Rome’s rebel lake is a parable of the contemporary commons

A fortuitous lake that appeared in one of Rome’s poorer neighbourhoods and some half finished buildings by it have been successfully transformed into a local commons, open to anyone who will make use of it and stewarded by the City of Rome and the local community.

This article by Jamie Mackay (… a parable of the contemporary commons) describes how the lake appeared on a piece of land slated for construction of a commercial center and how, after years of abandonment, the local campaigners successfully mobilised public opinion and neighbourhood solidarity. City administrators followed suit and put up money to make the lake shores into a publicly usable recreation space…


The people’s lake

Some excerpts from the article:

This arid neighborhood, one of the most densely populated in Europe, is an unlikely place to find a single tree, let alone an expansive green space. Yet here, hidden between the tramlines and towerblocks, lies a lake of 10,000 square metres, bursting with vegetation, home to numerous species of bird, insect and reptile and, most remarkably, a committed group of residents who have fought for years against private contractors to keep the park in public hands, free for the use of all. Their story is a triumph for popular democracy, a defiant victory over both neoliberal individualism and the institutional conservatism of the left.

At the centre of the campaign, and one of the ways in which it was able to obtain such considerable public support, was an audacious protest song born from an unlikely collaboration between hip hop collective Assalti Frontali and the folk group Il Muro del Canto. ‘Il Lago che combatte’ is a pompous and melodramatic track, filled with accordions and xylophones, and driven by a relentless snare drum. The chorus: “In the middle of these concrete monsters / this water reflects the sky / this is the struggle of nature / which makes the quartiere less dark”. This all makes more sense in Italy where such blunt musical protest has a long tradition, epitomized in the mythological struggle of the partisans. Indeed, the effort touched a nerve with the Roman public and within weeks the video had 75,000 views on YouTube.

Alongside the €20k raised by the activists during the forum events, the Comune has pledged to spend €500k in fully equipping the area around the lake. The work will be carried out by a local engineering collective, which includes a number of the campaigners…

So why did they win? … Much can be attributed to the passion and organizational skills of the social centre and the way in which it so masterfully rallied such a large portion of the neighbourhood. For almost 20 years the occupiers have worked to shape the culture of the parkland, forging a small and sustainable eco-village. For Alessandra, who has been campaigning on this land for over ten years, the movement was not a single-issue struggle but “a long-term strategy, a vision of evolution in a political culture of short term proclamations”…

For the whole story, see the original article at

… a parable of the contemporary commons

Marco Giustini asked us:

“Please insert into the blog article this video. These roman musicians strongly campaigned for the lake’s

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