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Of monsters and fairy tales

The time I discovered…

Veronica Sarno


The second time I went to Rome, it was to study there. The first month, when not in university, I was constantly in the city center to enjoy its ‘great beauty’, feeling like a permanent tourist. But Rome taught me you can be traveler even in your own home. One day I was running late for class, so I took the first bus coming instead of the usual one. The route was unknown to me. I focused on counting the stops, but I got distracted when I looked outside the window. New constructions rolled on my left. Yellowish buildings full, crowned with golden frets and Greek motifs were shining cheerfully under the sun. It was completely different from the architecture of the surrounding buildings. I was already amazed when I saw another oddity: a palace with two towers linked by an arc from which a candelabrum was pending, and a fountain over the arc. It was enough to forget about the class and just head to this intriguing bizarreness. I entered a small square, surrounded by many strange, colorful buildings. The fountain was positioned exactly in the center, just a few centimeters higher than the street level, 12 frogs spilling water in it. The overlooking palaces were a potpourri of all the architectural styles I could think of: Art Nouveau, Romanic, ancient Greek, Baroque… all whipped together in a dramatic frenzy. It was an harmonious chaos with nature as the main theme, with inclusions of ionic columns, a huge spider, coats of arms, falcons, festoon, bees, angels, a clock with zodiac motifs, the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus, a winged Victory, mosaics…It reminded me of Barcelona in a way, but there was something distinctive, perhaps more eccentric, from Gaudi’s architectures. I felt like I was in the middle of a fairy tale. That morning I spent more than an hour wondering around the alleys and the buildings, my nose up in the air to capture every ornament the architects had thought of. I measured the quarter, trying to set its borders and its amplitude, realizing how small it was and yet overflowing with masterpieces. I asked one guy what was that richness I was looking at. He mumbled something about ‘Quartiere Coppedè’ before running away. Later I discovered the name of the quarter came from its architect, Gino Coppedè, and dated back to 20s. Every time I am in Rome I go back to that part of the city. And each time I find a detail I missed the previous time: a marble angel or a creepy monster staring intensely at the unaware passerby.

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