One of the things people notice upon arriving is the amount of graffiti in Rome. It’s all over – not just in bad neighborhoods. Some people view it as a display of self expression, other as merely an act of vandalism. Graffiti has been around since the Roman Empire and there are no signs of it disappearing.
Graffiti comes from the Italian word graffiato (“scratched). The Ancient Romans craved graffiti on walls and monuments but the term has grown to include any graphics applied to surfaces in a way that creates damage. Examples of ancient graffiti range from declarations of love to political rants to simple thoughts. Often ancient graffiti was remarkably like the things you would find on the walls of a twenty-first century bathroom.
There are an estimated 3,500 graffiti artists in Rome with about 1,000 taggers. The city has a squad of sixteen people on a clean-up operation, which barely makes a dent on the destruction. Rome has recently adopted another approach by setting aside ten kilometers (six miles) of wall space for graffiti artists to use. Love it or hate, graffiti is here to stay.