Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Gaetano Vinaccia's Glorious Tower


This corner tower, a few blocks north of the Vatican at the angle formed by via Trionfale and via Tommaso Campanella, is surely among Rome's most elegant and harmonious structures, a stunning mix of classicism and modernism.  

Designed by architect and engineer Gaetano Vinaccia (1889-1971), whose buildings also grace via Nizza, via Gaetano Donizetti, via Claudio Monteverdi, and via Gaspare Spontini, it was completed--as the facade still reveals--in the 7th year of Fascism, 1930. It is the most distinguished element of a larger complex--all designed by Vinaccia--that occupies an entire block within 4 streets: via Trionfale, via Tommaso Campanella, via Giordano Bruno, and via Bernardino Telesio.  For many years--and perhaps still--the complex served mainly as an underutilized parking garage for the public security section of the Ministry of the Interior.  

The third floor (4th, if one includes the ground floor) presents three statues: In the center, a reproduction of the Farnese Hercules; on his left, Apollo del Belvedere; and on Hercules' right, a young man with a palm tree in hand.  Architectural historian Paolo Grassi suggests that the statues together represent victory over adverse forces, and the peace that follows.  The floor above the statues was once occupied by a Sabaudian (House of Savoy) shield, apparently removed after the proclamation of the Italian Republic in 1948.  The iron rods that once held it in place remain.  

The ground floor is special: a grand door of wood panels, flanked by fluted columns, covered by an elegant curved roof.  The top floor is special, too: a grand circular terrace that in its early days sported a steel flag pole of sufficient size to support and display a 15-meter flag.  In October 1930 the terrace was a favored vantage point from which to celebrate the building's inauguration--an event attended by Benito Mussolini.  

Although labeled a "minor architect," there has been some effort to elevate Vinaccia's standing because of his architectural approaches and theories, including the use of solar and the exploration of microclimates in urban settings. He bears the name of a luthier who is considered the creator of the acoustic guitar - a century earlier. While having exactly the same name, we haven't been able to confirm he's from the same family as those luthiers who produced the still famous, and still selling, Vinaccia guitars and mandolins.