Garbatella is the youngest residential and popular area of Rome, in the Ostiense district, near the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls. It developed on the southern outskirts of the city in the Twentieth century. It was originally conceived as a port workers and their family’s residential quarter.
The King Victor Emmanuel III laid the foundation stone of “Borgata Giardino” near via Ostiense where the inhabitants could find public transportation to go to work. The area was divided into project units (in Italian: lotto). This design was borrowed from the concept of “Garden city movement”: planned detached houses or small blocks built around a common courtyard and garden where families could socialize, share resources and grow their own vegetables.
The place was first called “Borgata Giardino Concordia” because many and different social classes lived in harmony. After construction it took the much more appealing name of “La Garbatella”. “Garbato” is an Italian adjective meaning polite, amiable. The suffix “ella” adds to it a bit of gracefulness and a female reference. The general opinion is that the name originated with a well-mannered (“garbato”) innkeeper serving food in an osteria on via delle Sette Chiese, who provided refreshments to the pilgrims and bread and wine to the workers who built the site. Those who claim to know legend, think more likely that Garbatella derives from a method of grape cultivation (“a garbata”) used in the area.
During Fascism the architecture changed, larger blocks of smaller flats and fewer green areas were designed. and three ‘suburban hotels’, as they were called at the time, blocks containing small temporary residences with a minute kitchen and toilet. The bizarre urbanism of Garbatella combines faux ancient Roma, a great variety of styles and decorations, with many details reminding to medieval, Renaissance, Baroque patterns.
Today Garbatella can be descrive as a small community. It is the perfect spot for a walk through the gardens encompassing small distinctive villas, buildings and historical sites such as the Palladium, once a cinema and today a theatre which has an interesting calendar of events all year round organized by the Romaeuropa Foundation in collaboration with Roma Tre University.