Stepping into This Apartment in Rome Is Like Traveling Back in Time

An invitation to Carolina Vincenti’s Roman apartment offers a rare thrill: the serendipity of surprise. The art historian—together with her partner, Paolo Scotto di Castelbianco, a food and wine critic—is legendary for the highly original gatherings she stages in a home furnished with Old World splendor. For a recent dinner party, for instance, they re-created dishes from a 17th-century menu they had fished out of the dusty archives of a Baroque palazzo. Other evenings might feature music and cuisine inspired by her Romanian ancestry, or readings of experimental poems paired with piano sonatas performed by Scotto di Castelbianco on his Steinway.

All of this entertaining takes place amid rooms in pistachio and red that are filled to their soaring ceilings with the couple’s collections. Walls are hung with Old Masters and futurist art, tables are stacked with Italian maiolica, and endless bookshelves are filled with tomes. “Addicts of minimalism should steer clear of my home!” Vincenti warns with a laugh.

sitting area with green silk chair and red linen pillow, marble pedestal with roman sculpture and 17th century landscape on wall, chinese floor lamp with red shade

In the sitting room, the custom green silk chair is topped with a pillow in an Arjumand’s World fabric by Idarica Gazzoni, and the floor lamp is 18th-century French. A fragment of a Roman sculpture stands on a 17th-century marble pedestal, and two 17th-century landscapes hang on the wall.

Guido Taroni

Formerly the headquarters of a political party, the sunlit apartment is on the fourth floor of an early-20th-century building a stone’s throw from the Baroque splendors of the Piazza Navona and the bustling market square of the Campo de’ Fiori. When the couple first saw it in 2015, they were flabbergasted by the abundance of space. At last, they had found a home large enough for their beloved things.

Collecting has often been associated with a desire to create a world that pays homage to an idealized past. Like many expatriates, Vincenti, who was born in Bucharest and raised in Beirut, follows in this tradition. She fled Beirut with her mother in 1975, soon after the onset of the Lebanese civil war. They arrived in Rome and filled their new home with all the possessions they had managed to salvage from their previous life. “The apartment had the patina one would expect from a 16th-century palace,” she recalls of an adolescence spent surrounded by history. “But it was a time warp: Even television was banned.”

entry hall is lined with red painted bookshelves facing green walls hung with artworks, a turkish floor runner leads to an 18th century french commode at the far wall

In the entry hall, the 18th-century commode is French, and the runner is Turkish.

Guido Taroni

Reading became Vincenti’s pastime. Not surprisingly her first collection, which she started when she was 15, was an array of illustrated children’s books. She went on to study art history at university and obtained a doctorate degree in 18th-century sculpture. Since then she has published several books on the art and architecture of her adopted city, including her most recent title, Soul of Rome: A Guide to 30 Exceptional Experiences. Fluent in five languages, she also organizes made-to-measure walking tours of Rome and the surrounding area.

The couple’s collection of Old Masters—mostly 17th- and 18th-​century Italian oil paintings—inspired their apartment’s intense color palette. Historically, she explains, “these paintings were conceived to be hung on pigmented walls.” So, in the entrance, a long corridor filled with bookshelves, she replicated the strawberry red of old phone booths in England. For the living room she opted for a soft Rajasthan green.

the dining room has red painted walls and a table with an embroidered silk tablecloth and 18th century chairs, a wall hanging is above an italian baroque console, and a painting hangs on the opposite wall

The 18th-century embroidered silk tablecloth is from Genoa, the antique French chairs are covered in 18th-century Aubusson textiles, and the console is Italian Baroque. The painting is by Girolamo Mirola, and the wall hanging is by Isabella Ducrot.

Guido Taroni

The adjacent dining room, also painted red, bears testimony to her obsession for fabric. The table, a large oval that seats up to 10 people, is covered with a fine 18th-century embroidered silk from the Italian port of Genoa, Scotto di Castelbianco’s hometown. The dining chairs are upholstered with Aubusson fabric. Dominating the room is a magnificent tapestry by the Italian artist and textile expert Isabella Ducrot. The deep red envelope of the space also perfectly offsets Scotto di Castelbianco’s collection of 18th-century blue-and-white Genoese porcelain.

primary bedroom has pale blue walls with a king size bed with deep blue fabric headboard, side tables covered in embroidered fabric, small turkish rugs, and multiple artworks on the walls

In the primary bedroom, the custom bed is topped with pillows in antique textiles, the side tables are covered with 19th-century Romanian hand-embroidered fabrics, and the rugs are 19th-century Turkish.

Guido Taroni

Elsewhere in the apartment, centuries-old silks from the historic San Leucio factory in southern Italy are mixed with colorful contemporary patterns by the Milanese designer Idarica Gazzoni. Meanwhile, Vincenti’s vast collection of antique fabrics—textiles from the Balkans, ancient weaves from her travels along the historic Silk Road route—are draped on furniture and displayed alongside Renaissance portraits on the walls.

carolina vincenti in her bedroom, on a cushion covered in an antique handwoven romanian skirt and a wall tapestry behind her

Carolina Vincenti in her bedroom, on a cushion covered in an antique handwoven Romanian skirt.

Guido Taroni

Sitting on a plush 1940s sofa that was once in her grandmother’s home in Bucharest and has since been re-covered in green Italian silk, Vincenti muses on the eclecticism that makes her home feel timeless. Everywhere, there are vases filled with fresh roses and branches from the couple’s cottage in Umbria.

While we chat, she is suddenly reminded of an idea the writer Aldous Huxley proposed: that there is a spirituality inherent in the material world. “That idea struck a chord deep inside me,” Vincenti says. “It became my mantra.” One that allows her to indulge her collector’s bug without the tiniest pang of guilt.

march 2022 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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