During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the area around Piazza di Spagna was known by the Romans as il ghetto degli inglesi because of its popularity amongst British and American artists, writers and poets resident in the city. Since renaissance times, artists had been encouraged by the pope to live in the quarter surrounding Trinit dei Monti and this could be why, hundreds of years later, they still flocked to this beautiful area.
From the mid-19th century, guidebooks to artists studios had been published enabling art lovers and patrons of the arts to plan their visits. The walking tours described here, focusing on the period 1890-1914, have been designed for those interested in retracing the artists footsteps, as they illustrate the areas of the city in which these artists and writers had their houses and studios.
Piazza di Spagna and the Pincio
Metro Line A Spagna
The American realist author William Dean Howells (1837-1920) acknowledged the strong English influence in the area around Piazza di Spagna by saying: certain pleasanter of the older streets, like the Via Sistina, Via del Babuino, Via Capo le Case, Via Gregoriana, were our sojourn or our resort. Especially in the two first our language filled the outer air to the exclusion of other conversation, and within doors the shopmen spoke it at least as well as the English think the Americans speak it. It was pleasant to meet the honest English faces, to recognize the English fashions, to note the English walk
Enrico Coleman (1846-1911) shared his studio at no. 33 with his father, Charles (1807-1874), and his brother, Francesco (1851-1918), where Nino Costa (1827-1903) was also based. Charles Caryl Coleman (1840-1928), an American painter, had his studio at no. 53, whilst no. 53b was home of the British Academy of Arts until 1936. After the founding of the American Academy in Rome in 1894, several artists associated with the Academy had their studios along the street. Hendrik Christian Andersen, had a small studio here at the end of 1896. Today, Via Margutta is full of antique shops and art galleries, continuing the tradition of the street as a haven for artists.
All Saints Church,
Via del Babuino 153
Since 1816, when the English chaplaincy was established, there have been unbroken services in the area except during world war two. They were first conducted from rooms on Via dei Greci, just around the corner from the present site of the church on Via del Babuino. The foundations of All Saints were laid on Easter Day 1882 and the first service was held on the same holy day of 1887. The tower was completed only in 1937.
Piazza di Spagna 1
The English and American bookseller L. Piale, founded by Luigi Piale in the early 19th century, was situated on the corner of Via del Babuino and the square.
Piazza di Spagna 93/94
Giovanni Sgambati, the Italian pianist and composer, lived in this house for 37 years, and gave piano lessons to many English and American pupils here. He died here on 14 December 1914.
Babingtons Tea Room, Piazza di Spagna 23
Babingtons was founded in 1893 by two English ladies, Anna Maria Babington and Isabel Cargill, to serve those in need of a corner of England in Rome. As William Dean Howells noted in 1908, there is nothing more endearing than the sight of a room full of English people at their afternoon tea in a strange land. (Opening hours: 09.00-20.15, Tues closed.)
Keats-Shelley Memorial House,
Piazza di Spagna 26
On the other side of the Spanish Steps is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, a museum founded in 1903 dedicated to the lives of the three great English Romantic poets John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Keats lived here for the last few months of his life, and died here in the arms of his friend, the artist Joseph Severn, on the 23 February 1821, aged 25. The museum contains manuscripts, letters, paintings, sculptures and relics, as well as a library of almost 8,000 books. (Opening hours: Mon-Fri 09.00-13.00, 15.00-18.00, Sat 11.00-14.00, 15.00-18.00. Admission e3.)
Caff Greco, Via dei Condotti 86
This world-famous cafe was founded in 1760 and has, since then, been frequented by artists, writers and poets, including Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry James, Mark Twain, Giovanni Sgambati, Onorato Carlandi, Elihu Vedder and Enrico Coleman. (Opening hours: Tues-Sat 09.00-19.30, Sun and Mon 10.30-19.00.)
Piazza Mignanelli 3
Once the home of the Hotel de lEurope, where Henry James (1843-1916) stayed in 1899. It was during this visit that he met Hendrik Christian Andersen.
Via della Mercede 12
As the numbering on this street has changed, it is thought that the house with the Bernini plaque was most likely that of the American art patrons William (1829-1918) and Elizabeth Herriman (1834-1910). Elihu Vedder said Life in Rome was made especially pleasant by the presence of William and Elizabeth Herriman, permanent residents and patrons of the arts, who were always ready to encourage and help their young countrymen.
S. Andrea delle Fratte,
Via S. Andrea delle Fratte 1
In the second chapel on the right as you enter by the main door of the church is the tomb of Judith de Palezieux Falconnet (died 1856), with a sculpture by Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908). Hosmer was the leader of a group of American women artists in Rome and had her studio at Via della Fontanella di Borghese 4.
Via Capo le Case 68
Elihu Vedder, the American symbolist painter, moved here from Via Sistina in 1876. It remained his home until 1909 when he and his wife were forced to move to Via di Porta Pinciana. Continue up Via Capo le Case and then turn left on to Via Gregoriana to reach Piazza Trinit dei Monti and the Pincio.
Piazza Trinit dei Monti
For several years Joseph (1848-1910) and Annie Swynnerton (1844-1933), a British couple, he a sculptor and she a painter, had their studio at Piazza Trinit dei Monti. Later, Joseph had his studio on the ground floor of a house he built himself in the new part of the city at Via Montebello 2, near Porta Pia, which overlooked the garden of the British Embassy.
Henry James wrote in 1909: All the grandees and half the foreigners are there in their carriages, the bourgeoisie on foot staring at them and the beggars lining all their approaches. The great difference between public places in America and Europe is in the number of unoccupied people of every age and condition sitting about early and late on benches and gazing at you, from your hat to your boots, as you pass. This Roman hill was, and still is, a beautiful place to take part in the Italian passeggiata. When he first arrived in Rome, John Keats used to walk and ride up here from his home in Piazza di Spagna.
Termini area and environs
Start at the Porta Pinciana at the top of Via Veneto
Bus 116, 95
The Belisarius Tower, Via Campania at the corner of Via Marche
This tower near the Porta Pinciana was built in 537 by the Byzantine general of the same name. Moses Ezekiel (1844-1917), the American sculptor, spotted it in 1909 when looking for a new house, having had to leave his studio in the Baths of Diocletian. He left it to his friend Adolfo de Bosis to restore in order to make it habitable whilst he returned briefly to the United States.
Il Casino dellAurora, Via Lombardia 44
This was home to the American Academy in Rome from 1895 until 1907. It is possible to take a guided tour of the villa by booking with Il Casino in advance. Tel. 06483942.
William Dean Howells stayed at the Windsor Hotel, which no longer exists, in 1908, and it was there that he wrote articles that were subsequently published in Roman Holidays and Others.
La Cripta dei Cappuccini, Chiesa dellImmacolata, Via V. Veneto 27
This was a popular sight for British and American tourists. In 1631, the Capuchin friars came to live here, and from the mid-18th century until 1870 the bones of both the dead friars and the poor of Rome were used to decorate the walls of the crypt. (Opening hours: 09.00-12.00, 15.00-18.00, Thurs closed.)
Via di S. Basilio 20
Whilst still living at Via Capo le Case 68, Elihu Vedder took a studio here in 1888.
Via di S. Nicola da Tolentino 72
Various artists had their studios in this building, including the American sculptor Franklin Simmons (1839-1913) and the painter Charles Walter Stetson (1858-1911). August Saint Gaudens (1848-1907), the American sculptor, had his studio here from 1871 to 1875; previously it had been home to Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, and her sister. The British and American Archaeological Society was also at no. 72 in the latter part of this period.
Via delle Quattro Fontane 13
Walking up Via delle Quattro Fontane, on the left is Palazzo Barberini where William Wetmore Story, the American sculptor, poet, lawyer and critic, lived with his family from 1857 until his death in 1895.
St Pauls within-the-Walls,
Via Napoli 58
(main entrance on Via Nazionale)
The cornerstone of this Anglican Episcopal church was laid in 1873. The plans for the church were by the distinguished English architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881). The mosaics in the apse were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and completed by Thomas Matthew Rooke (1842-1942). The mosaics on the faade and counter-faade were by George Breck (1863-1920).
The Grand Hotel,
Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 3
Founded in 1894, the Grand Hotel was a magnet for elegant guests, including J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the worlds foremost financial figures (he died there in 1913). Maud Howe Elliott (1854-1948), the American writer and wife of the English painter John Elliott, recommended the omelette souffle aux surprises la Grand Hotel! Outside an ordinary hot souffle the surprise is the heart, cold sublimated chocolate ice-cream. The Grand Hotel has recently been restored and renamed St Regis Grand.
Baths of Diocletian, Via E. de Nicola 78
The home and studio of Moses Ezekiel were at the south-east corner of the Baths. Ezekiel stumbled across his future studio here in 1879 whilst passing through Piazza dei Termini. He described the studio as the resort of artists and musicians and men and women of culture from all parts of the world. He left here in February 1891, returning however in 1897 to make his full-size Thomas Jefferson monument, now in Kentucky USA, after burglars had entered the studio and stolen everything of any value that Ezekiel had ever possessed.
In October 1909 he had to hand over this studio to the government, as it was to be used in the 1911 international exhibition in Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. It was at this point that he moved into the Belisarius Tower (see above).
The first Stazione Termini was built at the end of the 19th century on the site of the Villa Negroni-Massimo-Montalto, where Thomas Crawford (1814-1857), an American sculptor, and his wife Louisa lived in the 1840s. They were the villas last inhabitants and, together with William Wetmore Story, they used as a studio the part that had been specifically set aside for artists (Joseph Severn had also used the space as a studio). The Crawford family, meanwhile, lived in the habitable part on the second floor and it was there that their son F. Marion Crawford (1854-1909), the author, grew up.
Palazzo Brancaccio, Via Merulana 248
The late 19th-century New York socialite Mary Elizabeth Bradhurst Field commissioned the architect Gaetano Koch to build the palazzo in 1879. Her daughter Elizabeth Field, who became Principessa Brancaccio through her marriage to Principe Salvatore Brancaccio, a nobleman from Naples, in 1870, lived there in later years. It was decorated internally by the painter Francesco Gai (1835-1917). George von Lengerke Meyer (1858-1918), ambassador of the United States from 1901 to 1905, rented the first two floors of Palazzo Brancaccio during his tenure. Meyer was the brother-in-law of Charles Follen McKim, founder of the American Academy. Palazzo Brancaccio now houses the Museo Nazionale di Arte Orientale, founded in 1957. (Opening hours: Mon-Sun 08.30-13.30, Tues, Thurs and Sun open until 19.00. Closed first and third Mon of the month, admission e4. Guided tours available once a month.) Tel. 064874415.
Flaminia and Valle Giulia
Metro Line A Flaminia
Villa Strohl-Fern, Via di Villa Ruffo 31
(on Via degli Orti Giustiniani)
In 1879 the building was bought by the artist Alfredo Strohl-Fern (1847-1927), who radically transformed both the villa and the gardens, including installing a number of studios for artists. In 1880 Elihu Vedder took a studio here, which overlooked the beautiful gardens of the Villa Borghese. When Strohl-Fern died, he left the villa to the French state. It then passed to the Italian state during world war two, only to return to the French, after which it became the premises of the Liceo Chateaubriand. It is not possible to visit the villa.
Via P. Stanislao Mancini 20
The Norwegian-born American painter and sculptor Hendrik Christian Andersen lived in Rome from 1896 until his death in 1940. This was his house and studio, which he left to the Italian state upon his death. The museum contains over 200 of his sculptures, an archive, photographic material and a library. In architectural terms, the house, built between 1922 and 1925, is an excellent example of the Liberty style. (Opening hours: Tues-Sun 08.30-19.30, Mon closed.)
John Elliott (1859-1925), a British painter, had his studio on this street and it was here that he painted his first important mural decoration, The Vintage (for Mrs Potter Palmers Chicago Lake Shore mansion). He shared the space with the Italian artist Giulio Aristide Sartorio, a member of the International Art Club.
British School at Rome, Via Gramsci 61
From Via Flaminia, take Via di Valle Giulia to reach the British School at Rome. The neo-classical faade of this building, designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for the 1911 international exhibition in Rome, is modelled on Sir Christopher Wrens St Pauls Cathedral in London. All the foreign pavilions for the exhibition were in the Valle Giulia, including the American pavilion in the west corner, near Villa Strohl-Fern, and next door to the Galleria Nazionale dArte Moderna, which was also built for the exhibition.
Largo Porta S. Pancrazio
Bus 115, 870 (or walk from
Via Carini, bus 75, 44)
Villa Aurelia, Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio 1
The villa, built in c. 1650, was partly destroyed during the Risorgimento and then rebuilt in 1856. At the end of the 19th century it became the property of Clara Jessup Heyland, from Philadelphia, wife of Major Alexander Heyland. In 1908 the building was renovated and at that point it was renamed Villa Aurelia. Upon the death of Clara Jessup Heyland, the villa was left to the American Academy. In the meantime one of the founders of the Academy, J. Pierpont Morgan, had bought a vast expanse of land south of Porta S. Pancrazio and it was here, on Via Angelo Masina, that construction of the new building for the Academy began in 1912. (Visits by appointment only. Tel. 065846470 or 065846620.)
American Academy in Rome,
Via Angelo Masina 5
The Academy building is the only structure in Europe designed by the American firm of McKim, Mead & White. The building took two years to construct and opened in 1914. (Visits by appointment only. Tel. 065846470.)
Villino Bellacci, Via Angelo Masina 1
This corner house, designed between 1905 and 1910, was built by architect-engineer Venuto Venuti for a Torlonia prince, to be used as the residence of a certain Cesarina Bellacci (possibly the princes mistress or illegitimate daughter). The house was sold to J. Pierpont Morgan on 29 March, 1913, two days before he died, and was given to the American Academy in Rome; it is now the home of the director of the Academy. It is a fine example of early 20th-century architecture in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement, exemplified by the use of natural materials and organic decoration. The exterior porch, the interior stairway and the wrought-iron fence were designed by the artist Diulio Cambellotti.
Villa Sciarra, Via Calandrelli
The villa owes its name to the Sciarra family of Carbognano, who owned the land from 1749 until the mid-1800s. After passing through the hands of various owners, Villa Sciarra was bought by the American diplomat George Washington Wurts (1843-1928), known for his passion for Italian and Russian art. With the help of his wealthy wife, Henrietta Tower (1858-1933), Wurts filled the park with the fountains and statues we find there today. After her husbands death in 1928, Tower donated Villa Sciarra to the Italian state. The house is now the home of the Istituto Studi Germanici. (Opening hours: Mon-Sat 09.00-13.00. Tel. 065812465.)
The Protestant Cemetery
Via Caio Cestio 8
Metro Line B Piramide
The Protestant Cemetery in Rome, known in Italian as the cemetery for non-Catholics, Cimitero acattolico, is not only the final resting place of many Britons, Americans and a surprising number of Italians, but also of Germans, Scandinavians, Russians, Greeks and a small number of Asians.
Here are the graves of the two English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Joseph Severn, Keatss devoted friend, is buried next to him in the old part of the cemetery and Edward Trelawny, great adventurer and friend of Shelley, is buried next to this poet in the new part.
Approximately 4,000 people are buried here, including an enormous number of artists, sculptors, writers and poets. Before permission was given in the early 18th century by the papal authorities to use the area near the Pyramid as a burial ground, non-Catholics were laid to rest either near Piazza Flaminia, below the Pincio, or outside Rome in the Campagna.
The Pyramid, one side of which falls within the Aurelian wall, was erected during the last half of the 1st century BC by a wealthy businessman, Caius Cestius. (Opening hours: Mon-Sat 09.00-16.30.)
Monuments in the cemetery of interest to this period include:
Hendrik Christian Andersen and family, Jesse Benedict Carter, Frederic Crowninshield, Frank Fairbanks, Richard Greenough, William Stanley Haseltine, William and Elizabeth Herriman, Alexander Heyland and Clara Jessup Heyland, William Rutherford Mead, Franklin Simmons, Luther Terry and Julia Ward Terry, Esther Van Deman, Elihu Vedder and family, William Wetmore Story and his wife, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Henrietta Tower Wurts and George Washington Wurts.
An exhibition focusing on the Anglo-American artists and writers in Rome between 1890 and 1914 will be on show from 16 February until 16 April at four locations in central Rome. The title of the exhibition, Spellbound by Rome, reflects the almost magical attraction that the city held for visiting foreigners who were captured by its beauty and the lifestyle it provided.
The exhibition is on display at the following places: Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Piazza di Spagna 26, Mon-Fri 09.00-13.00, 15.00-18.00; Sat 11.00-14.00, 15.00-18.00. American Academy in Rome, Via Masina 5, Tues-Sat 16.00-19.00. St Pauls within-the-Walls, Via Napoli 58, Mon-Fri 09.00-16.00. Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen, Via P. Stanislao Mancini 20, Tues-Sat 09.00-19.00.
This supplement was aritten by Georgina Stephens. A booklet on the walks is also on sale at the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Piazza di Spagna 26, and on the museum's website, www.keats-shelley-house.org