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‘Lose yourself around the city — it's so big and beautiful. This is the magical way to discover Rome.’
Gems in this
Italian artist, illustrator, and designer Alice Pasquini draws creative inspiration from the vibrant capital of Rome. Her works reflect the city's colors and the stories of people she encounters in its unique neighborhoods — from installations to large-scale murals she creates around the globe.
We spoke to Alice about how travel inspires her creativity, and her personal Travel Playbook of favorite things to do when in Rome – from uncovering rich history and modern creativity, the most unique hidden gems and eating pizza as the Romans do.
On seeing art everywhere
Rome is a city made of artists; we say it's a street artist city because every corner, every little fountain is made by someone who is an artist. This way of discovering new things day by day, just by walking and suddenly something appearing. This has been a big inspiration for me.
On the contrast between the ancient and the contemporary
The Historic Center is so big and amazing. It has the Colosseum, [Basilica] Saint Peter, and the [Trevi] Fountain. But Rome is not only the Historic Center; there are a lot of different districts that are like little towns where you can see exciting things and street art. Street art has been creating a detour inside many cities nowadays; people are curious to see different things, beyond ancient Rome.
On a unique Roman tradition
Trastevere is the district next to the center. It's on the other side of the river Tiber and once was the Roman heart. There are still some restaurants that work the old-fashioned way where you can't get a reservation, you sit with random people at the table, and they take your order without writing anything. They remember everything and you eat what grandma makes.
On a vibrant neighborhood to explore
Pigneto is where people working in the train stations used to live. There are lots of little villas, and now it's very young and full of bars, a place where you can have brunch or beers. Bars in Italy are unique and different from the rest of the world; it's where you get coffee, and get to meet people from different generations at the same place. There are also a lot of great places for gelato in Pigneto, such as Fattori.
On a travel hack for Rome
My travel hack for Rome is to lose yourself around the city — it's so big and so beautiful. This is the magical way to discover Rome. Every little corner can be a surprise, even after living here for so many years. Go to the Roman Forum and the Sunday market — the historical one is called Porta Portese and you can find anything there. But if we want to really feel the city, don't just stay at the center; explore the districts, and you'll have a great experience.
On the best pizza in Rome
Eat Roman pizza. It's very different from Napoli; they are very proud and known for having the best pizza in the world, but Roma has a special kind of pizza, which is tiny and delicious. [Pizzeria Da] Baffetto — baffetto means little mustache — is a very good place to go. There are always a lot of people waiting for the pizza. I also like this restaurant in Trastevere called Agustarello. Its actual name is [Trattoria da] Augusto, but people affectionately refer to it as Augustarello, something like little Augusto. The best things about Rome are eating around and walking, so it's worth visiting any bakery; there are many bakeries next to Campo de Fiori. [Antico Forno] Roscioli is a magic one. Ask for a slice of pizza — that's very Roman. Another restaurant I love is called Osteria Bonelli, in Tor Pignattara, a typical Roman kitchen.
'Street art has been creating a detour inside the cities; people are curious to see beyond ancient Rome.'
On a favorite brunch spot
If you want something different, have a British brunch next to the Spanish Stairs in the center of Rome. This very historical English place was made for English ladies — the first Tea Room in Italy. It's beautiful, and you can enjoy brunch, beautiful cakes and tea.
On an unexpected place for a festival
What is specific to Rome is that people organize themselves into groups and take care of an abandoned place or a park, they cut the grass, plant flowers, and take care of it. Artists take over abandoned places like a factory, transforming them into studios to make music. For example, there's an underground festival called Crack that takes place inside an abandoned fort from the war — Forte Prenestino. It's amazing and so interesting to discover new artists and see what they do there.
On the vibrant colors of Rome
Rome inspires me in many different ways: the shapes and colors of the walls. We have this typical sort of salmon color in contrast with the blue of the sky; these are two colors that, without thinking, I've always been bringing into my artwork. There is also a specific light that, in English, we'd say it's like golden hour, and with this color, I always light my artwork.
On how the streets inform your work
Street art is very different than painting inside a studio. When you're painting in the street, you are inspired by the context around you, which will not be the same in Sydney, Singapore, or Switzerland. The subject is constantly changing, and I realized that Rome is inside me in this way. Rome inspires me because freedom of expression is something real in the city. The contact with the people, someone will always be passing by and telling their own story, and somehow these stories and people appear on my walls.
On creating artworks in the moment
I really like to do spontaneous stuff, like paint in a little corner or at someplace that inspired me at that specific moment. I prefer to paint something such as an abandoned door with a sentence on it or a forgotten corner in the city to give it back to the community in another way. I like that feeling of, "Was this here yesterday?" For me, these smaller pieces are the more romantic part of street art. I've been traveling making giant walls around the world for 15 years, but that was my beginning and something I still like to do in my neighborhood.
On art that evolves with the community
Sometimes other artists and people around contribute to the artwork on the street. I once painted a door where it was already written, "Leave the passage free," and I painted a girl sitting on it. Then another artist added a bird to the painting; now, this door is full of history. I remember once a guy wrote on this door, "Don't pee here". Then I drew a girl in the corner, peeing. Years later, I was painting a big wall in the district and the same guy passed it by, recognized me and said, "You are the one who drew the girl peeing; I love it; it's amazing." It's so funny when there is a story behind the piece, and people write to me, sometimes I meet them, this is the magic of street art.
‘Someone will always be passing by and telling their own story, and somehow these stories and people appear on my walls.’
On living abroad and feeling drawn back to Italy
What I was missing about Rome mostly was the relationship with the people and the way of living in the city. It's a big city, but it was important for me to be in my district, know the people, and have the time to enjoy life in the park while working. For artists, it'd be smarter to stay in Paris, London or to go to New York, but I really needed a relaxed and safe place, and I found it here, especially after my daughter was born. Even though she's only two and already took more than ten flights, every time she sees a plane, she says, "That's mine." She's now very used to traveling.
On Rome in one word
I'd say spontaneous — in a way that you'll never know who you will meet or what's happening, but you will surely get to speak and talk with the Roman people.
On where work has taken you recently
I've been traveling a lot to different places such as Belfast to do a big wall in the north of Ireland, also Toronto and London, and we've been to the South of Italy for the festival I've been organizing and curating for nine years. It started in Rome, and now it's in a forgotten region of the country called Molise. It's an abandoned medieval village; there are only one hundred people living there. When I received an email from a girl inviting me to paint there, I realized it was the village where my grandfather grew up, one of those crazy coincidences. Since I went there and painted, they had some tourists coming over, so we thought maybe we could change the destiny of this place. Now there are all these new restaurants, shops, and BnBs, and people are buying houses there, so the destiny of this ancient village is changing, thanks to this contemporary art form, and that's an exciting project called CVTÀ Street Fest.
On how travel inspires you
I started to travel when I was very young, and I found a new way of living and discovering the cities far away from the tourist places and going deeper into the different districts, getting to know people through a window. It's a very different way of traveling when you're painting in the streets because the wall it's not a canvas, so it's surprising for the people. They get this confidence in me they won't get with a painter in the studio. And this is so interesting because you see how the cultures change from South America to Norway and different angles and ways of seeing the cities. I have my sketchbooks from years of traveling; many were made on flights, so they're my travel journal and the backstage of my work. My creativity is about traveling and meeting people and new cultures; it's a huge part of my inspiration.
‘I have my sketchbooks from years of traveling; many were made on flights. My creativity is about traveling and meeting people and new cultures; it's a huge part of my inspiration.’
On what you always have on your carry on
My sketchbook, for sure. I have my colors with me, and this is something I always bring on board. Thermal water is very important too.
On a window or an aisle seat
Before, I'd always choose the window, but now traveling with my daughter, I prefer the aisle seat.
On the sound of Rome to you
What represents the spirit of Rome to me is these guys with a guitar at many places that I go, who play songs to you while you're having dinner. That's very typical in Italy. There's also a singer from the 60s that is also the spirit of Rome to me, Gabriella Ferri. She used to sing all the typical Roman songs.