A triumph of taste
A new venue for gourmets and night-owls called Caffè Propaganda was recently opened in Via Claudia in Rome, a stone’s throw from two icons of the Eternal City: the Coliseum and Villa Celimontana. It is the brainchild of a group of well-known personalities from the Capitoline music and catering scene: Giancarlino, Maurizio Bistocchi and Richard Ercolani. They assigned the project to the creative young architect Ilaria Petreni, a native of the Tuscan town of Pienza who studied under Pierluigi Spadolini and trained in the practices of Jean Nouvel and Atelier Verbizh. In cooperation with Diacomo & Leonardi, Petreni sought to recreate the slightly melancholy, ironic and sensual atmospheres of the Parisian Belle Époque.
“Our idea was to create a venue that would be unique for Rome, a cross between a literary salon and a Seine riverside café,” she said. “Offering the romantic and intellectual appeal of Ville Lumière bistros, it would be the kind of place where a writer might meet up with an Apache, or a down-at-heel painter might meet his model-cum-muse for a Pernod or a coffee. At the same time I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of certain New York bars from the same period.” The location helped to recreate this vision: the Propaganda retains a sense of seclusion and sophistication, housed in a building with a certain ancient nobility. It has a floor space of almost 300 square metres, four large windows facing onto the street, five-metre-high vaulted ceilings supported by old columns, and a trapezoidal shaped space divided into several different areas.
As soon as the customer enters, he feels as though he has stepped through a door into another time and place. Customers looking towards the bar zone find their gaze captivated by a long Novecento style zinc and oak counter produced by Atelier Nectoux. Next to this, in a large arch-shaped niche, stands the dessert case, a set of custom shelves produced like many other wood furnishings by craftsman from Veneto region. The lighting is also French, consisting of chandeliers from a hôtel particulier in Provence. The side facing the bar near the entrance has a fluid, moulded geometry and invites guests to step into the dining hall furnished with quilted leather sofas, Chaises Nicolle chairs (the model dates from 1933) and square tables with cast iron legs and wood tops. Ilaria Petreni introduced many touches intended to enhance the venue’s French atmosphere, but they would certainly have remained no more than simple yet appealing decorative features if she had not incorporated them into exquisitely Parisian surroundings, the walls and ceilings clad with glossy Almond bevelled tiles – replicas, she explains, of those used in the late nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth as wall coverings in the Art Nouveau stations of the Paris Metro.
It is also, we might add, a tribute to Gio Ponti, who used bevelled edge tiles in several of his architectural projects. These high-profile products with their strong historic appeal are supplied by ETRURIA design, a Modena-based company specialising in the production of ceramic tiles inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, which also oversaw the installation procedure. ETRURIA design also supplied the striking ceramic floor tiling chosen for the dining and tea room, the kitchens and the bathrooms, consisting of matt hexagonal tiles laid in a checkerboard pattern seen for example in the restaurant in the animated film Ratatouille. “These full-body porcelain tiles ensure durability and long-term resistance in a location subject to high foot traffic,” notes Ilaria Petreni. “The pattern faithfully mimics the graphic design of early twentieth century cement terrazzo tiles.”
In short, the Caffè Propaganda offers an extraordinary journey for the senses and emotions, a blend of modernity and nostalgia. This is Rome, but in the bubbling Parisian climate of the Roaring Twenties: hard to believe, but true.
ETRURIA design, Ceramica Diamantata (double firing) and
Hex Collection (porcelain stoneware)
7,5x15 - 4x7,5 - 7,4x17 cm
Almond glossy (Diamantata), black and white (Hex)
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): > 10% (Diamantata); ≤ 0,1% (Hex)
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 140mm3 (Hex)
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 17 N/mm2 (Diamantata); 50 N/mm2 (Hex)
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9 (Hex)
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant