack of attention… a bad mix of ingredients, which leave a bitter flavor in mouth. But, last year, someone seems to have found a good recipe for the station: since summer 2012, some floors of the Air Terminal host ‘Eataly’, a famous chain of Italian excellence in food and cuisine.
While waiting for the new complex ‘Campidoglio 2’, a new site for many City Council offices, which is being built between the Air Terminal and Santa Galla road, the last architecture work which was completed in the area is the OSTIENSE BRIDGE, recently entitled to SETTIMIA SPIZZICHINO. The bridge is certainly interesting for its structure, sort of recalling Calatrava’s works, but well integrated in the local environment: its white lattice arch not only reminds the shape of DNA, but it also refers to the metallic texture of Gazometro, standing in the background, just beyond the railway. But perhaps even more interesting is its entitlement, which invites to remember the story of an extraordinary witness of one of the blackest pages in the capital history. Settimia Spizzichino is in fact the only woman of 1022 Jews taken from the ghetto of Rome on October 16, 1943 who survived to the Nazi camps. Back home from the hell of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen – where, among others, died her mother, two sisters and her 18 months old daughter – she established herself at Garbatella, where she lived until she died at the age of 79. Until the last day, she maintained the commitment of keeping alive the memory of the horrors she had witnessed, telling her story to pupils in schools and participating actively in the social life of the neighborhood.
With its tall buildings, the Circonvallazione Ostiense marks the northern boundary of Garbatella. Among others, the most famous ones are the so called “suburban hotels”, built in 1928 to temporarily host the families displaced from their homes destroyed in the historical center. Originally created as real dormitories, with some common areas and bath rooms on the ground floor, they actually became family flats. On Biffi square, you can recognize the WHITE HOTEL, which in the original project should have hosted Maternity rooms. This was the place of a special and not commonly known event: Gandhi’s visit to Garbatella. It happened in autumn 1931, during a European tour that the Indian leader was doing to find a diplomatic solution to the claims towards the British Empire. He arrived in Rome on December 12, had a short meeting with Mussolini, but did not get a slot with Pope Pio XI. Even if he had only two days, Gandhi asked to visit some working class neighborhoods: he wanted to see how Rome had solved the poor people living emergency, a problem that was affecting also Indian metropolis. Garbatella was the choice, so on December 13 Gandhi – wrapped in his traditional white sheet – was seen coming out of the White Hotel, together with a mass of people, as shown in the images of Luce Institute, also available on YouTube.