Pietro Salini

Deserted Rome: Memories of Beauty


A “sleeping” city.
A city that comes from the past
to give us a new vision of the future.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Rome came to a standstill, like many of the major cities around the world. Its public places remained empty, suspended in an indefinite time. Deserted squares, streets, and monuments seemed bare, as if the lack of the human factor made them incomplete, in spite of their unchanged beauty and majesty.

The absence of people and the void generated by the lockdown rekindled the debate on themes related to the concept of the livable city, urban design, and mobility. We need to exploit the opportunity for this sweeping change to completely rethink spaces and infrastructures, starting from the needs of communities and a new way of looking at sustainability, from the cities to the outskirts.

This book was born out of the desire to size a unique moment in the life of a sleeping city and exalt the very soul of Rome, to document and describe the experience of the void created by the Covid-19pandemic, and to start thinking about the future that awaits us. The images tell us about a different Rome, one never before seen, where the contours and the geometries of the major works re-emerge in all their beauty clearer than ever before, uncontaminated by the growing anthropization that often, if left unchecked, spoils it.

Gazing at monuments that are famous all over the world, but also at the neighborhoods and views that are less well known, means analyzing the relationship between space, community, and infrastructures. The images of an almost rarefied metropolis remind us that the urban fabric, as the sum of physical places, acquires meaning through its use by the people, and becomes functional to the citizens’ well-being. The ancient Romans disseminated urban life to territories where it had never existed before, and they wanted their cities, in every corner of the Empire, to have certain common features. The birth of new conglomerates revealed the desire to use the beauty of the city’s architecture as propaganda for the grandeur of
Rome and to celebrate its success. Infrastructures were created at the same time at the service of the people, such as aqueducts, some of which are hundreds of miles long, essential for water supply. Still visible today in many countries, they symbolize progress and development.

In short, the “great beauty” lies in the interaction and the stories lived by people in the places where they belong. Based on this idea we can start over again to imagine and plan a network of infrastructures that are better suited to the needs of the twenty-first century, with respect for the historical legacy and the intriguing stratifications of a capital city like Rome.

The images in this book tell the story of an empty urban structure. They are also of aesthetic value. But more importantly, they inspire us to work on our future. A long-lasting and solid recovery, during the post-Covid phase, will take place by means of a great infrastructural project that fully takes advantage of our best constructive and creative skills, for a transition toward a different development model whose goal is that of a new type of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.


Pietro Salini
Chief Executive Officer of Webuild Group