Close to the center of Rome is the enigmatic Quartiere Coppede. Part Roman fairytale, part modernist vision, this tiny neighborhood of Rome may not seem like much for many tourists: there are no ancient buildings here, no popular coffee shops or gelaterie (though there are plenty non-touristy ones!).
But for fans of architecture, photographers, and those who just like to wander, the Quartiere Coppede is eminently satisfying. The area retains a distinct local charm, and has a unique aesthetic all of its own that deserves at least one pleasant stroll during your time in Rome.
Make sure to read my post The Best Hidden Gems In Rome.
The History Of Quartiere Coppede
This fantastical district of Rome has a unique history all of its own. The neighborhood takes its name from the architect who designed it: Gino Coppede. Born in 1866 in Florence, later moving to Rome, Coppede was tasked in 1915 with creating a new housing area in the (relatively) new Italian capital – something he’d done previously in Genoa.
Working alongside Coppede was Edmondo Sanjust di Teulada, an Italian engineer and politician. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing: there were difficulties with building regulations and city planning to contend with.
The initial plan was for the construction of 18 palazzi (grand residences) and 27 other residential villas and buildings. The theme, as requested by the commissioners of the project, was to create a distinct Roman aesthetic, using ancient Rome as the inspiration. There were various design aspects, such as the cornices and moldings, that harked back to the triumphal arches of the Roman Forum.
It’s also theorized that Coppede was a member of the Masonic Order. This is due to the number of Templar imagery that allegedly adorns many of the buildings within the Quartiere Coppede. It all adds up – if you believe the interpretation – to a kind of architectural initiation into the Order, passing through the monumental archway and then alongside knights, mythological figures and mysterious masks that decorate exteriors.
Roads were closed to create private streets, and the Coppede district began to take shape. The neighborhood was constructed over the next few years, but sadly Coppede died in 1927 before the project had been finished. The construction was then taken on by architect Paolo Emilio Andre, who continued Coppede’s vision.
Spread across 31,000 square meters, the Quartiere Coppede today remains an eye-catching display of outlandish architectural elements, sourcing inspiration from Roman Baroque, Mannerist and ancient Greek architecture – a blend that epitomizes the trend of Art Nouveau.
The cinematic value of the Quartiere Coppede cannot be overestimated. On several occasions, film directors have made their way to the area for its unique backdrop and leafy streets. Most famously, the quarter was seen on screen in some of Dario Argento’s cult horror classics (he actually lives nearby).
But it’s not only movie directors who have been inspired by the Coppede neighborhood. In the summer of 1965, The Beatles themselves played a gig at the nearby Piper Club. After the show, the Fab Four headed out in their onstage get-up for a stroll in the warm summer evening. They’re even said to have all dived into the Fontana delle Rane.
Despite its connection to movies and pop music, the Quartiere Coppede has somehow remained very much under the radar. But that also means that you won’t really have crowds of tourists to contend with when exploring – there are plenty of locals, however!
What To See And Do In Quartiere Coppede
Though wandering through the Quartiere Coppede is rewarding in itself, a visit to this off-the-beaten-path area of Rome would be much better if you know what you’re looking at. Here are a few of the district’s best bits for you to discover on your trip.
Right in the heart of the Quartiere Coppede is the Piazza Mincio. Unlike Rome’s grand squares, this small piazza is a quiet spot, but it’s full of interesting sights. Surrounding this central location are ornate buildings carved with natural elements, with the Fontana delle Rane at the center of the square.
Piazza Mincio, however, is not closed to traffic; there is also a secondary school located on the piazza. These two things mean that the piazza can get quite bustling with cars and students, but it’s a slice of everyday Roman life. This is the best place to start your journey in Quartiere Coppede, with most of the sights mere steps away.
Fontana delle Rane
At the heart of Piazza Mincio is the Fontana delle Rane, one of the most iconic sights of the area. Translating to “Fountain of the Frogs,” the fountain was constructed in 1924 and is believed to have been designed to pay homage to Bernini‘s Fontana delle Tartarughe (“Fountain of the Turtles”) over in the city’s Jewish Quarter.
The marble fountain shares a few aspects in common with Bernini’s fountain. In both there are four elegantly carved basins that overflow into a lower pool. Both have an ornate entanglement of figures at their center, holding up a central basin. In Bernini’s fountain, the turtles seem to spew out water into their respective basins; in the Coppede version, frogs playfully puff out jets of water in the same way.
Check out my post The Most Beautiful Fountains In Rome.
Archway of Via Tagliamento
Most people enter Quartiere Coppede through the Archway of Via Tagliamento. This impressive portal, topped with a two storey bridge that links two flanking elaborately carved towers, points back to the grandeur of ancient Roman architecture. It’s a fitting way to enter into the otherworldly elegance of the quarter.
Before you pass through the archway, you’ll be able to notice various carvings here – there’s the Madonna holding Jesus, for example. But it’s not until you pass directly under the arch itself that visitors really get a treat for the senses.
The roof of the archway is intricately carved and richly painted with cobalt blue and gold, and a wrought iron chandelier hangs in the middle (this actually lights up in the evening, too). You’ll also be able to spot other interesting decorations, such as the Holy Grail, and various figures to ward off evil and misfortune.
Palazzo del Ragno
Palazzo del Ragno is popularly known as the Spider Building (ragno meaning “spider” in Italian). This distinct multi-storey building, painted a warm yellow, is named for the mosaic above the door, which depicts a large, golden spider sitting in a web.
At first it may seem strange to see a spider, almost hauntingly, hanging over the doorway. But it is in fact true to Coppede’s vision. Throughout Quartiere Coppede, the architect has made sure to include various natural motifs – spiders included. You’ll also be able to spot a large amount of different materials used in the construction of this palazzo: brickwork, stone and wood.
The columns and arches on the Palazzo del Ragno also highlight the eclectic style of Coppede, with ancient Assyrian and Babylonian elements utilized for an almost mythical aesthetic. It seems that this elaborate design is encapsulated by the industrious spider, which works hard to create its beautiful web.
Villino delle Fate
Translating roughly to “Little House of the Fairies”, the Villino delle Fate is one of the most conspicuous buildings in the whole Quartiere Coppede. From afar, you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re looking at a skyline featuring multiple layers of buildings. But in reality, the Villino delle Fate is the same building that has been cleverly constructed to pay homage to medieval structures of Rome, Florence and Venice.
This singular building, consisting of three houses interlocked, is a curious jumble of styles that boasts mosaics and sculptures among their decorations. Make sure to keep an eye out for the depictions of Romulus and Remus, the poet Dante, and symbols of Venice (i.e. the lion).
As with many of the buildings in the Quartiere Coppede, people still live in the Villino delle Fate. However, it isn’t cheap: it costs over four million euros to own a property in this slice of the city. Just in case you have some spare cash lying around!
Via Brenta and Via Olona
On your trip to the area, make sure to carry on past the fountain and the Spider Building along Via Brenta. This main, leafy street is packed full of intriguing structures – gated palazzi that will make you stop and stare.
It’s a luxurious, exclusive-feeling area that stands for the livability of Quartiere Coppede. It’s along here that you can admire the Palace of the Ambassadors – a building complex made up of two structures topped with turrets, and a terrace joining the two. And through the middle is the Archway of Tagliamento, where the Via Brenta cuts through.
Also situated on Via Brenta is a private road, Via Olona. Though inaccessible to the public (by car), gazing through the gate will allow you to see beautiful facades of the buildings, balconies and lush greenery. On Via Olona there’s a building that belongs to the Embassy of Poland; historically it was the office for the ambassador of Poland in Rome. The exterior of this building has loggias, carvings of doves and hunting scenes, as well as San Giorgio.
Though this grand building isn’t actually in Quartiere Coppede, the Villa Torlonia is near enough that you can include it in your visit to the district. It has an interesting history all of its own. The property of the wealthy Torlonia family, the villa was designed by Giuseppe Valadier – an architect known for his neoclassical style.
It was initially started for Giovanni Torlonia in 1806, but it was his son Alessandro who finished the project, adding extra buildings and temples to the grounds. Benito Mussolini moved into the villa in the 1920s, using it as his official state residence (he paid just one lira a year for the privilege). Over the next 18 years, Mussolini and his family called the villa home.
Mussolini moved out in 1943, and in 1944 Villa Torlonia was occupied by the Allied High Command until 1947. In the 1970s the villa was acquired by the city of Rome and later opened to the public after being fully restored in the ‘90s.
Today you can visit the villa and its gardens, including the on-site museum that hosts artworks and other interesting artifacts from the building’s history.
Gorge on sweets at Pasticceria Grue
With all that walking around the neighborhood soaking up the sights, you’re bound to need a pick-me-up at some stage or another. This is where the Pasticceria Grue – a cafe in the French style with an Italian touch – comes in very handy. My sister being a real foodie, she made sure to do her research of good pasticcerie in the area, and sure enough we were not disappointed.
Just around the corner (a few minutes walk) from the Fontana della Rane, this stylish patisserie is the place to go for all things pastry when you’re in the area. The real showstoppers here include macarons, tiramisu and a plethora of flavorful chocolates. They even have gluten free and dairy free options.
Though the pastries are definitely Grue’s specialty, there’s more than just sweet treats on offer, however, with panini and pastas served up for lunch. You’ll be sharing the space with smartly suited local office workers.
Come evening, Pasticceria Grue is a hotspot for an aperitivo. So if you’re done exploring for the day, head over to this hotspot and start your evening the right way – with a glass of prosecco and a selection of snacks.
Guided tours of Quartiere Coppede
You can easily visit this part of town independently – it’s pleasant, traffic is much less than in other parts of the city (especially on a Sunday) and there are no crowds. However, a guided tour may be a good idea to take in all its perks and learn more about it.
For a guided tour of Quartiere Coppede, click here.
How to get to Quartiere Coppede
The Quartiere Coppede thankfully has a central location in Rome. It’s not too far of a walk from the Borghese Gallery, being around 15-20 minutes on foot.
You can also reach it by jumping on Tram 3 or 19, making sure to alight at Piazza Buenos Aires. Several bus routes also make their way through the quarter, including number 86 and 92, both stopping at Piazza Buenos Aires.
How long do you need to visit Quartiere Coppede?
Being a relatively small area, you’ll only need a couple of hours (three at the most, if you’re taking a lot of photos and stopping for food at Grue) to explore the highlights of the Quartiere Coppede. Equally, if you’re short on time, it could be done in an hour.