The building hosting the Italian Ministry of Interior is set on the Viminal Hill, one of the historic seven ones of Rome. It was built in 1911 on prime minister Giovanni Giolitti’s initiative, who wanted it become a strategic centre of the executive power, where the authoritative offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior were jointly represented. Giolitti entrusted the architect Manfredo Manfredi with the design of the building which, according to the statesman’s will, had to be located next to the Quirinal and the Parliament.
The final design was approved in 1923, with the exception of the Scala d’Onore (Official Staircase) of the Palazzo della Presidenza (Palace of the Prime Minister’s office), only partially completed and lacking in decorations. The palace was officially inaugurated on 9th July 1925.
Taking inspiration from Greek-Roman architecture, Manfredi adapted it to the style and sensibility of his own time. His aesthetic coherence in searching for a ‘new style’, while taking into account classical tradition, is to be regarded as his main artistic merit.
The area chosen to build the new ministry was that commonly known as Panisperna, situated on the Viminal Hill, including the small palace hosting the Physics Institute, later moved to a new seat of the Rome university; according to tradition, Enrico Fermi and his students carried out their earlier ingenious experiments there, by using, among others, the basin situated in front of the main entrance, still existing within the Viminal building. The nickname of the group - Via Panisperna boys - comes from the address of the Physics Institute they worked for. A plate on the wall shows the wording:
‘In this building, having once hosted the Physics Institute of the Rome University, from March 1934 to June 1936 the physicist Enrico Fermi and his assistants Edoardo Amaldi, Oscar D’Agostino, Bruno Pontecorvo, Franco Rasetti, Emilio Segré carried out research in artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons thus allowing to start discoveries which led to the development and control of nuclear energy’.
The palace has majestic external frontals corresponding to the internal wide spaces of courtyards linked by a complex and efficient network of roofed communicating galleries. A series of itineraries and official galleries go through the five floors and hundreds of rooms of the palace.
It is worth mentioning the Official Staircase of the Palazzo degli Uffici (Palace of Offices), the Sala del Consiglio dei Ministri (Ministers’ Council Hall) and the entrance hall which opens on the staircase leading to the ‘noble floor’, enriched by prestigious wooden, marble and plaster decorations as well as by elegant glass insertions.
The palace overlooks a square, completed in April 1931, adorned by lamps including pilasters decorated by excellent carvings and candelabra shaped like stylized baskets of acanthus; even parapets decorated by giant volutes at the side of the staircase and the fountain standing in the middle of the square, surrounded by entrance/exit ramps, testify to Manfredi’s excellent architecture skills.