The Council of Europe estimates that there are anywhere between 110,000 and 170,000 legal and undocumented Roma living in Italy based on the latest Italian census data. Rough estimates are the closest thing to reliable data when it comes to statistics about Italy’s Roma population. During the day, elderly women can be seen outside of churches, kneeling with foreheads pressed to the ground and open palms. At night hastily built shelters can be spotted along the banks of the Tiber River. The Roma of Italy are nearly as visible as the dome of St. Peter’s but Italy has been forceful in relocating their communities to the fringes of its cities.
In Ardea, a southwestern region around 25 miles outside of Rome and near the Tyrrhenian Sea coast, around 1,500 Roma live in government supplied trailers. They were relocated after the government evicted them from their original camp in the center of Rome. Cement and rebar fences divide the rows and rows of prefabricated homes into Muslim and Christian sections. Orthodox and Catholic Christians from Serbia and Romania are in the center with Muslim Roma from Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina on either side. Many Roma, like Zoran Maksimuric who is from Serbia, want to leave the poverty, crime and often desperate living conditions found at many camps and integrate into mainstream Italian life. Maksimuric was able to make enough recycling scrap metal and eventually move his family into a home outside of the camp. While he’s beginning to put down roots in Italy, Maksimuric still has close ties to the camp that continues to be home for his family and friends.