Well, this really is a jewel of opulent Rome, if you can say that. It is a ward district full of houses and caryatids that unite it, in fantasy, to Batman’s Gotham City, so strange. Dominating it, the Fountain of the Frogs of Piazza Mincio, known for the bath that made the Beatles after their concert at the Piper. Liberty and Art Deco a go go.
The Coppedè district is a complex of buildings located in Rome, in the Trieste district, between Piazza Buenos Aires and Via Tagliamento. Between the Salaria and the Nomentana there is a tiny neighborhood, an architectural experiment by Gino Coppedè, from which it takes its name.
The buildings and villas that are part of this enchanted corner of Rome merge Art Deco, Gothic and Liberty and the hallucinated and personal visions of its visionary creator. You enter through an arch that joins two buildings, a sort of portal to a magical world inside Rome. It is a large arch that connects two buildings, which leads to this truly surreal corner of Rome.
The Coppedè District, more than a neighborhood, is a great artistic experiment that fuses Liberty, Art Deco, Gothic and medieval style. Coppedè is a complex of 26 buildings and 17 villas and was built between 1913 and 1926 by Gino Coppedè and arranged around the central core of Piazza Mincio.
Once you have passed the arch that joins the Palaces of the Ambassadors, which under the internal vault has a large wrought iron chandelier, you will find yourself in a surreal place made of palaces decorated with the strangest shapes and dimensions.
You will find that every building is full of details, decorations that tell a story. Like the decorations of the Villini delle Fate, where you can find numerous paintings of women on the walls and where Ragno. On the balcony on the third level a painting of a knight appears between two griffins. The advice is to wander discovering the wonders that you can find walking through Via Obrona, Via Brenta and Via Olona.
History of the neighborhood
In 1915 the Società Anonima Edilizia Moderna, based in Piazza Pietra, having as its CEO Aonzo Arnaldo, conceived a residential area in Rome, adjacent to Piazza Quadrata (piazza Buenos Aires), between the Parioli and the new borders, for the era, Salario and Trieste districts.
The project is entrusted to Gino Coppedè.
The financiers Cerruti, with Coppedè, wanted to retrace, on Rome, the path started in Genoa with the same Coppedè. The district was born on the plan of the engineer Edmondo Sanjust of Teulada of 1909 (Mayor Ernesto Nathan), between many difficulties and contrasts between the building commission and the architect Coppedè, with constraints imposed by the superintendency of the building commission, as happened in 1918 with the permission of the then city planning councilor, Galassi, on the Via Po lot.
Although the architectural dictionary of Pevsner, Fleming and Honor cites the date of 1912, the first presentation of the project would take place on 19 October 1916 and the design would then date back to 1915 when Coppedè was commissioned by financiers Cerruti and Becchi. In 1921 the Ambassadors’ Palaces were completed and the district remained unfinished by Coppedè when he died in 1927.
The district was completed by Paolo Emilio André. The plan of the work initially included the construction of 18 buildings and 27 buildings between buildings and villas. On 23 August 1917 the building commission made a request to Coppedè to give the neighborhood a Roman imprint. Thus Coppedè used the theme of ancient Rome as the cornices and moldings of imperial Rome and an arch that recalled the triumphal arches of the Roman Forum.
In February 1918 the project of the Palaces of the Ambassadors was approved with the condition of closing the diagonal road (the current Via Dora) to make it a private road. In 1920 the construction of the Villini delle Fate in Via Rubicone was refused. For the construction it was used travertine (still in honor of Imperial Rome) while the interiors are made of: glazed majolica for kitchens, with wooden parquet for living rooms, Pompeian style mosaics for the bathrooms.
The proximity to the Piper Club nightclub has often caused damage to the neighborhood, due to the frequent acts of vandalism made by the club goers.
Description of the neighborhood
The main entrance to the Coppedè district, on the Via Tagliamento side, is represented by a large arch that connects two buildings. Just before the arch there is a kiosk with a statue of a Madonna and Child. Under the arch, in addition to two balconies, there is a large wrought iron chandelier. The arch is decorated with numerous architectural elements, which have the characteristic of being arranged asymmetrically.
After passing the arch you reach Piazza Mincio, the center of the district. In the middle of the square stands the Fontana delle Rane, built in 1924. The fountain consists of a central basin, a few centimeters higher than the street level, with four pairs of figures, each of which supports a shell on which there is a frog from which water gushes inside the tank. From the center of the fountain there is a second basin, about two meters high, whose edge is surmounted by eight other frogs.
The arch that surmounts the entrance of the building located at number 2 of the square is a faithful reproduction of a set design of the 1914 film Cabiria.
In Via Tanaro, there is the South African embassy, in via Brenta, there are those of Morocco and Bolivia.
The living rooms were divided from the private areas, almost forming “reception areas” and “private life shrines”. In the Villini delle Fate, Florence is celebrated with an inscription “Fiorenza bella” and with Florentine decorations with Dante and Petrarca. Instead the side of Via Brenta is dedicated to Venice with a lion of San Marco. The Spider Palace praises the work through the decoration depicting a knight with the inscription «labor».
All the buildings designed by architect Coppedè are oriented towards a modern vision of the rooms, with the subdivision of the living and sleeping areas, the reinterpretation of the spaces paying attention to customer requests, finely curating the decorations of the various environments: mosaics in the bathrooms, ceilings coffered, copper boilers, kitchens with marble sinks, intercoms and garages.
The Villini delle Fate
They are located in via Aterno 4, piazza Mincio 3 via Brenta 7-11. The side of via Aterno consists on the left side a partition with horizontal bands: in the lower area near the first floor there is a geometric decoration, while on the second floor there is a painting with human figures in the mullioned windows that recalls the drawings of famous people of the Villa Carducci at the Legnaia of Andrea del Castagno. The figures are: a toga woman, a woman with a peplum, a woman with old-fashioned clothes, a man with a beard, armor and a scimitar and a man with a sword and a hat. Among the materials used we have marble, bricks, travertine, terracotta, glass, and wood and wrought iron for the gate. Very particular are the exterior facades, finely made, which in some places almost seem to be woven in silk and gold embroidery. The façade on this street is made up of several projecting bodies.
- The first body on the left consists of a four-light window between the portraits of Petrarca and Dante. A signature dated 1954 is likely to be connected to a restoration. On the mezzanine floor there is a window with two columns a painting with festoon and cherubs and a relief decoration representing a bee.
- The second body consists of a series of three windows separated by small columns. On the second floor there is a painting representing Florence with the inscription «FIORENZA BELLA». In one corner there is a decoration of a character on horseback. The plan consists of an arch with reliefs of bees and coats of arms. Under the loggia there is a decoration with a falconer and a falcon.
- The third body consists of a turret with festoons and cherubs. Under a mullioned window there is a clock with zodiacal motifs. At the bottom there is a coat of arms with a biscione. On the second floor there is a painting with a scene of a procession with Franciscan nuns and friars. At the corner there is an access ladder with a loggia. In the loggia there is a decoration with angels.
The side of Via Brenta is composed of three protruding bodies.
The first body on the left consists of a tower in which, on the second floor, there are decorations depicting the winged lion of San Marco and the eagle of San Giovanni. Under the eagle there is a decoration representing a procession, while under the lion there is represented a sailing ship. The façade completes a new decoration with festoons and putti.
The second body consists of a small loggia with floral decorations, two arches with reliefs depicting the bees and the grapes on the archivolt, the coats of arms and small leaves inside and a fake graffiti representing two little angels.
The third body consists of putti decorations on top. In the central floor there is a small balcony with a decoration representing the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus. The lower floor consists of decorations depicting the putti and the stylized leaves.
On the prospect of via Olona there is a representation of the tree of life. In the middle there is a painting depicting a sundial. Among the other decorations there is a representation of a scene of a battle with the inscription “Domus pacis” and other writings “Domino laetitia praebeo” and “E paetre / ex arte venustas” and a dovecote under the corner of the gable roof.
Palaces of the Ambassadors
They are located in via Tagliamento 8-12, via Brenta 2-2a, piazza Mincio 1, via Dora 1-2, via Tanaro 5. This building complex is composed of two triangular blocks separated by via Dora and divided into five levels. At the corner between via Arno and via Tagliamento there are two turrets. The roof of the building is by a terrace. Between the two triangular blocks there are service rooms and five stairwells for lifts. The side of via Tanaro is divided by several jutting bodies on various levels with different windows for each floor. On the corner tower of via Tagliamento there is the inscription «Anno Domini MCMXXI» which probably indicates the date of construction and the bas-reliefs with anthropomorphic figures. The large central arch is decorated with paintings representing a winged Victory and mosaics depicting eagles. Inside the arch there is the dedication to Coppedè. On the third floor there is a decoration of a cup recalling the Holy Grail.
Palazzo del Ragno
The building is located in piazza Mincio 4 and dates back to 1916-1926. The name is due to the decoration on the main entrance door. It is divided into four floors. Consists of a turret. On the third level there is a small balcony with a loggia. Above it there is an ocher and black painting depicting a horse surmounted by an anvil between two griffins surmounted by the inscription «Labor». The motto “Maiorum exempla ostendo / artis praecepta recentis” is on the facade of Via Tanaro.
Palace of via Olona 7
It dates back to around 1925. It has a planimetria to L. The façade is divided into four protruding bodies. The central body is five stories while the side ones are four. On the top floor and around the balconies there are geometric decorations.
Villino di via Brenta 26
It is home to the state scientific high school “Amedeo Avogadro”. It is divided into two levels. To the right of the façade there is an entrance with a loggia. On the first floor there is a mosaic depicting a rooster, a cup and three dice with the numbers one, three and five.
Villino di via Ombrone 7
The building has a four-sided plan. It is divided into two levels over a basement. The first level is rusticated. At the level of the attic there are reliefs depicting the bees.
Villino di via Ombrone 8
The building is on two levels plus basement and, on the left, a small loggia.
Villino di via Ombrone 11
The building has a quadrangular plan. It is divided into two floors plus a basement. The exteriors are of various types of rustication. The windows are arched with crest decorations.
Palace of via Olona 2
In this period it is the seat of the official of the Councilor of Poland in Rome. On the right side there is a representation of hunting, while on the loggia there are some ovals with doves alternating with one representing St. George. The building is of dubious paternity of Coppedè.
Movies set in Coppedè
The surreal dimension of the district has inspired many directors to use it as a location for their films. Like Dario Argento, who shot two of his most famous films, Inferno and The bird with crystal feathers, or as The Perfume of Madame in Black by Francesco Barilli, Last Tango at Zagarolo by Nando Cicero and Audace shot by the usual unknown Nanni Loy with Vittorio Gassman and in 1976 by the director Richard Donner for the initial sequences of the film Il presagio. Among the films shot in the neighborhood is also reminiscent of the film Il Cielo In una Stanza by Carlo Vanzina. In one of the houses in the neighborhood the tenor Beniamino Gigli had his Roman house.
How to get there
The Coppedè district can be reached from the Policlino metro station by taking the number 3 tram.
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