Today, community gardens are a widespread reality all over Europe, and not only. Italy has demonstrated to keep up with times and Rome is no exception. Nevertheless, the various experiments in collective governance of public spaces have never been on the forefront of local and national media. At least until the creation of Zappata Romana.
The very beginning of this project dates back to 2010, when a group of people, notably Silvia Cioli, Luca D’Eusebio and Andrea Mangoni, realized that the mere restoration of an abandoned public space does not bring long-term solutions in terms of maintenance. For this reason, they figured out that the efforts should be maximized though associations of willing and active people in order to provide a durable management for the benefit of the whole community.
Zappata Romana is a study project by StudioUAP, which “works mostly on public spaces and participation. Urban projects, architecture and landscape design are the occasions for experimenting models for the introduction of social interaction especially with children and low tech architecture”.
At the time when they rolled up their sleeves, they did an overview of the existing projects and they discovered that already 40 urban community gardens had already mushroomed in Rome, gathering many citizens and associations. It was the demonstration that the population was silently acknowledging the need for public spaces not only to be collectively managed but also to be a meeting place where socialization and exchange of best practices were the most important keywords.
Zappata Romana then can be better defined as a “network” because its ultimate goal is to put into contact the different projects that autonomously rise in the city of Rome. The always updated interactive map published on its website is the first and most remarkable tool at their disposal.
The different symbols represent different kinds of projects, i.e. vegetables gardens, gardens, guerrilla gardens, while the leitmotiv is the collective and direct management of these places by the citizens. Since every marker is accompanied with a brief description and the link of the related project/association, communication and exchange of practices are therefore possible. Not only. Cooperation is the expected outcome of this platform and the Roma Skill Share event in 2011 is the best example of the practical commitment and willingness already shown on the internet. It was a large event, where almost all the promoters of community gardens displayed on the map gathered and personally met in order to share the knowledge they had acquired (literally) on field. The idea of a handbook, published on the website, on the realization of community gardens is the result of the general will expressed on that occasion.
The flagship of Zappata Romana is the Hortus Urbis project. It best exemplifies the willingness of circulating skills and practices, combined with an educational and socializing goal.
The Appia Antica way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. Today, the spirit of the Ancient Rome revives in Hortus Urbis, which was launched by Zappata Romana and the Regional Park of Appia Antica. It consists in a 225sqm vegetable garden, which collects plants commonly used by the ancient Romans for a wide array of scopes: from the culinary to the therapeutic ones. Hortus Urbis is a collective garden where workshops regularly take place, where children, schools and adults, too have the possibility to learn how to take care of the environment they live in.
Hortus Urbis is just one of the over 150 community gardens in Rome, each of which is bearer of a particular knowledge that waits to be discovered and shared. Thus, not only the map of Zappata Romana is an orientation tool, but it also and foremost communicates an ideal and connects people.
Nel contesto dei giardini urbani condivisi, Zappata Romana è stata la pioniera nello studio e nella classificazione degli esperimenti condotti dai cittadini nella città di Roma. Lo studio ha preso la forma di una mappa interattiva che informa e mette in comunicazione realtà diverse tra loro, che tutto hanno da guadagnare nello scambio di esperienze e conoscenze acquisite sul “campo”. Zappata Romana opera ormai da qualche anno e ha collezionato iniziative di rilievo, come la guida pratica alla creazione di un orto condiviso e il progetto Hortus Urbis, che a scopo educativo fa rivivere lo spirito dell’Antica Roma.