Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – Man driving a small boat on the river, wearing a blue wooly hat and a winter jacket and looking at the distance.
Cesare, 82, is the last eel fisher in Rome. He's been a fisherman all his life and comes from a family of fishermen, too. All photos: Marco Sconocchia.

Photos of Rome's Hidden Side Along the Tiber River

Away from the holiday crowds and tourist sights, many of Rome's residents struggle to fit in their city.
Leonardo Bianchi
Rome, IT

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.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – Old man with a full beard and long white hair, lighting a cigarette in front of a grassy field with sheep and two trailers in the background.

Gregorio is a shepherd living on Rome's north side. For years, he's been trying to keep people from building illegally on his land and claims to have lost a lot of it. He now lives in a trailer without electricity on the small patch that’s left, next to a biking path.

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.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – photo picturing a large, circular, cage-like structure viewed from the canebrake near the river.

Built in the 1930s, Rome's gas holder used to store the natural gas that fuelled the city. It was dismantled in the 1970s when methane became the norm, together with underground piping. But the imposing structure that kept the container up was left behind, becoming a landmark of industrial architecture in the city.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – white trailer parked in a field with a dog looking through a window, abandoned furniture on the backside two goats eating in front of it.

Shepherd Gregorio's home.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – Photo of a patch of land where the ground is grey and black because of all the rubbish. On top of it stand two destroyed cars and a burned down kid's toy.

A landfill next to the river.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – Man with a beard and a goatee, sitting at a table with his hands crossed. Behind him, a woman with long braided hair is standing in the entryway of a trailer.

Pietro and his family are Roma. They live in a camp hidden in the bushes in the south of the city, located in front of another camp set up by a feuding family. To survive, they collect copper and resell it to recyclers.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – close-up of a man in a white t-shirt and black pants drinking a coke, his head outside of the frame. On his right harm, he has a barbed-wire tattoo.

Yuri is a homeless man from Chernobyl who lives under Ponte Sisto, a bridge in Rome's historic centre. He lost his job six years ago and has been living on the street with his dogs ever since.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – View from above of the river with a castle and a bridge in the background. At the water level, there's a small pathway where people have put up four tents.

A small group of tents used for shelter near the Saint Angelo bridge in central Rome.

Sconocchia, Tiber, Rome – young girl sitting next to a small statue of the virgin Mary near a construction site, talking on the phone. In the background, a kid is standing and looking at her.

Franca and her family have been living in the Idroscalo area next to the mouth of the Tiber river for decades. The neighbourhood was built illegally by families who couldn’t afford life in the city and has been at risk of demolition ever since its creation. Currently, about 500 families live there. Here, two of Franca’s nephews are pictured.