Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, August 10, 2018

The Pleasures of Parioli's via Paisiello

We were living just a few blocks away from via Giovanni Paisiello, where we [thought] we had identified the location of a fine piece of mid-century modernist architecture.  We set out to find it.  All we lacked was the precise address.

Our task seemed easy.  There's not much to via Paisiello, which runs northeast (the direction we walked) for just a few blocks between Villa Borghese and viale Liegi.  Moreover, the Parioli quartiere isn't exactly loaded with great buildings; so we figured if we saw one that was worthy--and of the appropriate time period--we would have found our prey.

And there it was, at #10.  Powerful angular corner balconies.  Captivating mosaics.  Everything in need of repair, but the elements were there.  A lovely example of a species we enjoy: mid-century modernism.
These are great balconies. Pour me a
glass of Arneis!

Today it's a bank

Very 1960

Except we had the wrong building.  As we later learned, the building we were looking for--clearly the most famous on the street, was the one in the photo below, a couple of blocks further along, at #39.  At first glance (and maybe second) it's an odd duck: the bottom half is a handsome but rather traditional palazzo in the classical language common in Rome in the early 20th century.  The top half--3 + stories--is mid-century horizontal glass and metal.  Between 1950 and 1952, some part of the original palazzo was removed and, under the supervision of prominent architect Mario Ridolfi, a modern addition added.  That kind of radical surgery doesn't happen often--we can't think of another example in Rome--and that's why the building is notable. It helps, too, that the surgery was successful.  So successful that on our first trip up via Paisiello we hadn't even noticed the structure.  Ridolfi did well.

The building's reputation also owes something to the fact that Ridolfi was in the first tier of 20th-century Italian architects.  Among his buildings are the rationalist Nomentano post office in Piazza Bologna (1932), one of the 4 commissioned for Rome by the Fascist regime; a playful and architecturally significant public housing project in Tiburtino (1950-51); and the headquarters for FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), begun in 1938 as the Ministry for Italy's African colonies.

We might have considered our first effort on via Paisiello a failure, were it not for some other discoveries, all within a few blocks.  We admired the enormous cantilevered corner balconies of this otherwise ordinary apartment house:

Then there was this treasure, at first sight just another classic palazzo, this one in red.  On closer inspection, it turned out the palazzo wasn't so classic.  Indeed, it's of Fascist-era origins--1935 to be exact.  It carries a Latin inscription, some heads that reminded us of the heads that decorate one of the buildings in Piazza Independenza and, high above, a couple of elegant statues to link the building (and the regime) to ancient Rome.

Next door, and not so well cared for, another 1930s building with nice curvelinear lines, no doubt originally an apartment building but now the Hotel Paisiello.  The round side/rear balconies are exceptional.

From another era, but equally fine, at the far (northwest) end of the street.

And that's via Paisiello--or rather, what we saw of it.


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