Seen from the Piazza del Popolo, the Via del Babuino is the left one of the three streets that together form Rome‘s famous shopping “Tridente“. The street gets its name from the statue of the “baboon” near the Church of Sant’Atanasio dei Greci. Most of the artist’s studios that used to line the street have been replaced by expensive antique stores.
Via del Babuino Rome
History and description
The hill to the left of the Via del Babuino when entering from the Piazza del Popolo is the famous Pincio Hill.
The Via del Babuino started out as two different streets, called Via dell’Orto di Napoli and Via del Cavalletto. In 1925, when Pope Clemens VII ordered the construction of the new street it came to be called Via Clementina. After its completion in 1943 the then Pope Paul III, changed the name to Via Paolina Trifaria.
Most buildings in the street date from the 17th till the 19th century, however.
Before the area at the bottom of the Pincio became popular most Romans used to live near the banks of the Tiber. Problems with malaria, lack of drinking water and overpopulation caused the wealthier part of the population to start looking elsewhere.
The area at the foot of the Pincio was only scarcely populated and would have been ideal, but for the lack of drinking water. This problem was solved when the decision was taken to restore the Acqua Vergine, the least damaged of all of the city’s aqueducts. Even now a branch of this aqueduct still runs underneath the Via del Babuino and provides the Piazza del Popolo fountains with water.
A second way to get people to move to this area was to not tax shop space. This enabled foreign artists who came to Rome to set up their studios in the Via del Babuino and the Via Margutta. Famous examples are Rubens, Poussin and Van Wittel.
In the 18th century rents started creeping up and the Via del Babuino became less popular. The 19th century saw a revival however, and artists like the composers Wagner and Liszt resided in the street.
Nowadays the Via del Babuino is a street for the rich. There are hardly any artists’ studios left and the street is full of luxury antique stores.
Tourist attractions Via del Babuino
The Hôtel de Russie is so luxurious that they had to give it French name. It used to have the nickname “Hotel of Kings”. Its beautiful garden stretches up the Pincio Hill. After the end of World War II it was converted into office space, but since 2000 it performs its previous function again.
Rome’s Anglican All Saints Church occupies the Via del Babuino 153/b.
Slightly further down the road the Church of Sant’Atanasio dei Greci, which was designed by Giacomo della Porta can be seen.
To the left if this church you can see the former studio of the Tadolini family of sculptors. The Fountain of the Baboon is placed against the facade of this building. In 1571 Pius V had a statue dedicated to Silenius, antique deity of wells and fountains, installed. This statue was so ugly that the inhabitants of the area came to refer to it as the “baboon” and the street ended up with its present name.
The Palazzo Nainer was built in the 19th century.
The Via del Babuino is now Rome‘s most expensive luxury street. Adding up the value of all of its buildings, its total worth, in 2016, came to 1½ billion Euros.
The Via del Babuino lies between the underground stops Flaminio and Spagna, both on line A. The nearest bus stop is Piazzale Flaminio (lines 89, 490, 495, 590, 628, C3, N1, N25).