This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.Rome is a lot of different cities all packed in one. There’s its imposing and prestigious side, populated by swarms of tourists and busy officials on their important jobs; and then there’s its hidden side that only emerges in fleeting moments.
One of the best places to see it is on the banks of the Tiber River, which flows down the Apennine mountains into the Mediterranean sea, splitting the city in unequal halves. The river is rarely featured on postcards of Rome, but last year, it garnered a bit of international attention when its 19th-century Iron Bridge, located on the south side of the city, burnt down. According to the police, the fire was probably sparked accidentally by a group of homeless people sheltering under the bridge and trying to keep warm.The latest census conducted by the Italian National Institute of Statistics reported that about 8,000 homeless people live in the Italian capital, but the data was collected in 2014. Local NGOs believe the number has significantly risen since then, especially as a result of the 2015 migrant crisis and of the pandemic. In 2020, the NGO and homeless shelter Binario 95 estimated that 20,000 people were living on the streets in Rome and that the city could offer beds to only one in 20 of them.
Many of Rome’s homeless and poor residents end up on the banks of the river, physically separated by a barrier from the rest of the capital. Fascinated by this “land of the people that the city refused”, as he describes it, photographer Marco Sconocchia walked up and down the Tiber river from Rome all the way to its mouth on the Mediterranean sea for a year. The resulting project, the Tevere Grand Hotel, is a photographic collection portraying the people he met along the way.“Obviously, not everyone was willing to be photographed,” Sconocchia told me over Zoom. The subjects who did participate all had different and compelling stories, representing “examples of resistance, anachronism and struggle, both against institutions and the society around them.Instead of adopting the media’s typically judgemental gaze towards those perceived as social rejects, Sconocchia’s images reflect his genuine interest in their lives. “For one reason or another, they haven’t found their place in the city – or they don't want to find it,” he said. “The only thing they have in common is that they were thrown down to the river by the same city which grew and developed because of it.”Scroll down to see more photos from the project.