The Coppede’ Quarter in Rome – an insider’s view of unusual architecture

Today, I’m presenting to you Mary, a freelance writer living in Italy and of course in love with Rome, my home city. She is contributing to my blog, inviting us to discover the Roman “Quartiere Coppedè” – an undiscovered treasure, free from tourist masses.

The incredible city of Rome is filled with an eclectic mix of architecture, ranging from the work left from the ancient empire to renaissance masterpieces.

There is one neighbourhood though, between the Via Salaria and the via Nomentana, that truly stands apart. Not being a main stop on tour buses or highlighted in many tour guides, it rests as one of the truly hidden gems of the Eternal City: the Quartiere Coppedè is a part of Rome that borders on the unexpected and bizarre because of its melting pot of architecture that is a complex of 26 buildings and 17 villas.

It is conveniently located near the heart of the city, so you don’t have to necessarily find a stay in Rome close to Coppedè area. But you can try to book a stay close by, for example through booking sites like this one. The area is not the cheapest one, so comparing prices should be of help. You can also try to find your accommodation near the tramlines of the tram Nr. 3 or 19, close to Piazza Buenos Aires, as it will bring you directly to Rome’s hidden fantasy world.

The buildings in Quartiere Coppedè were originally designed and are still inhabited by ambassadors and their families, which makes it one of the most expensive Roman neighbourhoods to live in. It was designed between 1913 and 1927 by the architect Gino Coppedè, who realized an incredible mix of Art Nouveau, Greek, Gothic, Baroque and Art Deco designs – inside and outside of the buildings (but unfortunately there is nearly no possibility to take a look inside…). His work was finished in 1929 by his son-in-law Paolo Emilio André after his death in 1927.

When you enter the neighbourhood, (I recommend to start your tour of the neighbourhood from Via Tagliamento) there are two incredible buildings, connected by an arch, on each side.

Arch

Light

The eclectic architect was given a blank slate to design the neighbourhood for the already mentioned upper class of Rome. What was created and what you will see after entering seems to have come from a bizarre fairy tale dream, with its nouveau fountains and Egyptian inspired fantasy facades. You will also discover Florentine towers and Venetian style palaces dotting the area, making it the most uniquely designed areas of any city in the world.

Many of the buildings are emblazoned with mosaics that rival some of the most intricate and celebrated. You will definitely have to spend some time here, because the most beautiful things are the details, which I think nobody but the residents know completely.

Among the typical elements and ornaments of Quartiere Coppedè you will find animals and mythical creatures, and many snakes and insects.

Window with Lions

Also fruits are an important ornament of the architecture defining this area, and can be seen on many of Coppedè’s buildings, especially the pomegranate, which symbolizes the freemasonry. Other masonic symbols, which can be discovered in the area, are located on the Fontana delle Rane in Piazza Mincio and around it.

Urban legend says that the Beatles once took a bath in this fountain after playing at the famous nightclub Piper.

There are a few buildings that stand out in this architectural wonderland. The most famous one is called Villino delle Fate and is showing amazing mosaics depicting the city of Florence (Coppedè’s home city) during the time of the renaissance, as well as a terra cotta design and a Madonna. Unfortunately, I took just one picture of it (it’s in the background on the fountain) and these details are not visible, but you can find lots of pictures on the internet, for example on this site. Take a look, you will be surprised!

The Palazzo del Ragno (spider’s palace) is another stunning piece. It was built with the famous travertine marble and Roman bricks, which are an example of the architect’s historical influences. Obviously, the building’s name comes from the big spider, which was designed on top of the entrance.

Palazzo del Ragno

Palazzo del Ragno

The Quartiere Coppedè has also inspired some Italian film directors. The horror movie mastermind Dario Argento used the neighborhood as the location for two of his most renowned movies, “Hell” and “the Bird with the Crystal Plumage”. It has also been used in numerous other film scenes such as in Nando Cicero’s “Last Tango in Zagarolo” and Barili’s “the Perfume of the Lady in Black”. You will be able to find a more complete list here (the article is in Italian, but it can be helpful to check some film titles).

I hope my little guide to Coppedè neighbourhood has been useful to you! If you are an architecture buff or classic film lover, the Quartiere Coppedè is definitely a must see on your trip to Rome!

(All photos courtesy of Mary Johnson)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *