From the Quintili to Gaia


Last October, Hotel Capannelle Appia Antica captured the attention of people passing by, intrigued by a little young man with a long blond mane who was painting the walls of Hotel Capannelle.

His name is Andrew Pisacane, a US urban street artist, considered a real master of American street art painting. The artist, aka Gaia, was described by the magazine Forbes “one of the most influent American artists of our age”. He has been seen for some days in the Statuario area, while carrying out the work commissioned by the new Hotel chain Reginal Hotels, whose Hotels are about to become unique places of inspiration through a transformation process infused with the spirit of our times. Reginal Hotels is in fact the first company who commissions a monumental work of art that includes their entire structures.

The Hotel is set in a Roman district with a glorious past, where the stories of many illustrious men intertwined, on the background of an incomparable artic and cultural heritage, considering the quantity of archeological sites in the area.

In 151 AD, the Quintilii brothers, rich and educated Romans, importers of goods from the Middle East, chose the area at the fifth mile of the Ancient Appian Way to settle their dwelling. On the background, they could see the Claudian Aqueduct, facing South-East the Albanian Hills and in front of them, on the North side, the marbles dim light of the Roman monuments of the Imperial period. In the surrounding area, there were also other suburban villas like that of the Sette Bassi, on Via Capannelle, and Villa delle Vignacce (Villa of the Vineyards).

Ever since the old days, the area was chosen as a privileged residential domicile, because of its connection with cross streets – the Ancient Appian Way and the Via Latinae – and because the nearby aqueducts made hydric supplies simple. The name “Statuary” has very old origins: it dates back to the Romans who named the street “ad Statuaria”, because it led to marble mines. From the thirteenth century, first testimonies of a place called “Vulgo vocata Statovara” appear, with a clear reference to the statues and sculptures occasionally found in the ruins of Villa dei Quintili, in the Saint Maria Nova estate, belonging to the Lateranus family.

Earlier, Villa dei Quintili had been partially absorbed in one of the Astalli’s castles, who were at the dependency of the Tuscolo counts. From that post, it was possible to control both the Ancient Appian Way and the current route Via Annia Regilla – that is The new Appian Way. This route was built during the Middle Ages in order to avoid the tract of the Ancient Appian Way which was included in the castle of the Caetani family, in correspondence of the mausoleum of Cecilia Metella.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Roman antiquities began to be re-evaluated. The Pope Pius VI started a campaign of excavations in the decade between 1780 and 1790. On this occasion, 50 statues were approximately found. They are now partly in the Pio-Clementino Museum in the Vatican, partly in different European museums like The Louvre and the Munich Glyptothek. Some people think that the toponym “Statuary” comes from the great number of stone cutters and sculptors who lived in the area. The entire region was allotted to pasture and there are written testimonies of concessions to shepherds.

Even though the Statuary area, is famous thanks to the archeological discoveries of Villa dei Quintili and of other monuments such as the Salus temple in Via Bisignano, only in the first years of the twentieth century some farmhouses were built on the ruins of the houses of colonists. Three farmhouses are still standing: the first one in Via Corigliano Calabro, at the corner with Via Siderno, the second one in Via Corleto Perticara and a third one, known as “Casale Bianchini”, in Via Oppido Mamertina.

The present area was in the past named as “Old Rome” for the extension of the archeological ruins found in the Ancient Appian Way and Via Tuscolana, up toTor de’ Schiavi. Since 1971 the estate of Old Rome, firstly part of the Aqueduct Park, became property of the Torlonia family, thanks to the financial activity of Giovanni Torlonia in favour of the Holy Siege.

This action earned him the title of “Marquis of Old and turreted Rome”. In 1828, the Torlonia family gave the archeologist Nibby the task of digging systematically in the entire estate, in order to recover work of arts to enrich the Torlonia collection and Roman residences of the family.

This area, at the times of its birth was an unknown place of Rome’s suburbs, but it keeps showing the richness of its artistic and cultural heritage. Today the work of street art of the young and talented Gaia, joins the fame of the grave of the Orazi and Curiazi, the Salus temple, the Fortuna Muliebris (Female Fortune) temple, Villa of the Quintilii, the Claudian and Marcian Aqueducts. Centuries pass in the area of the Regina Viarum but the never-ending story of this tiny plot never stops surprising people for its originality and beauty.