Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Giulio Magni's Palazzo Marina: a Tour of Italy's Naval Ministry

Big anchor that has something to do with
World War I.  The facade also
pays homage to Italy's great naval cities:
Genova, Venice, and Rome.  Rome?

It occupies most of a large city block.  It's on the Tevere.  And it's only a ten minute walk, north, from Piazza del Popolo.  Yet except for two enormous anchors in front of its beaux-arts facade, most passers-by wouldn't give it a second thought.

It's the Ministero della Marina Militare, the Naval Ministry (or, in Americanese, the Department of the Navy.  The building is also referred to as the Palazzo Marina).  Although the ministry's website claims there are regular guided tours (see below), we doubt it.  Our access was through Open House Roma--yes, that's what the Romans call it--that wonderful program that opens dozens of sites, including some state buildings, for tours. In Italian.  We toured the Air Force building last year.  And this year, the Navy.

Door handle--nice touch

Built between 1912, when Italy was still a democracy, and 1928, when Mussolini had made sure it wasn't, the building is a luscious mix of styles: Rome Liberty (Victorian), barochetto (little baroque), what the website calls "Michelangeloesque eclecticism" and, here and there, accents of Fascist modernism.   Excess is everywhere.  

Magni's Santa Maria Regina Pacis, Ostia

The Ministero della Marina Militare was designed by Giulio Magni (1859-1930), grandson of the more famous Giuseppe Valadier, who created Piazza del Popolo for Napoleon.  Magni came to Rome as a young man, working on a variety of projects, including the ICP (public) housing plan for Testaccio and the Vittoriano.

After 10 active years in Romania (1895-1904), Magni designed the church of Santa Maria Regina Pacis in Ostia (1928), public housing in Testaccio, and several villas for the Roman elite. Among the latter was Villa Marignoli (1907), now a classy hotel--the Residenza Villa Marignoli--on via Po not far from Villa Borghese.

Just inside the Naval Ministry is a splendid long hall with high ceilings and, off the left/north side, a lovely courtyard.

A spectacular marble staircase, dressed with naval motifs, centers the building.  The rounded elements on the side resemble waves.

The Sala dei Marmi--the Marble Room--offers as its centerpiece a massive table, made of 13 different marbles from Italy and Africa. Underneath, fasces.

The library's book retrieval box is above the fire extinguisher.  Anchor-motif
detailing for the railings.  

Parents, where are you?

The library, in neo-Renaissance style, houses a variety of treasures and details, including a valuable globe dating to the 17th century (when we were there a small child was clinging to it; I imagined it going over), a spiral staircase leading to a narrow second-floor balcony, and an inventive book retrieval mechanism fashioned of iron.

A VI, the 6th year of Fascism, 1928

Standing out among the Fascist touches was a gorgeous ceiling, complete with fasces.

A long hallway presents memorabilia of Italian naval history. (A song from my youth, "I'm in the Swiss Navy," kept going through my head).

Stairway cheesecake

One of the high- (or low-) lights of the tour was the performance of a 30ish-couple, who seemed to think the building was designed for their photo-shoot.

At left, a good example of the mixing of styles and epochs: a wall lamp in the Liberty style, very 19th century, but a fasces--very 20th--in the center. Additional photos of the building and a video tour of sorts, in Italian, on the ministry website:


Assuming the ministry runs the tours it claims it does, reservations are required: 0636805251 or 0636803268.  Reservations and tours in Italian, of course.
Neo-classicism and Security


Unknown said...

Fascinating! I was in an Italian navy family and never had a tour of the building, only went to the commissary on the lower level.

Mary Jane said...

Fascinating, I was in an italian navy family for years and never visited the interior of the Ministero, only the commissary on the bottom level, entrance from the back parking lot.