My friends brought me one night to Quartiere Coppedè, not far from Villa Borghese and from the upscale Parioli district. Nearby is the celebrated Piper, one of Italy’s most sought night clubs.

I was absolutely fascinated by this architectural and urbanistic jewel, about a century old, consisting in a majestic arch, a square (Piazza Mincio) with a fantastically ornate fountain (The Frogs’ Fountain, where the fab Beatles took a bath in 1965!), and a series of fanciful Art Nouveau buildings, decorated statues, reliefs, mosaics, frescoes, towers…Ancient Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque elements blending in a unique harmony.

All this in a quiet November night, lit by the full moon.

Eagles, lions, sphynxes, cocks, a lovely vision of Medieval Florence, a sundial, the portraits of Dante and Boccaccio, the two major Florentine poets. The whimsical alchemy of all these elements brought me in just few seconds into a timeless world.

The author of this dreamlike urban ensemble was the Florentine architect Gino Coppedè (1866 – 1927), man of vast culture, with a profound interest for all things esoteric, familiar with the language and symbols of alchemy and freemasonry.

On one hand, the not-initiated visitor (like me!) can simply admire the elegance of details, the exquisite decorations, imagine to be a resident here (the interiors are as accurate and sophisticated eclectic as the outside, with Pompeian decorations in the bathrooms, faience in the kitchen…).

The most famous person who had the luck of living here for thirty years (1927-1957) was the Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli. The site, mysterious as it is, was used as a location for celebrated terror movies, such as Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and Inferno. More recently, Ridley Scott used Quartiere Coppedè for the opening scene of his House of Gucci.

On the other hand, the curious traveler can dig a bit further into the arcane symbolisms, detecting the underground current of thought which links the triumphal arch at the entrance, the eight frogs on the fountain, the six eagles, the cock with the three dice, the sundial, the portraits of Dante and Boccaccio. Nothing is casual, neither the numbers, nor the figures: the whole complex epitomizes the initiatory journey of the man/architect/creator towards a higher level of conscience and perfection.

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