Updated: May 9, 2021
Rome has no shortage of enchanting neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct flavour, but Quartiere Coppedè might just be one of its most magical.
Rome has no shortage of enchanting neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct flavour, but Quartiere Coppedè might just take the cake as one of its most magical. Tucked away between Piazza Buenos Aires, Via Tagliamento, and the larger Viale Regina Margherita, the small neighbourhood (in reality, a complex of buildings) looks like the set of a fairy tale movie with its inimitable stylistic flourishes and warm colours: burnt orange, marigold, peach, and rose, all interwoven with dark green climbing vines and heavy, lush boughs. It is truly a hidden gem, one that escapes the notice of most tourists (and even some Romans!), a fact that could account for that matchless feeling of stepping out from the city and into another world–quiet, sequestered, and entirely distinguished from its surroundings.
If you are expecting to see the usual metropolitan hustle and bustle, you might be disappointed. This is where you come to slow down and step away from the traffic jams and stagnant crowds near better-known sites. Possibly the greatest charm of Quartiere Coppedè lies precisely in the fact that it is unpretentiously marvellous, beautiful on its own without the whistles and bells of tourist attractions, blissfully unconcerned with its rank in the hierarchy of things to see when in Rome. There are no restaurants, no cafés, no shopping centres. The little streets surrounding Piazza Mincio, the main square of the neighbourhood, are for getting lost in at a leisurely pace. Which also means that you do not have to spend a single dime to partake in its splendours. No tickets, no queues, no hassle.
The ornate quarter, situated in the Trieste area of Rome, was designed by Florentine architect Gino Coppedè, from which the eponymous district takes its name. The prolific and successful artist would be commissioned on a series of projects in Genoa, Messina, Naples, and Tuscany. Quartiere Coppedè was built in the early twentieth century, between 1915-1927, and is an eclectic–and eccentric–amalgamation of wildly diverse styles, ranging from classical, medieval, and gothic to Baroque, Art Decò, and Art Nouveau. The bold and imaginative architecture is reminiscent of Spanish architect Gaudí’s famous Barcelona masterpieces, such as the Sagrada Familia and Casa Balló.
It is advisable to start your journey into the quartiere from the top of Via Tagliamento, turning left onto Via Dora. Approaching it from this angle, you will happen upon a magnificent arch uniting two structures resembling turrets, the so-called Ambassador’s Buildings (“Palazzi degli Ambasciatori”). Even at this early stage, there are so many fantastic details that vie for your attention, like the Madonna and Child in a niche under a green lantern, off to the right side.
Directly above you, once you have walked under the arch, you will see an iron chandelier with pendulous seahorses and tendril motifs. Follow the narrow Via Dora to the vanishing point of this architectural work of genius on Via Brenta, the whimsical “Villino delle Fate”, or Fairy House, located right next to another focal attraction of the quartiere, the “Fontana delle Rane” or Fountain of the Frogs, built in 1924. The decorative fountain, in the middle of Piazza Mincio, around which the neighbourhood spans out, witnessed history. The Beatles jumped into the fountain after performing across the street on Via Tagliamento, at the iconic Piper club, one of Italy’s most famous, founded in 1965. The club hosted some of the most celebrated stars of the Italian beat and rock music scene, such as Equipe 84 and I Delfini, as well as many groups of international renown, including Pink Floyd and Procol Harum.
To the right of the Fontana delle Rane, and right across from the aforementioned Fairy House, is the “Palazzo del Ragno” or Spider Building, which derives its name from the large decorative spider above the front door.
Details such as this abound in the dreamlike neighbourhood, all summoning the visitor’s attention. Different buildings, residential or otherwise, take inspiration from a wide range of artistic movements and from classic Italian symbols used in the representation of different regions or cities in the country. The winged lions of Piazza San Marco in Venice decorate the lateral, frescoed façade of the Fairy House. A little farther down and you can see Rome’s famous She-Wolf nursing the city’s ancient founders, Remus and Romulus.
The quartiere is heavily populated with embassies, including that of South Africa on Via Tanaro, Sweden on Via Serchio, and those of Bolivia and Morocco on Via Brenta. Film buffs will be thrilled to know the neighbourhood was also used as a setting in the production of several films, including Inferno by Dario Argento, the giallo-noir Il profumo della signora in nero (“The perfume of the lady in black”) by Francesco Barilli, and the comedy Il cielo in una stanza (“The sky in a room”) by Carlo Vanzina.
To get to Quartiere Coppedè, you can take bus 92 from Termini to Via Tagliamento, a ride of about fifteen minutes. From Via Tagliamento, it is roughly a two-minute walk to the neighbourhood. If you are not opposed to a journey on foot, you can also take the metro, Line B in the Jonio direction, getting off at Policlinico and walking first to Viale Regina Margherita, then to Piazza Buenos Aires, which is right in the vicinity of our destination.
Viale Regina Margherita, on the east side of the Tiber River, is a large street that intersects with another main street, Via Nomentana. Both are major places of interest in Rome and offer a host of bars, restaurants, gelaterie, shops, and activities to enjoy. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows) at Piazza Buenos Aires is also close by. The Neo Byzantine church is the first national church in Rome for a Latin American country, and it is certainly worth visiting for its beautiful interiors. Villa Ada Savoia is home to breath-taking gardens and Roman ruins, and is only a ten-minute bus ride away. Villa Borghese, home also to the Bioparco of Rome, Italy’s oldest zoological gardens, is also only ten minutes away by bus. Villa Torlonia, with its famous “Casina delle Civette,” or House of the Little Owls, is another villa with spectacular surrounding gardens and museums. The Casina delle Civette is a must-see, much in keeping with Coppedè’s theme of unusual and fanciful architecture! The House hosts a series of paintings, mosaics, and stained glass in its twenty rooms.
While there are no places to eat within the neighbourhood itself, there are many to choose from in the surrounding area. Capo Boi, on Via Arno, specialises in seafood. PummaRé Parioli serves excellent pizza and is always packed with locals. If you are craving something other than Italian fare, Sushi Shop, on Via Po, offers fresh sushi. All restaurants are a mere five minutes away on foot from Piazza Mincio, at the centre of Quartiere Coppedé.
Coppedè, despite being off the beaten path, is not to miss. Whether you are a lover of unique architecture or are simply looking for that perfect Instagram photo-shoot, Quartiere Coppedè will doubtless fascinate you. It especially lends itself to couples and solo travellers in search of tranquillity. It is a delightful area that can be explored in the span of less than a morning, with more than enough time left over to dedicate to other sites in Rome. You can conveniently make the most of your day by supplementing your excursion to the quartiere with a guided tour of Rome’s abundant landmarks, including the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.