The embassy of Ireland to Italy has moved from its central location at Piazza Campitelli to Via Giacomo Medici on the Gianicolo hill.
The move to Villa Spada – Ireland's former embassy to the Holy See, follows that embassy's closure by the Irish government last November as part of cost-cutting measures. In mid-January of this year, Villa Spada became the official residence of the Irish ambassador to Italy Patrick Hennessy who vacated the former residence on Via di Valle delle Camene, near the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Piazza Campitelli building and former ambassador’s residence were both rented by the Irish state.
Over the last year Villa Spada has undergone renovations to convert its outbuildings into consular offices. Ambassador Hennessy said that the entire embassy staff "has worked hard to make the new premises as user-friendly as possible". The embassy can be reached by public transport with the bus lines 75 (from Termini to Poerio/Marino) and 44 (from Piazza Venezia to Montalcini), or from the tram stop at Bonelli/Carini. The embassy also has a new telephone number 065852381.
The unexpected closure last year of Ireland's embassy to the Holy See followed the departure of Ambassador Noel Fahey in June 2011. The controversial decision to close the Vatican mission was made on the basis that the embassy, which was established in 1929, was the only Irish mission in the world that did not have trade, consular or EU duties, and its closure would save the Irish government some €1.175 million over a full year.
In January the head of Ireland's department of foreign affairs David Cooney was appointed Ireland's non-resident ambassador to the Holy See. Some months later it was reported that discussions had taken place between Irish and Vatican authorities over the feasibility of Ireland using Villa Spada to also house the Irish embassy to the Holy See at a future date, subject to government resources being made available.
Vatican rules state that a country cannot house embassies to Italy and the Vatican at the same address. However, as Villa Spada borders onto more than one street, there is a possibility that a re-opened Vatican embassy could have a different address, similar to the British embassies to Italy and the Holy See, both of which operate independently of each other in separate buildings on Via XX Settembre.
The prestigious Villa Spada is seen as the jewel in the crown of Ireland's diplomatic missions and is the nation's most valuable foreign embassy property. Constructed in the 1630s, the building suffered significant damage in the fighting between the French and Italian republicans in 1849. It was purchased by the Irish state in 1946 and underwent an extensive refurbishment programme between 2004 and 2006.
For more information, visit the embassy of Ireland to Italy website www.embassyofireland.it and follow the embassy on Twitter @IrlEmbRome.