Rome Center Neighborhood – Campo di Fiori


The Swiss School of Management is located within the campus of the University of Washington Rome Center. The neighborhood of the campus is one of the richest areas of Rome’s “centro storico” (historic center). Within a short walking distance are some of Rome’s most well-known and best-loved sites, including monuments, palazzi, churches, piazze, fountains and museums.


History of Palazzo Pio


THE PALAZZO PIO overlooks the small Piazza del Biscione and the larger Campo de’ Fiori. It is built upon the ruins of the Temple of Venus, which once crowned a theater complex built by Pompey the Great. Pompey is best known as a soldier and statesman, yet his most tangible legacy comes from his role as patron of an exceptional architectural and cultural creation, the design and construction of the very first permanent Roman theater. Plutarch records the spectacle staged on the occasion of its dedication in 55 B.C. In the Portico of Pompey, a covered area behind the theater designed for strolling between the acts of performances, Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.

After the fall of Rome, Pompey’s theater continued to be used. It was repaired around 500 A.D. by Theodoric the Goth, but when dikes along the Tiber failed and squatters moved into the structure, it underwent further decline resulting from overuse, plundering and continuous habitation throughout the early Middle Ages. The temple was still in existence in the tenth century, but by the thirteenth the memory of the theater began to fade. It was then referred to as the “Temple of Pompey.” Historic documents show much confusion in the thirteenth century about the true nature of the structure. Later it became a fortified house for the Orsini family in their war with the Colonna family. Around 1450 Cardinal Francesco Condulmer, the nephew of Pope Eugene IV, bought a portion of the temple which corresponds to the space occupied by the current Palazzo Pio. Condulmer’s acquisition must have possessed the characteristics of a medieval family stronghold complete with a tower facing the adjacent Campo de’ Fiori. In the course of restoration work by the University of Washington, much of this thirteenth-century Orsini tower, long thought to have been demolished, was rediscovered.

The Building eventually became known as the “Palazzo dell’Orologio”, because of the large clock (orologio) on the facade of the tower. As the Campo de’ Fiori emerged as a center of high culture during the Renaissance, the Orsini family commissioned Camillo Arcucci around the year 1650 to upgrade their medieval holdings. The baroque facade that we see today has its origins in that period. After the house was acquired by the princely Pio da Carpi di Savoia family it came to be known as the Palazzo Pio. In 1747 Giuseppe Vasi recorded it in his Magnificenze di Roma Antica, a picture book for tourists.

Sometime in the mid-1800’s, the Pio family sold the palazzo to a banker who in turn passed it on to its current owners, an ecclesiastical institution dedicated to the care of orphans. This charitable society used it through the 1920’s as a dormitory, classroom and workshop space for the orphaned boys of the institute. After the society reorganized and moved its activities, the third and fourth floors of the palazzo were eventually abandoned. For several decades, until the University of Washington restored them, these spaces remained unoccupied and in a state of disrepair.


Inside the University of Washington Rome Center facility


The Rome Center has both large and small rooms which can serve as either classrooms or studios. Classrooms are currently located on two floors of the Palazzo Pio.

Living accommodations for some faculty are available at the Rome Center. Apartments are fully furnished and supplied with equipment for cooking & dining, as well as bed linens and towels. Bedrooms and living areas can be arranged to accommodate twin beds or double beds, depending on guests’ needs. When apartments are not available for faculty in residence, comparable accommodations are located in the vicinity of the Rome Center.

The spacious Conference Room, located on the first floor, has a high wood ceiling and a lovely painted frieze. The room is equipped with video and slide projectors, and a full-wall screen for projection. Multi-region DVD, VHS, and computer output may be shown with the video projector. This room makes a stunning setting for large group meetings, slide lectures, film events, reviews and exhibits of student work. It also acts as a venue for scholarly conferences.

The Rome Center has a growing and carefully selected collection of books and teaching materials. The collection is strong in the areas of Architecture, Classics, Art History and related fields. The collection is non-circulating and is available to students during regular office hours.

The entrance to the Palazzo Pio is off of the small Piazza del Biscione, near the corner of the Campo de’ Fiori. The UW Rome Center office is located on the third floor, accessible by an elevator up one flight of stairs. There are intercoms (which communicate with the office) at both the main door and at the third floor door. The office is open weekdays from 8:30am to 5:00pm.

The Tower, enclosing a small room in the remains of the Palazzo’s medieval tower, is a quiet area for studying. The adjacent room serves as a Student Lounge and is also know as the “Prow” after its location on the site once occupied by the temple of Venus, which protuded from the Theater of Pompey like the prow of a ship. This room is open to all students as an area to meet and study.