Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The oldest of the four buildings that make up the so-called Isola Mattei (Mattei Block), together with Palazzo Mattei di Giove, Palazzo Mattei Paganica and Palazzo di Alessandro Mattei (now Caetani)
It was built in part on the cavea of the ancient THEATER OF BALBUS of 13 BC
It consists of the union of two buildings:
The one at No. 19, the oldest, of the end of the fifteenth century with the FIRST COURTYARD featuring a white marble portal with the coat of arms of the Mattei family
The portal leads to a beautiful SECOND COURTYARD with two rows of arches, balcony and staircase
The two courtyards were used by movie director Sergio Leone for some scenes of his “spaghetti western” movies
Renovated in mid-1500s by Giovanni Lippi aka Nanni di Baccio Bigio (about 1513/68) for Giacomo Mattei, who built a single façade to combine it with the other building at No. 17
The FAÇADE was originally decorated with monochrome frescoes by Taddeo Zuccari (1529/66) of 1548 representing stories of Furius Camillus, considered his first masterpiece, but now completely disappeared
On the front side there is a window which is linked to a legendary story probably not true: it is said that one of the Dukes Mattei, a compulsive gambler, one night lost a large sum playing with his future father in law who, knowing he had no money anymore, refused at that point to give him his daughter's hand
The duke, anxious to redeem the insult, bet his palace, the only thing he had left, against the hand of the girl, that he would have made a fountain appear in the square in a few hours. He invited to his palace his now no longer future father in law and organized a party until dawn
During the night he made the beautiful fountain appear. It was actually ready within easy reach and it only needed to have the pipes connected, having been prepared for the Jewish Ghetto of which the Mattei family held the keys
The next morning he invited his future father in law to look out the window, saying, “That's what a penniless Mattei is able to do in a few hours!” In this way he recovered the girl's hand but the bride had an unhappy life and had the window walled in memory of the event
The real tragedy was for the Roman Jews to whom the fountain was intended: they had to stay without water for thirty years

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


1516/30 for Jacopo Cardelli as a Palatium, the representative and ceremonial palace of their real home, the Domus Magna i.e. the nearby Palazzo Cardelli
On the death of Balduino Cardelli in 1561 the palace passed to Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and it became the Roman residence of the Medici family
When the Medici became extinct in 1737 it became property of the Lorena family
Since 1870 it belongs to the Italian state and it has been the headquarters of the Ministero di Grazia e Giustizia (Ministry of Justice) before the construction of the Palace on Via Arenula
Since 1929 is home to the SOCIETÀ DANTE ALIGHIERI founded in 1889 with the aim, as stated in its articles of association, “to protect and promote the Italian language and culture in the world, reviving the spiritual ties of compatriots abroad to Italy and feeding among foreigners love and worship for Italian culture”
Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511/92) for Julius III Ciocchi Del Monte (1550/55) who gave it in 1550 to his brother Balduino Ciocchi Del Monte
Paintings by Prospero Fontana (1512/97), father of Lavinia Fontana
Frescoes and stucco in the loggia 1553/55 and frescoes in DRESSING ROOM and in the room of the GRAND DUKE by Prospero Fontana


Fresco in the ceiling “Demogorgon and the separation of the elements” 1574/75 by Jacopo Zucchi (about 1542/96)


Fresco in the ceiling “Chariot of the Sun and Aurora” 1574/75 also by Jacopo Zucchi
“The first of the two rooms was influenced by the Room of the Elements by Vasari in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence only with regard to the main idea. Neither the representation of the literary program, nor the decorative arrangement show other affinities with the decoration of the room painted by Vasari. The second room has the Seasons as theme but it is not representing it in paintings rich of figures, but in isolated figures, sat in round medallions. Both the first room, so rich, and the second, simpler, reveal in the fine execution and in the wealth of decorative detail, especially of flowers and festoons of fruit, the miniaturist painter” (Hermann Voss)

Friday, February 10, 2017


1958/60 Pier Luigi Nervi (1891/1979) and Marcello Piacentini (1881/1960) for the 1960 Olympic Games
Dome of 95 m (312 feet) in diameter
“Pier Luigi Nervi was especially devoted to the study of reinforced concrete, creating new manufacturing processes especially in the field of structural prefabrication, which have significantly expanded the horizons of architecture (the new type of cement which he invented is known as iron-cement). Nervi's architecture, which also stands out for its daring technical achievements, is based on the assumption that there is no contradiction between the 'static-construction' resolution of an architectural problem and its aesthetic result” (Enciclopedia Treccani)
It was renamed PALALOTTOMATICA after the sponsor who financed the modernization works from 1999 to 2003 designed by Massimiliano Fuksas (1944)
It is one of the most important indoor sports arenas in Europe, able to accommodate up to 11,200 spectators seated
Near the arena there is the enormous spiral sculpture “Twentieth Century” 2004 by Arnaldo Pomodoro (1926)

Thursday, February 9, 2017


1939/42 Massimo Castellazzi (1901/77), Pietro Morresi (1898/1982) e Annibale Vitellozzi (1902/90)
Built in the same period of the other three buildings arranged symmetrically around the square
National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions
The museum was founded from the Italian Ethnography Exhibition, held in Rome in 1911 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy
The exhibition was coordinated by the ethnologist LAMBERTO LORIA, who in 1906 had founded the Ethnographic Museum in Florence
He collected over 30,000 objects for the exhibition in 1911, with the help of assistants, teachers and local scholars, who were active in the various regions. The collections of objects were locked in crates, were deposited during those years in the basements of various museums and finally ended up at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Only April 20, 1956 the museum was inaugurated in this building
The walls of the main hall are decorated with frescoes painted by different artists (Varagnolo, Colao, Bertoletti, Cavalli, Cascella, Guberti, Amato, Barillà and others), representing scenes of family life, seafaring and farming, festivals, games and ceremonies
It is the only state museum in Italy with specific expertise in the field of ANTHROPOLOGY
It contains over 100,000 documents related to the world of popular culture: a unique collection, unrepeatable today
Most objects date back to the period between the late 1800s and early 1900s, but some wooden artifacts date back to the eighteenth or the first half of the nineteenth century
ELEVEN ROOMS each dedicated to a particular aspect of popular culture:
Transport systems
Peasant labor
Work of shepherds
Hunting and fishing communities
Signs of trades
Housing and domestic space
Rituals and family life
Rituals and feasts
Musical Instruments
Shows and games on the road
Popular clothing and jewelry
In addition, historical photographic archive and photo library for the material collected before and after 1956, tape library for sound documents, archive of visual anthropology with visual and multimedia material, office inventory, library with about 12,000 volumes, restoration workshop, photographic laboratory and audiovisual laboratory

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Opened in 1967 with pieces from the fourth to the tenth century AD describing the history of the settlements in the regions of central Italy
Room One
Finds of ancient Rome from the fourth to the sixth century which illustrate aspects of daily life and traditions
Rooms Two and Three
Objects from the Lombard necropolis of Nocera Umbra (Perugia) consisting of 166 graves and Castel Trosino (Ascoli Piceno) with 237 tombs
In the female burials brooches, necklaces, earrings, amulets and objects of daily use have been found while in the graves of the men there were shields, spears, arrows, helmets, armor and accessories for riding
In 568 the Lombard king Alboin invaded the whole of northern Italy, Tuscany, the territories of Spoleto and Benevento
Rooms Four and Five
Carolingian Age (eighth and ninth century) with marble and ceramics decorated with early Christian motifs or simple patterns
“External marble part of a well” ninth century from Porto
“Relief with Alexander the Great raised up to heaven in a chariot drawn by griffins” tenth or eleventh century
Room Six
Materials from the Domusculta of S. Cornelia at Veii built on the site of a Roman villa
The domuscultae were some kind of of large farms common in papal territories during the eighth through the tenth century
Room Seven
Finds from the site of the Episcopal see of S. Rufina on the Via Cornelia (Via Boccea) where was the martyrdom of Sts. Rufina and Second
Here excavations have revealed a continuous occupation of the site, with the remains of a Roman agricultural center, an area Christian cemetery and a medieval settlement from which the “Mosaic floor” comes
Room Eight
Collection of Coptic textiles and reliefs with 74 pieces dating from the fifth to the tenth century
Opus Sectile of Porta Marina
About 383/388
Unique example of decoration in opus sectile or inlaid marble, exposed here since 2006 almost fully recovered and dated with precision, thanks to the lucky discovery of a bronze coin in the mortar bed of one of the panels with a lion bearing the name of Magnus Maximus (383/388) usurper of Gaul, Britain and Spain during the reign of Valentinian II (375/392) in the west and Theodosius I (379/395) in the East
The extraordinary decoration with colored marbles adorned the ceremonial room of a monumental Domus outside Porta Marina in Ostia
The excavation was done in 1959 and, until 1966, the first restoration was carried out. Then the panels were placed in storage, and in 1999 the old restoration was completed
The large hall with a quadrangular apse on the far wall is completely covered with polychrome marbles with geometric patterns, floral friezes and groups of animals fighting
Large floor in opus sectile with precious marbles (ancient yellow, serpentine, red porphyry and pavonazzetto), decorated with stars, octagons and circles combined with great elegance
In contrast, the exedra of the far wall is completely covered by a geometric decoration still in opus sectile with small checkerboard patterns below and fake architectural perspective in the upper part
The ceiling is shown next to the room and is recovered only in small part due to the collapse of the building. The building site must have stopped suddenly, so that the mosaic floor was not yet put in place

On the right male figure, which could be identified with Christ, because of the halo and the hand raised in blessing, but in the whole of Greece and Asia Minor images of characters referred to as “sacred, inspired” were discovered i.e. philosophers

These kind of characters, at a time when there was a large demand for spirituality, had the hallmark of the halo. So, there isn't a context to say with precision whether this is a Christian or pagan figure

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


It is named after Luigi Pigorini (1842/1925) the scholar who had founded in 1876 in a wing of the Palazzo del Collegio Romano
The museum was moved here in the years 1962/1977
Stained-glass window “Cosmogony” 1941/42 by Giulio Rosso (1897/1976)
In the SCIENCE HALL inlaid marble floor with “Decorative elements related to science” 1943 by Mario Tozzi (1895/1978)
First Floor - Ethnography
Exhibition that illustrates the three key historical moments of the encounter between Africa and the West:
1) The discovery of the African west coast, which took place between 1434 and 1488
2) The exploration of the interior of the continent, which was fulfilled in the nineteenth century
3) The “discovery” of Black Art at the beginning of the twentieth century, which profoundly influenced the processes of elaboration of western plastic arts
In the exhibition space for rotating exhibits: “The splendor of the warrior” with ancient African weapons
One of the most important collections of its kind in Europe: a collection of about 15,000 objects from Melanesia, from Polynesia, Micronesia and from Australia, collected mostly by travelers, scholars and explorers of the late nineteenth century
The oldest objects, such as the Hawaiians ones from third voyage of James Cook were brought to Europe from the first voyages of exploration in the Pacific Ocean
Archaeological cultures of Mesoamerica and Central America
First introductory exhibit, population and the first contact with Europeans
The “retrospective” on Mesoamerica
The “theme” through objects that seeks to understand the peoples that produced them
Room dedicated to the area of the Andes
The permanent exhibition of the section of Asian Culture is awaiting funding from the Ministry
Second Floor – Prehistory
1) Methods for the study of the past
2) Homo. The natural history
Exhibits made also using multimedia technology with general themes. They introduce the other sections that have been organized on a thematic basis as part of a long chronological order. Each refer to specific periods of human history
3) Hunters and gatherers
It documents the population of the Lazio region during the Paleolithic period
4) Art in prehistory
5) A blast from the past
Excavations still in progress in the village “La Marmotta” (The Groundhog) (Lake Bracciano, Anguillara), from which the huge “Dugout monossile in oak” on display in the atrium on the ground floor
6) From village to city
Materials from various areas Italian and foreign (Swiss and Aegean area) relative to the Neolithic, Eneolithic, Bronze Age and early Iron Age
Tombs from Colli Albani, Osteria dell'Osa, Tarquinia, Vulci, Bisenzio, Vetulonia, Volterra and Bologna
“Storage of Coste Marano” near Allumiere consists of a “treasure” of 148 bronzes of the end of the eleventh or early tenth century BC
Famous and controversial “Fibula Prenestina” in gold with one of the oldest inscriptions in Latin. Many scholars doubt its authenticity

Monday, February 6, 2017


1939/43 Luigi Brusa (1906/61), Gino Cancellotti (1890/1987), Eugenio Montuori (1907/82) e Alfredo Scalpelli (1898/1966)
Built in the same period of the other three buildings arranged symmetrically around the square
On either side of the portico of Piazza Marconi mosaics:
On the right “Guilds” by Enrico Prampolini (1894/1956)
On the left “The Professions and the Arts” by Fortunato Depero (1892/1960)

Sunday, February 5, 2017


In 1870 the former Monastero delle Clarisse (Convent of the Poor Clares) was transformed into the Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici (Ministry of Public Works)
Renovated in 1879 by Giovanni Malvezzi for the new function of Central Post Office
Designed by Luigi Rosso in neo-Lombard Venetian style “Round reliefs with portraits of members of the Savoy family”
In the CLOISTER archaeological fragments probably coming from the TEMPLE OF THE SUN that was built in this area by Aurelian (270/275)

Friday, February 3, 2017


1880/83 Pio Piacentini (1846/1928)
Statues on the FAÇADE by Bertoli, Trabacchi, Biggi, Concetti, Galletti e Fallani
Restoration 1987/90 by Costantino Dardi (1936/91)
After five years of restoration the building reopened in 2007 with more than 10,000 m² (2.5 acres) divided into THREE FLOORS used for temporary exhibitions
It also features a 139-seats CINEMA HALL, an AUDITORIUM (multimedia room for 90 people) and a FORUM (multipurpose room), as well as a café, a restaurant and a bookshop
During the construction a votive deposit was found of which the “Vase of Duènos” was part. It has an inscription in Latin of the early sixth century BC one of the oldest ever found. It is now in the Museum of Berlin
Maybe it was kept in the TEMPLE OF FORTUNA located on the Vicus Longus (in part corresponding to Via Nazionale). According to tradition it had been founded by Servius Tullius
Nearby there was the SACELLUM OF PLEBEIAN PUDICITIA founded by a certain Virginia in 296 BC, a counterpart to that of the Patrician Pudicitia in the Foro Boario

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


1902/06 Arturo Pazzi (XIX/XX centuries) and Alberto Manassei (1855/1939) with the participation of Guido Cirilli (1871/1954) for Marco Besso
The idea of replicating the structure of Palazzo Venezia across the square in fifteenth-century Venetian style was Giuseppe Sacconi's (1854/1905)
Built on the site of the destroyed Palazzo Nepoti and Palazzo Torlonia by Carlo Fontana
On the FAÇADE “Lion of St. Mark” of the sixteenth century from the Walls of Padua
On the right side of the building there is a PLAQUE commemorating the site of the house where the divine artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) lived and died

Thursday, January 26, 2017


1517/23 maybe Antonio Cordini detto Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483/1546) and Andrea Contucci aka Andrea Sansovino (1460/1529) for Cardinal Andrea Della Valle who kept in the palace his collection of ancient statues now largely in Florence
Giorgio Vasari attributed with little credibility to Lorenzo Lotti aka Lorenzetto (1490/1541)
It was left unfinished outside after the sack of Rome in 1527
It passed in 1633 to the Del Bufalo family who had it restored
Since 1948 is the headquarters of CONFAGRICOLTURA (Italian General Confederation of Agriculture), an organization that represents and protects Italian farmers
Employers associated with Confagricoltura account for two-thirds of all enterprises in the sector and employ more than 500,000 workers
Coffered ceiling with rosettes, garlands and golden putti with in the center colorful coat of arms of the Cardinal
Walls painted with “Fake architecture and rural landscapes”, “Figures of warriors and female figures” and frieze with “Marine divinities and sirens” maybe by Francesco de' Rossi aka Francesco Salviati (1510/63) or an artist of the school of Giulio Pippi aka Giulio Romano (1499/1546)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


1959 Leo Calini (1903/85) and Eugenio Montuori (1907/82)
“An extraordinary example of integration of the new architecture in the consolidated fabric of the city center. The preexisting historical buildings represented by the ghetto, and the environmental requirements, determined by the presence of the Tiber, suggested the designers to adopt a different strategy to solve the two opposing fronts the building” (Giorgio Muratore)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


S. Ivo alla Sapienza
1642/55 and 1659/61 consecrated 1660, an absolute masterpiece by Francesco Borromini (1599/1667) on which he worked during the three pontificates of Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44), Innocent X Pamphilj (1644/55) and Alexander VII (1655/67)
“Brilliant unconventional concept space that attaches structural value to heraldic insignia” (Paolo Portoghesi)
“The interpenetration of two equilateral triangles (symbolically referring to the Trinity) led to a hexagonal star that had no precedent in the Italian architectural tradition. The shape of the star reappears clear in the entablature and continues in the dome where it reaches the maximum values of vertical tension. Outside with the light spiral structure the style of Borromini reached his peak and disconcerted his contemporaries, witnesses of a vision of space that cancels the boundaries between mass and atmosphere” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
“In this reduction of multiplicity to unity, of differentiation and variety to the simplicity of the circle, consists mostly the charm of this church. Geometric conciseness and inexhaustible imagination, technical ability and religious symbolism have rarely found such a merger. You can trace the downward movement of pure forms of the heavenly area to the increasing complexity of the terrestrial zone. Decorative elements of the dome, the vertical rows of stars, the papal coat of arms above the alternate windows, the cherubim under the lantern, are fantastic, unreal and exciting and at the same time speak a clearly symbolic language” (Rudolf Wittkower)
Six double columns, with twelve lilies and twelve columns on the entablature. Extraordinary helix-shaped spiral
“Among the various interpretations given so far (Tower of Babel, etc.) The most striking and fascinating is that, referring to the bull of Boniface VIII on the topographic centrality of the Studium umbilicus Urbis (navel of the world), links the Latin word to the rod, known as umbilicus, around which was wrapped the scroll of writing, with clear reference to the fact that study can be considered to be concluded only when the roll was read to the rod (Raspe 2000). (...) But one cannot overlook another symbolic interpretation (...): the shell fastens to the formal structure of the body of the bee, in turn, similar to the shape of a tiara: a set of symbolic meanings combined and filtered by the visibility of the form” (Antonella Pampalone)
Restored 1858/60 by Virginio Vespignani (1808/82) who superimposed on the original white walls a decoration with colored faux marbles. It was removed by the further restoration of the years 1967/68
1660, rebuilt in 1664 and in the years 1783/84 by Nicola Forti (active in Rome the second half of the eighteenth century)
It was placed on the high altar only in 1685 in a “Frame of ancient yellow marble” by G.B. Contini (1641/1723)
The painting had been commissioned by Alexander VII who, during the consecration, placed inside the altar the relics of the sixth pope, S. Alexander I (105/115)

Monday, January 23, 2017


1959/65 Francesco Borromini (1599/1667) for Alexander VII Chigi (1655/67) on the second floor to the left of the church
“It remains like Borromini had designed it. The great hall of the library is three stories high and the recessed shelves, also designed by the master, form an important part of the architecture. This was a new and important idea that he had not yet conceived when he built the library on top of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri some twenty years earlier. It was precisely this new concept that made the Biblioteca Alessandrina the prototype of the great libraries of the eighteenth century” (Rudolf Wittkower)
“Triumph of Religion with the three theological virtues, the four evangelists and four doctors of the Church” 1662/65 by Clemente Maioli (1634/73) from Ferrara influenced by Pietro da Cortona and close to the style of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli
“Bust of Alexander VII” in 1661 by Domenico Guidi (1625/1701) embedded into a frame of golden stucco designed by Borromini

Sunday, January 22, 2017


The ancient and first UNIVERSITÀ ROMANA (Roman University) was founded in 1303 as STUDIUM URBIS by Boniface VIII Caetani (1294/1303) with location still unknown
It was based in this site from the time of Eugene IV Coldumer (1431/47) who built the original nucleus with the proceeds of the tax on imported wine in Rome
It consisted of a house to the south of the current block but the public disputes of students were held in the vestry of St. Eustace and teachers were leading their academic life in their homes all in the same area
It remained here until 1935 when the CITTÀ UNIVERSITARIA (University City) was inaugurated (about 500 years!)
Rearranged in the years 1492/97 with some rooms on the south west side by Andrea da Firenze and his colleague Sante for Alexander VI Borgia (1492/1503)
The palace itself was begun with the portico of the courtyard in the years 1562/63 by Guidetto Guidetti (about 1498/1564) for Pius IV Medici (1559/65) who wanted Pirro Ligorio (about 1513/83) to continue it until 1567 after the death of Guidetti in 1564
It was finished for about three quarters in the years 1577/1602 by the great and underestimated Giacomo Della Porta (1533/1602) for Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572/85), Sixtus V Peretti (1585/90) e Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592/1605)
Della Porta moved the entrance from Piazza St. Eustace to the current Corso Rinascimento
“The design intentions of Giacomo Della Porta are not documented but the close similarities with the Circus of Domitian (...) seem to underlie a dual significance, symbolical and allegorical: comparing the layout of the Studium Urbis with the ancient Agonal Circus would have made the ancient modern and set up a comparison between the abstract and the intellectual exercise” (Antonella Pampalone)
It was completed by various architects in the seventeenth century:
1602/13 Paolo Maggi (?/1613)
1614/23 Ettore Pomis
1623/31 Domenico Zampieri aka Domenichino (1581/1641)
1631/32 Domenico Castelli (1582/1657) and Gaspare De Vecchi (active 1628/1643)
It was finally finished from 1632 to 1665 by Francesco Borromini (1599/1667) who added the Biblioteca Alessandrina (Library of Alexander) and the Church of S. Ivo alla Sapienza
Borromini came highly recommended to Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44) by his friend first and enemy later Gian Lorenzo Bernini
1959/64 adorned with allegorical allusions to the academic disciplines and relief with “Sine wave pattern” on the parapet
“It is plausible to assume a reference to the wavy pattern in the arms of the Caetani family, the one of the Pope founder of the Studium (Raspe 2000)” (Antonella Pampalone)
Heraldic symbols placed on the parts of the building erected by the popes belonging to the six families represented: half dragons for the Boncompagni, lions' heads with pears for the Peretti executed by Ambrogio Buonvicino (about 1552/1622), eight-pointed stars for the Aldobrandini, bees for the Barberini, eagles and dragons for the Borghese, six mountains and six-pointed star for the Chigi
In the ceiling “The four faculties aspiring to Knowledge” 1883 by Giuseppe Ferrari (1840/1905)
“Bust of Pope Gregory XVI Cappellari (1831/46)” maybe by Adamo Tadolini (1788/1868)
In a corridor “Bust of Victor Emmanuel II” 1885 by Lio Gangeri (1845/1913)
The current complex is home to the ARCHIVIO DI STATO DI ROMA (State Archives of Rome) with over 28,000 scrolls and about 500,000 ancient books and records dating from the ninth century to 1870, all kept in about 25 km (15.5 miles) of shelves