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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Del Debbio's hidden masterpiece - out-buildings at Foro Mussolini

A few years after restoration, still in
need of TLC
           Officine Farneto (“Farneto Offices”) is a recently restored out-building from the construction of what was Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico) in the 1930s. It's a shining example of Fascist era architecture that continues to be rediscovered and rehabbed in 21st century Rome.  Note RST gave Foro Italico its #5 position in RST’s Top 40.  At the time, we didn't know about this complex of out-buildings.

[A new expanded itinerary of Foro Italico (including Officine Farneto) and the area across the Tevere from it, Flaminio, is now one of 4 walks in the new guide: Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  See more information below.]

            We found Officine Farneto a couple years ago (while meandering off the more beaten paths, as we are wont to do).  More recently the developers, who saw us poking around their complex, invited us in, gave us a tour and showed us their library of information about the architect, Enrico Del Debbio.  We found Del Debbio's work has been given new life here as an exposition and office complex – perhaps more a labor of love by the developers/architects than a profit-making proposition at this point.

Multi-use visible here
           Del Debbio, who designed this construction site warehouse and office, was one of the premier Fascist era modernist architects and the chief architect for Foro Mussolini.  It’s amazing that a simple out-building had such architectural attention paid to it, and that the current owners have restored it so faithfully. 

One of the developer/architects showing off
the roll-in ceramics kiln that they kept - part of
industrial chic
            Post World War II, the building housed an artisan ceramics factory up until the 1970s, and the owners have left the enormous kiln in place. 

Former Fascist sports complex construction warehouse,
then artisan ceramics factory, now "open space" for
exhibitions - or wedding receptions (we saw one in process)
            Officine Farneto was called by one web site “the chicest open space in Rome.”  The owners are pitching the space for weddings, exhibitions, any type of show or conference.  In addition to their architectural offices, there’s also a wellness center with gym and roof terrace.  When we asked the architect/restorers/owners how they were doing from a business perspective, they shrugged their shoulders.  They have hopes for the future.  Modern Romans still shy away from Fascist buildings, they said.

            Bill made an interesting comparison of a Michael Graves building to Officine Farneto in his 2011 post on Rome’s influence on Graves

            The complex now sports a bistro and restaurant; so during most reasonable (for Rome) hours, you can stop for refreshments.

            Officine Farneto is definitely worth a visit.  The address is Via dei Monti della Farnesina 77, the street that shoots up directly north in back of the Olympic Stadium.  Or you can use our hyperlinked map of Itinerary 9 (Monte Mario) from the eBook version of Rome the Second Time.  

For more information, Officine Farneto has its own, rather too elaborate, Web site, which includes historical photos and a zip version of the current brochure.  Some of that brochure is in English.

Another Foro Mussolini out-building along the road (via dei Monti della Farnesina)
to Officine Farneto; this one is now a riding club
Along with the tour of Foro Italico and the 21st century art and music quarter, Flaminio, Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler features three other walks: the 20th-century "garden" suburb of Garbatella, the Fascist-designed suburb of EUR; and a stairways walk in classic Trastevere.

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores,  and other retailers; retail price $5.99.]

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