Inside Garbatella, the left-wing district where Giorgia Meloni grew upComments
Stepping into Rome's Garbatella district is almost like stepping back in time.
The architecture and the buildings are more or less unchanged from 1920 when the neighbourhood sprung out to house workers who came to the Italian capital for jobs in the nearby industrial Ostiense area. And, more than a century later, it also remains a left-wing stronghold.
Yet one of its most famous former residents is far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni was born in a posh residential neighbourhood but moved to Garbatella with her mother and sister in order to be close to her grandparents after her father abandoned the family.
In her biography “I am Giorgia” she describes Garbatella as a village enclaved within a big city and said that her upbringing there has had a significant impact on her life.
Council housing units are quite common there. The district was modelled on the garden city suburbs that were popular in England in the 20th century.
From its humble origins, Garbatella, just a few underground stops away from the historic centre, has grown into one of the capital’s most vibrant cultural districts and is now a popular hangout place with a distinctive artsy crowd.
But there is still a strong sense of community.
Perhaps, that's why Meloni remained a regular visitor to Garbatella after she left it for the more modern and upscale EUR district.
A middle-aged worker in a local butcher shop described her as "down to earth and nice".
"She kept coming back here to buy meat even after she left Garbatella," he said, noting however: "I haven’t seen her here since she has been appointed prime minister."
There have been many supposed sightings of her in the area since she settled in the country's most powerful office but most have proved untrue.
She now treads the richly decorated halls of Palazzo Chigi, but it's in Garbatella that Meloni took her first steps into politics when, at 15, she called the local branch of the Italian Social Movement to join the far-right Youth Front as an activist.
Also called MSI the political party was founded in 1946 by Giorgio Almirante a chief of staff in Mussolini’s last government.
In contrast, the local old socialist party branch is filled with memorabilia of the Italian anti-fascist resistance fighters also known as Partisans.
An old man there doesn't seem impressed when asked how such a staunch hard-wing politician can grow up in a resolutely left-wing area. He says instead that they have always viewed Meloni as “a one-off”, someone who doesn’t share the same roots as theirs and who comes from a different cultural background.
"She was part of the middle class .. but we don’t have anything against her," he told Euronews.
According to the Italian media, however, Meloni’s alignment with the right-wing political side in that context, has always been explained as a form rebellion against mainstream ideas.
But another reason to explain Meloni’s rise, the old man explained, echoing a popular opinion among Italians is that “the left-wing is dead anyway"
"That’s why Giorgia won easily."