At the San Pietro/Vaticano exit of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, there are today two pagan-looking mythological creatures which welcome those who come to visit Rome by car.

On this wall of the Via Aurelia, Valencian artist Julieta XLF has painted two animals which derive from a very personal vision of ancient Western and Eastern mythologies, but which are firmly rooted in the local history of the area, which opens towards the nothernmost part of Lazio and Tuscany where, in the eighth century B.C., Italy’s first great civilization appeared: the Etruscans.

On the right is a she-wolf who is thrusting herself forward with her hind legs to engage in an intense embrace with the two-tailed siren on the left. The two-tailed siren is an ancient symbol of fertility and of the contact between the divine and the earthly dimensions which was once represented by the feminine. It was also used as a symbol by the early Christians, who probably abandoned it because of its Etruscan, and therefore pagan, origins. The siren painted by Julieta – who is without doubt the street artist who has painted the most mermaids – has wings and a bird’s head, though: it resembles some phoenix-mermaid which evokes other oriental mythological animals.

And even the she-wolf, the symbol of Rome, is not a straightforward she-wolf: it is winged like the carved quadrupeds in monuments and the paintings on the vases and walls of the Etruscan necropolises – mainly lionesses and horses – which evidently belong to the sphere of the otherworldly.

The embrace of these two creatures from other dimensions evokes the encounter and clash between East and West which lies at the origin of Etruscan culture, and the subsequent effect of the conquests (and damnation) of the Roman Empire.

It is an embrace that releases two equal and opposing forces and recalls the symbol of the Tao – the balance and harmony between Yin and Yang – with the position of the animals’ heads echoing that of the Tao’s opposing poles.

The two of them form a single whole, like that of the Sarcophagus of the Spouses found in the necropolis of Banditaccia in Cerveteri,which is among the artefacts preserved at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, or like Lucumo and his wife, the priestess queen Tanaquil, who came from this area to Rome.

Two symbols which will remain embracing here to remind us of the union between peoples, and therefore between cultures and traditions. A union which is today as inevitable as it is desirable for the continuation of our species.

Work in progress



In its early days, the Via Aurelia, which is one of the oldest roman roads, used to begin almost at the river, close to the area now called Testaccio. It crossed the Tiber on the Ponte Emilio – which more or less corresponds to the modern Ponte Rotto or ‘Broken Bridge’ – before eventually climbing the Gianicolo hill (which was originally considered an etruscan enclave) and heading for the coast. Its destination was the etruscan harbour of Pyrgi, located in the city now known as Santa Severa, which was then an outpost of Caere, the ancient name of Cerveteri.

This consular road was built in the third century B.C. to offer an easy way to reach (and control) the Tyrrhenian coast which had recently come under Roman control after a vast campaign of expansion that took Rome towards the North of Italy after it had conquered the region known as Etruria. Along this road, then, history smells of the sea, of conflict and exchange, of journeys, and of a desire of conquer. It’s as though right here Rome took a deep breath and contemplated a horizon which was about to become vastly bigger and more complex. In that very moment, the Eternal City confirmed her vocation for glory, and also her ability to welcome influences and stimuli from other civilizations.

That is why the spirit of the place today almost demands the telling of the story of the Via Aurelia, which dates back to long before the existence of the road itself.

From the very same latitude, in fact, long before Etruria was conquered by the romans, a group of Etruscan refugees stopped atop the Gianicolo hill to consult their deities as to whether they should remain or continue traveling. This little band was led by Tanaquil, a wise high priestess, and her husband Lucumo, who was later known by a Roman name: Tarquinius Priscus, fifth of the seventh kings of Rome.

They interpreted the deities’ answers, which were so positive that upon that hill they founded the second ‘soul’ of Rome: Etruscan, and thus dynamic and fond of business and of sophistication.

The Via Aurelia should also be seen as an enormous funnel of people, inspiration, cultures and ideas which over the centuries – from these first Etruscan visitors to the rebels of the Roman Republic of 1849 – chose the Gianicolo Hill as their reference point. A hill, it’s worth remembering, that is sacred to Janus, god of doors, passages and all beginnings.

What better genius loci could there be?


Julieta XLF

Julieta XLF began painting when she entered the world of graffiti at sixteen, mainly inspired by the work of the Spanish artist Escif. Later, she moved towards post-graffiti and in the early 2000s became a member of the XLF crew, which is still very active in Valencia. Julieta has filled the city with her images of childlike iconography which are influenced by children’s illustration and oriental art, especially Japanese kawaii. Her murals convey feelings of hope and themes like the growth of the individual and the search for balance. It was this blending of East and West which is visible in her work that determined the choice of this wall on Via Aurelia as the site for her work.