Federico Fellini could have lived anywhere, but chose Via Margutta, the leafy and amber-steeped lane near the Piazza del Popolo with a rich artistic past. It remains a tranquil street, close to but just far enough away from the cinematic exuberance of central Rome’s day-to-day street life, which may have been why Fellini so liked it.
Like many places in the Eternal City, Margutta offers an intricate history. For centuries it had been a hub for artisans and artists; a 16th-century papal decree provided tax relief that helped turn Margutta into a Renaissance-era Soho, luring more creatives and craftsmen from abroad. In the 1800s an aristocrat, Marchese Francesco Patrizi, created artist studios and over the following decades painters, sculptors, and composers came to work or reside here, among them Giacomo Puccini and Pablo Picasso (at 53B). Truman Capote is said to have lived on the street; and informed tourists have always made pilgrimages to it. Valentina Moncada, a private art dealer, author and descendant of Francesco Patrizi, says that in the early 1950s a young Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier came to visit, which they mentioned in their charming memoir, One Special Summer. Moncada has worked diligently to preserve Margutta’s place in Roman cultural history—she edited a comprehensive tome, Atelier a Via Margutta, chronicling five centuries of the artists associated with the street, and oversees a number of archival projects, like the one devoted to preserving the historical memorabilia of Studi Patrizi from the time artists worked in the studios owned by her great-, great- grandfather; another concerns the Associazione Artistica Internazionale, the influential artists’ club located at Margutta 54 from 1887 until 1960.
But it took a Hollywood movie, Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, to give Margutta international renown. With fame came more demand for real estate, but the street retained its artistic vibe, with antique dealers, galleries, art restorers and specialty boutiques comprising the mix on Margutta to this day.
Barbara Lessona, who owns Countess Concierge, specializing in shopping tours and relocation services, says she likes to take her clients here. “I feel it is a street of ‘atelier stores’,” she says. “My clients [like to] listen to the stories of Margutta and fall in love with it.”
Here are some of the places on Margutta to get to know.
For decades Xandrine (Via Margutta 31) is where Roman women have gone for special occasion dresses and gowns, glamorous enough for a swirl down the red-carpet or up a scala di onore in a grand palazzo. “Great quality and at a great price,” says Lessona.
Dantebus Margutta (Via Margutta 38/A). This sleek art and book showroom is the bricks-and-mortar presence for the artist social network and multi-platform publisher. Inside you’ll find beautiful art books and a gallery exhibiting works of contemporary artists.
Puntopelle (Via Margutta 45) is an acclaimed leather atelier with a global clientele that includes big Hollywood names and international royals. Owned and managed by Sefa Segzin, who designs the collections, and his wife Tiziana Perso, Puntopelle specializes in custom-made pieces (although there are ready-to-wear items available in store and online) which are designed, cut and sewn by hand. in the workrooms at the store. Segzin, the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the leather business, keeps a keen eye on each step of the production process and this rigorous attention to detail, the constant search for the finest leathers, lambskin, suede, silks and furs, Along with the couple’s unabashed passion for their work, have earned PuntoPelle a following in some 100 countries. Segzin explains that each jacket can be tailored to whatever the client wants, starting with the choice and color of the primary material, type of lining, zippers and buttons. Although Segzin says he crafts pieces for a lifetime, he’s happy to reproduce a beloved item should a client want it in another color or size. There are collections for men and women and you can order everything from stretch suede pants to sumptuous fur coats (and cloth ones, too). Among the most popular items, says Segzin, are the reversible (suede/leather) Kevin jacket and blazer sport coat for men; and the reversible shearling coats and fitted Lev zip black leather jacket for women.
La Bottega del Marmoraro, Via Margutta 53B. Just about every square inch of this small shop is packed with marble tablets inscribed with witty sayings like La Vita è Troppo Breve per Bere Vino Cattivo (Life is too short to drink bad wine). Sandro Fiorentini, an engaging marble artisan and sculptor (and former architect), who inherited the atelier from his father, Enrico, crafts these maxims on tablets of various sizes—they’re popular gifts among Romans and visitors alike. The marble plaque outside the building where Fellini lived was created by Enrico Fiorentini. You can have your own custom piece made here too.
Located in the famous Margutta courtyard (Via Margutta 54), Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Art focuses on pieces from the time (mid-1700s) of the Grand Tour, when Rome was a prime destination for aristocratic aesthetes, and includes art up until the middle of the last century. At the same address is the renowned art restoration atelier, Pavia Restauro. In business since the late 19th century, Pavia preserves works ranging from Old Masters to contemporary pieces. Pandolfini Case d’Aste is also at this location. One of Italy’s top auction houses, it deals with everything from Renaissance to modern art, as well as items like vintage fashion and collectible spirits.
Blend Roma, Via Margutta 55/b is a beautifully curated interior design store with striking contemporary and modern vintage items. “The pieces are selected with amazing taste,” says Lessona of Countess Concierge.
Spazio Margutta, Creative District, Via Margutta 86. A fashion incubator, founded by Grazia Marino, this space features up-and-coming designers and innovators excelling in artistic craftsmanship. The collections rotate and include everything from accessories and jewelry to ready-to-wear.
Galleria Russo, Via Alibert 20. On a narrow street that connects Via Margutta to Via del Babuino, Galleria Russo, one of Rome’s best-known art galleries, features 20th-century masterpieces from such artists as Giorgio de Chirico, the Futurist Umberto Boccioni and sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro.