8 Unusual Places to Discover in Rome
If you want to discover an unusual and hidden Rome, less touristy but in the same way fascinating, we suggest you to follow our advice to know the secret treasures guarded in the corners of the Trident area near the Ripetta Relais.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY The historical Via di Ripetta, which was called at the beginning of the sixteenth century Via Leonina from the name of the Pope Leo X, is located along the area that in the past centuries was the site of intense traffics and trades, thanks to the river port of Ripetta on the Tiber. Formerly used for the call of timber yard, coal and wine, later in the eighteenth century the Port of Ripetta was enlarged and rebuilt thanks to the approval of Pope Clement XI who entrusted the project to the architect Alessandro Specchi. The new work in late Baroque style, that’s called to distinguish it from the port of Ripa Grande, was inaugurated in 1704 but survived just until the end of the next century, when due to the repeated flooding of the river was dismantled to allow the construction of the Tiber embankments. After the Italian unification, the only evidence of that dynamic trade center is the surviving Fountain of the Sailors in the current Porto di Ripetta square.
1. THE HOSPITAL OF DOLLS
A few steps from the Ripetta Relais, at the house number 29, is hiding a real pearl of Italian craftsmanship, a shop out of time for all the lovers of art collecting: it’s the so-called “Hospital of dolls”, the tiny workshop belonging to the Squadriti family which for generations, since 1953, take up artistic renovation of porcelain dolls, puppets of theatre, ceramic ware, pots and fine small cups. Passing by the shop you can’t miss this particular showcase without sign, but full of doll’s heads waiting to be cured by Mr Federico and his mother Gelsomina, which have been working for decades on it. Take a time to visit this family workshop and you will be struck by the extraordinary amount of forgotten objects, ready to be repaired, and the surreal atmosphere of the place.
2. THE OPEN AIR MUSEUM
Walking through Via di Ripetta up to the crossing with Piazza Augusto Imperatore, let yourself be surprised by “the open air museum” of the roman artist Fausto delle Chiaie: you’ll find him every afternoon between the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus, showing his ironic works made by the city scraps, from the forgotten objects to the puddles, from the stones to the coins. And if you happen to hear him whistling from the Res Gestae wall, while you are watching the “museum”, don’t worry: the artist just wants to get your attention to study your reactions.
3. VIA MARGUTTA 51
Who doesn’t remember the charming Gregory Peck of "Roman Holiday" in his small bachelor flat in Via Margutta 51? The film by William Wyler who made famous to the public the beautiful Audrey Hepburn, was shot in the capital during the Fifties, retracing the traditional places of the city centre. Via Margutta, the historic capital’s street of art and, in those years, the exclusive residence of the great celebrities of Italian cinema as Federico Fellini and Anna Magnani, was involved in some of the most beautiful scenes of international cinema. How to resist the temptation to look closely at Joe Bradley’s home?
4. ONE HUNDRED PAINTERS IN VIA MARGUTTA
In Via Margutta, but just in spring season, it comes to life every year since 1953 an historic art exhibition: that’s "One hundred painters in Via Margutta", the event that brings together on the street over a thousand works, including oil paintings, drawings and watercolors from different countries and belonging to different artistic movements. An unmissable and free open air gallery, but above all a unique opportunity to meet closely with the artists chatting about these beautiful paintings.
5. THE BABUINO FOUNTAIN
To become familiar with the surrounding area of the Ripetta Relais let’s discover Via del Babuino, one of the streets of the Trident which owes its name to the Babuino Fountain built around 1580 thanks to a private citizen, Alessandro Grandi. In roman dialect the "baboon" was the nickname that citizens gave to the statue of the monument, wich was considered so ugly to remember the features of a monkey. Actually, the mythological figure of "Silenus" lying on the Roman thermal bath is a god of the wood, wild-looking and depicted in the ancient Greek culture with a full beard, a bald head, equine ears and tail.
6.THE SAILORS’ FOUNTAIN
Hidden in the nearby of Ponte Cavour, crossing Via Tomacelli, you’ll bump into the original fountain of the Port of Ripetta, also known as the “Sailors’fountain”, an ancient example of Roman architecture dating back to 1704, when the neighboring area of Via di Ripetta was assigned to traffics and trades on the Tiber, in the Port of Ripetta. The fountain, the only survivor of that important trade center, was initially built as a trough for pack animals used in the port and just later provided with a wrought-iron lantern still visible on top of the monumental rocks, acting as a beacon for boats.
7. THE ART OF CARAVAGGIO
Did you know that Rome has some paintings of the painter Caravaggio you can admire for free, without paying any ticket? Strange but true, yet two of his masterpieces are kept within the Cerasi Chapel, in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo which gave its name to the square with the obelisk. They are the Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul, two oil paintings on canvas of 1600-1601, just a short walk from the Ripetta Relais, visible every day of the week from the early morning until the evening.
8. THE HOUSE OF GOETHE
The Rione Campo Marzio, where is the Ripetta Relais, was for centuries a theater of important events and the residence of famous people. From the public ceremonies of the Imperial Age, to the dwelling houses of rich and noble families of the Renaissance period, this well-respected area was chosen even in the later centuries by the major personalities of the international culture who stayed there for some periods of their life. This was the case of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe during his Italian journey from 1786 to 1788, who lived on the second floor of Via del Corso 18 with his friend Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. The House of Goethe, which is now a museum, shows several paintings of the Roman period of the writer, some portraits including one signed by Andy Warhol, sketches, documents and books written by Goethe.