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Along the River

© Stephanie Gengotti

On the 2nd of November 1975 Pier Paolo Pasolini’s body was found in a neighbourhood of Ostia called Idroscalo. Today there are about 500 families squatting on this piece of land, which is owned by the state.

In the 60’s, because of its geographical location at the mouth of the Tiber, it became a village of fishermen. They were the ones who built the first wood huts, having obtained the concession from the state. The huts soon became houses for summer holidays, but with the increase in the cost of living, many families moved there permanently from the centre of Rome.

Idroscalo inhabitants have always fought for that piece of land, they rebuilt the rock reef at their own expense, they obtained streetlights in the main square, potable water, electricity, a street number on each house, a decent road connecting them to the city, and a bus line.

Nine years ago the construction of the Ostia port near Idroscalo contributed to worsening the situation; then the threats of evacuating them became more evident because of the need to widen the port area, which many contractors were interested in.

At risk are 500 families, who in this limbo have stopped investing money to maintain their homes. Today the streets are always flooded, some of the houses are nearly falling apart, in some of them the waves from the sea hit the walls, in others the swollen river comes in through the doors. But the inhabitants won’t hear of leaving their land, having lived there for three generations by now. Evacuation would mean ending up in an apartment hotel in the capital city, surrounded by cement, separated from the ones they love and from their roots.

Seen from the outside it could seem a no man’s land, but for the people who live there, Idroscalo is the only alternative to a world where everything costs too much. In Idroscalo you can buy a house for 10 thousand euros and rent one for 400 euros a month. In recent years many immigrant families have moved there because the prices are more accessible. It is an excellent example of integration and various cultures living together. Everybody knows everybody else, they meet in the square in the afternoon, have a chat, keep each other company, play cards and never feel alone.

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