/Urban Farming & Its Various Forms in Rome

Urban Farming & Its Various Forms in Rome

The garden at the American Academy in Rome.

Yesterday I got an email from landscape architect Alexa Helsell inquiring about Rome’s urban farming movement, which got me thinking. For a city that is so blessed with fertile soil, so rife with green spaces, and so proud of its local produce, there are relatively few plots of land dedicated to plant cultivation in town. And, while there are a handful of produce gardens in the city, there isn’t a strong, consolidated movement towards establishing urban gardens for public use. Instead, there are several organizations that have been successful in launching small-scale projects, most of which are aimed at youth education.

Slow Food Roma established a sort of Edible Schoolyard (called Orto in Condotta in Italian) at two kindergartens, I Monelli and Torre di Babele, both near the Fiera di Roma. Rome’s mayor, no stranger to urban farming, recently pledged his support to expand the program, which counts chefs Heinz Beck and Angelo Troiani as major propopnents. The objective is to expand to other schools in the near future. For more information on Orto in Condotta, visit the website.

The Caffarella Park, part of the larger Appia Antica Park, is sandwiched between the residential Tuscolana neighborhood and rolling hills where sheep graze and farmers make ricotta. Part of the park is devoted to didactic farming and the Comitato per il Parco della Caffarella oversees a garden where schools groups and families with young children can come and learn about agriculture.

Newly inaugurated garden at the Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo.

On October 30, one of Rome’s farmer’s markets, the Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo, launched a small urban garden in the market’s courtyard. The endeavor is a collaborative effort between Italia Nostra, Anci, Coldiretti, and Campagna Amica and will host courses on gardening for the market’s visitors and clients, as well as to children from local schools.

The largest government-sponsored urban garden that I know of is the one in Quarto degli Ebrei-Tenuta di Mazzalupetto in northwestern Rome near the G.R.A. (ring road). It consists of 200 plots, 70 meters square each. The project is co-sponsored by several entities, including Legambiente, Regione Lazio, Arsial, Roma Natura and Acqua-Sole-Terra.

The Comune di Roma (Roman city government) inaugurated another city garden, called Il Parco a Orti Urbani (zona Pisana). The 18,000 square meter area is partitioned into 21 plots, measuring 200 square meters each and has a variety of amenities including running water and sheds.

Another graden worth noting, though perhaps not an urban garden in the proper sense of the phrase, is that of the Rome Sustainable Food Project, a joint venture between Alice Waters and the American Academy in Rome. The Academy is located on the Janiculum Hill and has a sprawling backyard where herbs, fruit trees and a vegetable garden provide some produce for the RSFP kitchen.

Update (Dec. 13): Check out this awesome interactive map of urban gardens in Rome as well as these organizations: Eutorto, Orti Urbani Garbatella, Cooperativa Coraggio, Giardinieri Sovversivi Romani.

2016-01-13T10:36:07+00:00 November 11th, 2010|Categories: Culture, Rome & Lazio|12 Comments


  1. lisa November 11, 2010 at 5:32 am - Reply

    Alot has happened to Rome since I went ‘walking’ but you have identified treasures and secrets so valuable for all. I can’t wait to come back and follow this tour of Rome — I think I’ll love the city even more – if that is at all possible. Thanks!

  2. Elizabeth November 11, 2010 at 8:01 am - Reply

    We started an Edible schoolyard at American Overseas School of Rome. The enthusiasm for the project was huge from the start, and the garden continues to grow. Funding is partially provided by a community cookbook we produced. If you’d like to find out more, or order a cookbook (with forward by Alice Waters, the mother of the Edible Garden movement ) visit:

    • Katie November 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the links Elizabeth. I knew about the edible schoolyard from your talk at the Biodiversity summit but when I looked on the AOSR website, i didnt find any mention of it. Do you have a more direct link. Is the program expanding to other international schools, or Italian schools in the Cassia area?

  3. Elizabeth November 11, 2010 at 11:14 am - Reply

    It’s not actually and ‘urban’ garden, but the prison at Velletri, south of Rome, is not your every day rural set up:

  4. Sarah May November 11, 2010 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Have you ever been to Munich? When you are on a rooftop and look out over the city it is about 80% edible rooftops. The germans are super advanced when it comes to sustainable city living. The utilize whatever space they can and sun they have.

    What I love about Rome is that even though when you are in it, it feels congested, like a normal city, but go to Monte Mario and look over the city and you see it is greener than built up. It is Europe’s greenest city. 2 minutes on a train out of Rome has you in sheep country or vineyards.

    I live about 2 minutes from the prison Elizbeth mentioned. I love that they rehabilitate people in this fashion. Another program I have seen in prisons, in the states, is prisoners training dogs for the blind.
    All of this makes me excited about our future.

  5. Wendy Holloway November 11, 2010 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Pam Mercer just referred me to you; complimenti on your blog! It’s fabulous and right after my own heart! Culinary sustainability is my passion (we run monthly seminars on this topic). This interview was published in the Corriere della Sera on Monday, and today appeared on the Slow Food website: http://www.slowfoodroma.it/sites/default/files/news/Corriere%208-11-2010.pdf

  6. Roxanne Christensen November 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    New farmers in the US and Canada are having success with SPIN-Farming, which is an organic-based farming system that outlines how to make money growing vegetables in backyards, front lawns and neighborhood lots. SPIN provides everything you’d expect from a good franchise: a business concept, marketing advice, financial benchmarks and a detailed day-to-day workflow. In standardizing the system and creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any different from McDonalds. By offering a non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system, it allows many more people to farm commercially, wherever they live, as long as there are nearby markets to support them. A free calculator that shows how much farm income can be made from backyards and neighborhood lots is available at the SPIN website – http://www.spinfarming.com/free/

  7. Elizabeth November 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Katie, there is nothing on the website, unfortunately, since it is private and involves kids. But if you ever want to know more, let me know. Or visit. It’s a bit off season now, but is going strong in the spring. I know Bernard Mulane wants to start something with Ambrit, and other schools are always talking about it. But so far, as far as I know, only AOSR has a garden.

  8. Sunita November 14, 2010 at 9:57 am - Reply

    I wish this was replicated in Mumbai too. We are experts in carving out space where it just doesn’t seem possible in this crowded city but hardly any of it is used for growing food.
    No, wait … that’s not true. We do have our stretches alongside railway tracks where spinach is grown and then there are small patches on the beaches where fenugreek is grown. Unfortunately this is done on encroached land. I wish that some of the government-owned land which is lying idle were offered for cultivation.

  9. @passerotto November 20, 2010 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Ciao Katie and Elizabeth!
    This makes my heart sing, especially being an AOSR alumni…

  10. […] less than a century ago. Considering the fact that urban sprawl shows no signs of relenting, urban farming and foraging offer two viable ways for city residents to return to their […]

  11. […] seen a shift towards rediscovering Rome’s natural world. While this remains a niche movement, several urban farming initiatives do exist, foraging is practiced by at least one Swedish chef and one American food writer and an […]

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