the democratic dawn of Rome Capital

«The work to which we consecrated our life is finished. After long trials of expiation, Italy is returned to itself and to Rome ”. The words of King Vittorio Emanuele II were proclaimed in Palazzo Montecitorio on November 27, 1871, to the senators and deputies gathered in what was the first session of the Chamber. Rome was the capital of Italy and solemnly inaugurated the parliamentary work. Palazzo Montecitorio was writing a new chapter in its secular life. It had been chosen nine months earlier by the government commission due to the semicircular shape of the internal courtyard, which could have perfectly accommodated the new monumental hall with the cavea of ​​the tiered grandstands. On the other hand, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, master of the Roman Baroque, had conceived that courtyard building set in the Campo Marzio in the seventeenth century, who had also designed the dynamic concave facade to accommodate the slope of the land. Today at 11, live Rai and webtv, a ceremony will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first session with the participation of the president Sergio Mattarella, and the presidents of the Chamber Roberto Fico and the Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati. The Aula, of course, becomes a story in the ten hundred thousand stories of Palazzo Montecitorio, which today is also open to the general public by appointment.


The inauguration, in 1871, under the eclectic inspiration of the engineer of the Civil Engineers Paolo Comotto. As sumptuous as it is fragile, as solemn as it is problematic in terms of temperatures. Cold in winter, hellish in summer (it was July 6, 1893 when the parliamentary press gave the gift of the fan to the President of the Chamber, which has now become a traditional ceremony). It will remain in operation until 1899, replaced by an ephemeral temporary hall (in the Mission square) until the debut of the current one in 1918, designed by the Sicilian architect Ernesto Basile. A name, a turning point. Palazzo Montecitorio, in fact, symbol of the city of Rome, boasts a double architectural soul. A Baroque heart, son of the commission of Pope Innocent X who wanted to make it the seat of the Apostolic Curia, and a Liberty, modernist, twentieth-century musculature, designed by Basile. The Aula, where the bills are born, displays inventiveness and decorative refinement, with the pictorial frieze by Sartorio, the glass and wrought iron curtain, the oak wood paneling. Among the iconic places, then, the Transatlantic, the elegant rectangular hall embellished with furnishings reminiscent of the transatlantic liners of the turn of the century, or the Queen’s Room covered with tapestries, with a secret window on the Aula. Looking around, Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour meet in the Corridor of Busts, while the monumental wooden model of Rome stands out in the Gallery of the Presidents. The Sala della Lupa preserves the particular plaque in memory of the Aventinian Deputies (from the Aventine hill) who in the summer of 1924 protested against the fascist violence and the Matteotti crime. Many works of art that support the walls. The Aldo Moro room preserves Leonardo’s mysterious second Mona Lisa (a story in itself worthy of a Dan Brown novel), the portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the rare ones in which he would have posed, the mural by Gino Severini rediscovered by chance during works by accommodation in the Chamber. Without forgetting the vintage show of the pneumatic post, the first fast communication system within the Chamber, used to transfer the typed drafts of the commissions to the typography.


Outside Montecitorio, the journey among the treasures of the Chamber of Deputies continues to the monumental complex of Minerva, the Insula Sapientiae, between Piazza San Macuto and the Seminary. Here we discover the Library of the Chamber in a path that reserves a lot of suggestions. In 2019 it was named after Nilde Iotti, a key figure: she wanted the rediscovery of these environments and the accessibility to the public of all the book and archival heritage. The clerks on duty here open secret doors and tell stories as if it were a mission. The history here has its roots in the imperial epic, from the temples dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis to the Roman Minerva that gives its name to this citadel. And it crosses the parable of the Dominican order that settled here from 1280. Between the refectory hall, the cloister of the Cisterna, the Inquisition rooms, we discover places strongly linked to Rome: the medieval house of Santa Caterina da Siena and the salt where Galileo Galilei awaited the reading of the sentence of the Court and abjured. The last stop, in this triangulation of wonders, is the Vicolo Valdina complex, the medieval heart of the Benedictine nuns’ convent where the ghost of Romulus, the first king of Rome, who would have been killed and dismembered here, on the ancient traces of Campo Marzio, hovers from the conspirators.



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