By Claudia Quesito

Virtually everywhere around the world, street art has a controversial history. Often born as an anti-establishment act, initially considered a mix of vandalism and ugliness, it is now almost universally valued as a form of art. Italian street art was born in the wake of New York’s movement and, if an official birthday has to be found, it is definitely the exhibition Arte di frontiera. New York Graffiti organized in Bologna in 1984.

Over the years, three cities have emerged as schools and as street art destinations: Milano, Roma, and Bologna. But street art is essentially everywhere, and there are great examples of it even in small and somehow unexpected towns, such as Orgosolo in the Sardinian inland and Dozza, near Bologna.

Orgosolo is an interesting place. Nestled among the mountains, it is located in one of the most isolated and least populated areas of Europe. The town, especially its very center, is literally covered with murals. Most of them have a strong political influence, as Orgosolo has a long-standing anti-authoritarian inclination. Others represents scenes of ordinary life. The same mural situation applies to Dozza, which is another small town like Orgosolo, but located in a very different area, Emilia-Romagna. Every two years, the town invites street artists from all over the world and they have three days to complete their artwork.

Milano, Roma, and Bologna offer a more “traditional” street art scene—traditional here meaning more controversial. In 2016, for example, Blu—one of the most celebrated representatives of the Bologna counterculture—literally erased all his works from the city walls (some of them as old as 20 years) to protest against a conventional—i.e. with paid admission—street art exhibition.

In addition to a dispute over permission, Blu contested the whole idea of profiting off of street art. Street art tours are often a great way to explore less touristy areas of cities like Roma and Milano and are an opportunity to have a glimpse into the present and future of places whose past is highly celebrated (rightfully so!). Consider this option on your next trip-to-Italy-to-do-list!

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