From an early age, most of us are taught that Rome is above all the mighty ruins of any ancient city, with its incredible Colosseum and the Forums. That it is the city of the Pope and the Cathedral of St. Peter, the home of masterpieces of the great Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael. But don't get blinded only by the most prominent treasures, as Rome is fraught with many more gems.
The area of Quartiere Coppedè can rightly be considered as one of those wonders. Built in the 20th century and named after its creator Gino Coppedè, this fairy-tale corner of Rome is a must for admirers of Art Nouveau – or as the Italians often call it, 'Stile Liberty'.
The story of this extraordinary quarter began in 1915, when the plan came up to create a prestigious residential area near Piazza Buenos Aires. The exclusive project was entrusted to Gino Coppedè, a Florence born architect who was already a famous name by that time in Messina, Florence and Rome. What is known today as Quartiere Coppedè, is a piece of fantasy consisting of 27 residential buildings and 17 small villas.
The first thing you see when you enter from Via Tagliamento, is a number of magnificent buildings called the Palazzi degli Ambasciatori (the Ambassadors' Palaces), positioned around a large arch decorated with a massive wrought chandelier. The building received this unusual name after foreign diplomats started buying apartments there. While passing the arch slowly, have a look at the buildings from the bottom up, and pay attention to the incredible details on the facades, or the shapes of the windows. Note that nothing is ordinary in Quartiere Coppedè. The whole riot of details involuntarily made us feel that we were walking into a movie scene. But no, all is true here.
While walking forward, surrounded by the beauty of all the possible architectural styles, you will get to see the beautiful Fontana delle Rane (the Fountain of Frogs), located on the main square of this quarter, the Piazza Mincio. This is probably one of the youngest fountains of the ancient Rome, but it already can be found in the history books. Once after a successful concert in the Piper club not far from here, the Beatles decided to splash in the waters of this fountain. As you will notice coming closer, the frogs on the fountain have chosen the best place to admire the strikingly beautiful buildings of Quartiere Coppedè.
Right of the fountain, on Piazza Mincio 4, there is the Palazzo del Ragno (the Spider's Palace). The mansion owes its name to a decoration on the entrance, a large spider symbolizing industriousness. On the third level, above the loggia, there is an ocher and black painting depicting a horse surmounted by an anvil and sided by a large Latin inscription saying 'Labor'. Don't feel now like you aren't allowed to enjoy the architectural masterpieces here, simply look on the other side of the fountain.
Opposite the Palazzo del Ragno, there's the so-called Palazzo senza Nome (the Palace without Name). The palace is also known as Palazzo Ospes Salve, referring to the writing on the entrance that welcomes the visitor. Another Latin writing on its main facade reads 'Ingredere has aedes quisquis es amicum eris hospitem sospito' or 'Enter these premises, whoever you are, you will be a friend. I protect the guest'. Alike all Liberty-style buildings, this Palazzo is full of bizarre and amazing decorations like masques, geometrical patterns, or incredible illustrations with lizards and seahorses!
Encouraged by the welcoming inscriptions on the facades, maybe you will also get the chance to have a look inside one of these amazing buildings. Once we were lucky enough to sneak inside and what we found was unbelievable. It is not just the exterior, but also the inside decoration that is done with the finest precision of details. Carved ceilings, gilding, molding, frescoes and even antique wrought elevators. And all that historical beauty has been preserved in its original form.
Although the architecture of this district may seem strikingly different from what you can see in the rest of Rome, it is still clear to see that Coppedè was influenced by the designs of old masters and their traditions.
For instance, the Fountain of Frogs clearly resembles elements of another Roman fountain that was dedicated to the animal world. This is the 16th century Fontana delle Tartarughe (the Fountain of Turtles), located on Piazza Mattei – get directions. Or what to think of the bees that can be found on the facades of houses throughout the quarter? In ancient times, bees were a symbol of gods, and it was believed that if you saw a bee it would bring you good luck.
Another eyecatcher is the Villini delle Fate (the Fairy Houses), with its little tower looking out over the Fountain of Frogs. Although the tower is an architectural element most typical for the Middle Ages, Coppedè decided to implement it here in his design of the Villini delle Fate. A more detailed look on the rich decorations of this remarkable complex of three houses, will also reveal the symbols of three big Italian cities: the Lion of Saint Mark of Venice, the She-Wolf of Rome feeding Romulus and Remus, and the magnificent dome of the main cathedral of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore.
Surprisingly, many still do not know about the scenic place of Quartiere Coppedè, which means that you can enjoy this beautiful architecture without large crowds of tourists. Getting there is very easy. Simply catch bus 63, 83 or 92 and get off at Piazza Buenos Aires, a stone's throw away from Quartiere Coppedè – get directions. And remember, miracles can be found anywhere, the main thing is to have curiosity. To get some more inspiration, have a look at our Streetwise map of Rome.