Via Giulia, with its churches, monuments and palaces that overlook the Tiber, is one of the most fascinating streets in Rome. Quiet, reserved, aristocratic – it was the dream location for architect Massimo Adario, who, looking to move from his house in the city’s bohemian Monti district, was hoping to find a place with more historical context. Somewhere he could experiment, and play with elements of the past and future.
When he happened upon this apartment on the fourth floor of Palazzo Sacchetti, Massimo was instantly mesmerised by its wooden coffered ceiling, complete with original 18th-century decorations.
‘With the curiosity of an art history student, I immersed myself in the property’s history. It began in the mid-16th century, when Cardinal Ricci from Montepulciano commissioned work on a project originally designed and owned by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, one of the age’s most renowned architects,’ he enthuses.
‘I never thought I’d be able to live in a building where the rigor of the Florentine Renaissance is so apparent. A place where the monumental staircase would have been graced, over the centuries, by sarcophagi and Roman statues.’
By eliminating all of the internal walls, which were added in the 1970s, Massimo has revealed the original scale of the space and enhanced the view of the elaborate ceiling. Not wanting to detract from its beauty, he chose to divide the living areas with custom-made furnishings instead.
A walk-in wardrobe disguised behind brushed steel – reminiscent of the structural interventions in architect Gae Aulenti’s memorable 1971 redesign of Palazzo Pucci in Florence – creates a divide between the living area and bedroom. Elsewhere, a row of freestanding display cabinets separates the living area and kitchen.
This second moveable ‘wall’, named ‘The Collector’ by Massimo and his collaborator, artist Andrea Sala, was originally designed for the Schiavo Zoppelli Gallery in Milan and is inspired by Utz, a novel by British author Bruce Chatwin. It tells the tale of a porcelain enthusiast so enthralled by his collection of more than 1,000 pieces that he chooses to remain in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War rather than defect and leave it behind.
It’s a fitting influence for this intriguing apartment, where precious objects – a piece of coral, a book, a sculpture or antique vase – are arranged throughout with a curatorial eye.
On the walls, where once hung an extensive art collection – most of it sold during the 18th century to Pope Benedict XIV and later donated to the world’s first public museum, the Capitoline – Massimo now tends to hang photography, not wanting to compete with the works of the past. It’s a final show of respect and deference to the history of this incredible former palace that has now become his home. massimoadario.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020
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