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4Stelle Hotel

4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. The Hotel is protected by barbed wire and barricades built by the tenants.
4Stelle Hotel, photo essay by Valerio Muscella

For years Italy has found itself under the international spotlight due to the massive influx of immigrants, who are often forced to live isolated from our society and are denied fundamental rights. 4Stelle Hotel documents a real response to this critical situation, with the story of self-organised community that has created a unique social experiment: living together whilst overcoming cultural and linguistic differences.
The Eurostars Roma Congress Hotel and Convention Center, a modern four-star hotel almost a kilometre from Rome’s ring road (Grande Raccordo Anulare) on the eastern periphery of the city, closed unexpectedly in December 2011, laying off 60 workers. The structure is part of the international luxury chain Eurostars, which owns more than 50 hotels worldwide, predominantly oriented towards a business clientele.
The imposing glass structure remained abandoned for almost a year, until it became occupied by 200 migrant families, led by the BPM collective (Blocchi Precari Metropolitani), one of the most well-known movements tackling the housing crisis in the capital. The occupation is part of a wave of activism that took place on 6 December 2012, bringing around 3,000 people living in a housing emergency into dozens of unsold or unused buildings to shouts of ‘let’s take back the city’.

4Stelle Hotel is inhabited by around 500 people, comprising 30 different nationalities, who predominantly come from the Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. They have been able to revitalise the hotel through shared re-activation of the rooms and communal spaces, according to a process of internal self-organisation, including cleaning rotas and picket lines. Some of the occupants have lived in Italy for years, others have escaped from regimes, revolution and extreme poverty. All of them claim with dignity their right to a home and a better future.
4Stelle Hotel is the story of this multi-ethnic apartment building, which is fighting for a brighter future, under constant threat of eviction by the authorities. The home, in fact, is not only a shelter: it is a right to be claimed and defended.

4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Tarek (Morocco) is waiting for the ramadan to end in the reception of the Hotel.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Zeina and Aida (Senegal) and Falluj (born in 4 Stelle Hotel) in room 201.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Rosi (Italy) and Ibrahim (Sudan) in room 241.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. The Ethiopian shared kitchen is preparing ngjera for the Eastern Orthodox celebration
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Petru’s family (Romania) in the ex director’s office.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Antoni (Peru) is doing boxe training on the roof of the Hotel.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Zeina (Senegal) and Ninish (Etiopia) in room 156
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Muslims from more than ten different countries gather in the ex storehouse of the Hotel to pray together during the month of Ramadan.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Room 189.
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. Agnes, Mama Africa, (Nigeria).
4 Stelle Hotel, Tor Sapienza, Rome, 2014. The entrance of the 4 Stelle Hotel during the night.

Q&A with Valerio Muscella

Photography is…
Photography allows me to explore what is going on around me, to connect with it and to understand on which side I want to be. To me, representation, participation and choice always come together. That means building my voice.

Photography and writing…
Take your old atlas, choose one of those big double-page maps full of details, stay on that area and explore it with different filters. Now tell what you think and how you feel about that.

Who left the biggest impression on you?
Roger Ballen is one of my favourite. He is deeply involved with the unexpected.

Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 29, I’m a psychologist and I’m a photographer, the more I choose one, the more comes the other. They say I have to take only one way if I want to be any good at it… I say to them: back off!

valerio_muscellaValerio Muscella (website), 1985, Italy. He held a degree in psychology and transcultural studies and he has been working for an Ngo in South America and in the Balkans in the international cooperation for development field. He became a self-taught freelance photographer specialized in photographic reportage focusing his attention on social issues and cultural events. He is currently collaborating with an audiovisual archive (Aamod.it) documenting social movements and immigration issues.

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