The individuality of Roman palazzi (Italian for ‘urban buildings’ and not necessarily ‘palaces’ as implied by English translation) lends a wonderful texture to the city. It’s almost miraculous that so many different architectural genres – and degrees of upkeep – could compliment one another so nicely. It seems that the grander the adjacent facade, the more charming the crumbling facade before us.
This is no more apparent than in the art of Entry Portals. Due to the political climate through the ages, most palazzi – even those that served more as apartment buildings than dynastic homes – at times served as fortresses. Street level floors were built of heavy stone walls with small windows, allowing the upper level (the Piano Nobile or ‘noble floor’) to feature more generous openings. With this technique, the entry portals on the ground level are generally the only exterior expression we experience from the street.
These Roman portals – sometimes palace entries, and sometimes shops – form the most immediate interaction between public and private and always seem, no matter the detail, to be a wonderful celebration of art, history, and craft.