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Friday, February 20, 2015

Three centuries in one place: 6th Century BC Servian Wall, 1908 Palazzo, 2014 Hotel

Sixth Century Servian Wall in front of 1908 Palazzo Montemartini [more photos of the wall at the end of this post]
I thought I'd start with these two pictures - above, a 1908 palazzo in 18th-century style with the 6th- century BC Servian Wall in its courtyard, and below, the 2014 entry lobby of the Hotel Montemartini IN this palazzo.  Ah, Rome.  What a fabulous conflation of eras.
Registration Desk, Hotel Montemartini

We wanted to see this palazzo because the conversion to a 21st- century hotel was by the architectural firm of King Roselli, praised by one of our favorite contemporary Rome architects, Nathalie Grenon of Sartogo Architetti Associati. King Roselli also are the architects for the Radisson Blu es Hotel, which sports one of Rome's great rooftop bars. The Radisson Blu es Hotel is also near Stazione Termini, but about a mile away, on the other side of the train station.

It took us a while to find Hotel Montemartini, because it's not an obvious hotel building and the address doesn't make its location apparent.  Once we found it, and the Servian Wall, we were duly impressed.


Lobby view into "library"; note the use of see-through
stone block (i.e. Servian Wall) display
The hotel design has been up for awards and received good press when it opened a little over a year ago, January 2014.  King Roselli has commentary on its Web site about the conversion, which clearly wasn't easy.  It appears (see below - like many things in Rome, nothing is totally clear) the building was first designed as headquarters of the Rome transportation system, ATAC.

As the architects say:  "The structure and the original internal arrangement were not immediately suitable to the programme of a hotel.  This meant the design of the 87 guests rooms in seven or eight 'types' which were then adapted to the existing building one by one."

Looking through the stone blocks
Another Web site notes:  "The structure, an early example of a reinforced concrete, mixed with load bearing walls, with a large number of level changes, has given rise to a necessarily complex distribution of the hotel."

King Roselli state they tried to reflect ancient history with their use of stone (the Servian Wall) and water - the ruins of the Baths of Diocletion are, yes, a stone's throw, from the hotel (if not under it).




We think this all works, but then we haven't paid to stay in this 5-star hotel.  There are many meetings here, including those of an ex-pat group that seems particularly fond of the bar, and we would say, appropriate so (photo below).


A view out the entrance -a feel for the 18th century
style in a 1908 building (on ancient ruins)
Another mystery to me was the name of the palazzo.  "Montemartini" is known to Romans as the site of the ancient sculpture collection of the city housed in a former 1920s power plant - hence the name of the museum - Centrale Montemartini.  But that's way on the other side of the city in Ostiense.  Hmmm.  Now (not when we started this exploration) we know that the palazzo originally was a headquarters for ATAC.  And Centrale Montemartini was named for the then head of ATAC, Giovanni Montemartini.




restaurant, featuring the 18th century-style columns
and water streams at left (see next photo below)
Giovanni Montemartini, 1887
Aha!  As stated in one of the Web sites "The Palazzo was established by Giovanni Montemartini, first councillor of public transport of the municipality of Rome and, until December 2008, it was the headquarters of the transportation company of Rome, today ATAC."  Should we trust that info?  The same Web site says the building dates from the 1800s, which seems clearly to be wrong.  Was it first Montemartini's residence?  Some evidence suggests that; other evidence that it was built as an administration building.  As the hotel's own Web site says, it was an 18th-century design, in any event.

Seeing the Servian Wall here and having seen it in other places - the McDonald's under Stazione Termini among other sites - maybe our next project is  "walking the Servian Wall" - or at least connecting the dots of the few pieces left - one of which is also next to the hotel.

described as "table fountain," water reflecting
the proximity of the Roman Diocletian baths

Dianne



The bar - one can see its appeal



Another part of the Servian Wall, this one under wraps, at the
entrance area to the hotel.

Another view of the Servian Wall, this one from outside the
hotel grounds, complete with street vendors, which are plentiful
around Termini, this one appropriately selling luggage in front
of the hotel.


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