Tucked away in the heart of Rome, Via Marghutta runs parallel to the Via Babuino, one of Rome’s shopping meccas. The charming and oh-so-discreet lane was made famous in 1953’s Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Only blocks away from the Spanish Steps, small shops and galleries gently co-exist with clusters of apartments hidden behind massive wooden doors.
Nina and I spent a glorious Saturday in that part of Rome in September 2010 and while admiring the doors at 33 Marghutta, this lovely gentleman asked if we would perhaps like to see inside. Before we could say no he led us into this magical little world, a warren of apartments where he kept one, not to live in but simply to house his books. A retired framer (just turned 80), he said his collection had grown too big for his nearby place so he rents a studio in this little slice of heaven. I love the notion that this gentle soul could not part with a single book but instead gave them all a private home. After I made a quick portrait, he nodded his goodbye and closed the door behind him, leaving us alone.
We peeked into an apartment for rent and my mind took flight…stop the world, let’s get off right here; sell it all, re-invent. We had found an example of what Jean-Paul Sartre must have meant when he said “Rome is paradise”. After this brief respite from reality I spied a little storage closet near the entrance, a skylit jewel with a box of secrets.
Rome had grabbed my heart.