Burning Rome


Burning Rome is a wealth distribution map of the Italian capital. Most maps of this kind display only average values according to each area of a city. Burning Rome also does that, but the unusual thing about it is that you can actually zoom down to the single household and see the declared income of the individual.


Rome is the city where I grew up in. Since I started exploring it during my adolescence, I’ve been exposed to the socio-economic divisions of the city, the sad ghettoization of some areas and the posh pockets of extreme wealth. This project attempts to visualize what is largely already common knowledge, but while doing so it can shed some light on another important issue.


Arguably what’s most informative of this map is not discovering where the really rich are, but where some of the really poor live. Since the data is based upon income declarations, and since such declaration is often tweaked in order to hide wealth to the fiscal agency (a despicably common practice in the Italian scene), it’s reasonable to expect that the rich will not declare more than what they actually earn, while plenty of people certainly will declare much less than what they have. There will be probably a dozen more ways to explain the plethora of people living -according to the data- on the brink of poverty, yet somehow residing on the most expensive and exclusive areas of the city. Still, a reasonable doubt is raised.


The data used for this project is not updated and comes from a controversial data liberation initiative taken by the Italian IRS back in 2008, when all the fiscal declarations of the country relative to the year 2005 were published online. Even if the declaration of income is a public act and as such freely consultable, the Italian population, against every desirable and professed openness, demanded the dataset to be taken offline in the name of privacy.


Out of almost one million declarations for the city of Rome, 103.615 were sampled, geotagged and mapped with a color according to the income. Every personal information about individuals were discarded during the process.


I’d love to have fiscal data of Rome from every year and visualize the gentrification in progress. A man can dream.