Throughout Italy, a homegrown youth movement is afoot. Amid a year of global protest and at the height of the Eurozone crisis, lefty social centers, or centri sociali, have sprung up across Italy to become the change the next generation wants to see. One center in Rome, called Ex Snia, turned an abandoned lot and warehouse into a thriving community of free language classes, bike shops, and organic box gardens. Here are some scenes from their urban utopia.
To read more about Rome's centro sociale, Ex Snia, click here.
I’m sitting with an Afghan, a Bangladeshi, a Senegalese, a Bulgarian, some Italians, and a Turk on a bench in an abandoned lot in Rome. Last year, this lot was filled with half a dozen vats of marmalade made from wild oranges collected by Roman citizens for a fundraising effort to support a group of Malian immigrants. The decaying edifice that looms behind us was once a textile factory under Mussolini and now hosts several immigrant families who fled Rosarno, where they had been the victims of hate crimes. It also hosts kick-ass dance parties on weekends.
In front of us, an African man, who just taught us Bambara (the primary language of Mali), transcribes words on a whiteboard to help an illiterate Afghan teach us Pashtun via an Italian interpreter. It’s just a typical day at the Centro Sociale Occupato Autogestito Ex Snia Viscosa, fondly known as Ex Snia. In English, CSOA translates to Occupied and Self-Managed Social Center. “Occupied” because it's run by squatters who took a government-owned space and turned it into a variety show of community ventures.