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Go to The Theatre 

                                                      THE ARGENTINA TOWER


The etymology of the square Largo Torre Argentina has nothing to do with the Argentine Republic, its name giving is due to John Burckardt,

 (papal master of ceremonies under Pope Alexander VI),

 who, in the 15th century, with a great deal of effort and struggles with the aristocratic Cesarini family, built himself

 a tower next to his own town house,

which he called "Argentoratina", from the name of his birthplace Strasbourg, in Latin: Argentoratum, famous for its silver mines.(Latin, silver: argento)

Gradually the name “Argentoratina”, pronounced in the local traditional dialect, was transformed into “Argentina”, replacing the former “Calcarario” - from limestone - once and for all; name given due to the presence of the many furnaces in the area used to transform marble-powder into limestone.

 Today the tower,

 incorporated in the Palazzo del Vescovo, situated in Via del Sudario (photograph above), cannot be seen from the outside because it was reduced in height, by knocking down its merlons.

As from the II century on, the archaeological area Largo Torre Argentina was the subject of ravage and devastation up to the point that when, in the VI century, even some churches and town houses with vegetable gardens began to appear, built on top of its rubble.

During the following centuries the best and most solid parts of the building matter was used to create fortified manors and residential towers for the most powerful families

in continuous struggle between each other.


One can distinguish the Torre del Papito (Papito Tower) on the photograph below

As to the identity of the towers’ ancient owners, the origin of the name Papito is uncertain.

 Some say it derives

from the name of the anti-pope Anaclete II Pierleoni (1132 – 1138) nick-named Papitto (small Pope), due to his short stature.

Other historians see the term Papito as a short name for Papareschi,

as the tower may have been built by the noble family of exactly that name in the XIV century.

In 1941, during demolition works operated by will of the fascist regime in the historical centre of Rome

  the buildings next to the Papito Tower were pulled down leaving it isolated as it appears



on the edge of the Sacred Area of Torre Argentina.

The same year, the small portico in medieval style was built next to it,

some of the columns
and capitals

 which were part of the courtyard of a building nearby, knocked down to enlarge Via delle Botteghe Oscure (1941-1942), in the course of a series of widespread urban demolition works by hand of the fascist regime in the heart of the city in the

capital of the last, small and short-lived Italian Empire.




                                                               THE ARGENTINA THEATRE                                               Go back to: The Tower

The Teatro Argentina theatre was built in 1732

by will of Duke Giuseppe Cesarini-Sforza in the intent to find a remedy for his family’s financial problems and increment the profits of an otherwise unproductive piece of land. The architect Girolamo Theodoli was entrusted with the project although the façade - later than nearly a century - in fact datable 1826, was designed by Pietro Holl and built by the architect Giovanni Ersoch.

Many famous operas have celebrated their débuts in this theatre:

in 1816, for example, the “Barbiere di Siviglia” by Rossini


after having insulted a dissenting spectator during the show, was then furiously chased through the roads of Rome.

Verdi also

staged many of his masterpieces here for the first time: "Ernani", "I Due Foscari" and "Battaglia di Legnano".

In the year 1843 Duke Lorenzo Sforza-Cesarini sold the theatre to Prince Alessandro Torlonia for 60.000 gold “scudi”

who immediately ordered extension work to be undertaken

and emblazoned his coat of arms on the façade.



For 100.000 scudi the theatre was taken over by the City of Rome in 1869 and a modern heating system was installed by the architect Ersoch.

The theatre’s actual aspect is the result of further structural modifications and modernisation.


The Teatro Argentina takes its name from the square onto which it faces: the square from under which the most important ancient Roman temples of all came to light.

They represent the ancient Roman Republican period datable approximately 400 B.C.

 Today the four temples constitute the spectacular Sacred Area of Torre Argentina.


On the occasion of the inauguration

of the archaeological Sacred Area of Torre Argentina

on the 25th of October 1929

at the Argentina theatre

the opera

“Il Barbiere di Siviglia” by G. Rossini was given

in presence of H.R.H Vittorio Emanuele III,  of Cavaliere Benito Mussolini, of the entire Gran Consiglio del Fascismo government, the Ambassadors of Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain and the United States of America.

(Teatro Argentina – 8.30 p.m.: first to arrive is Crown Prince Umberto of Savoy who, in the company of fascist leader Italo Balbo, notices the coat of arms on the theatre façade.)

(Entrance Hall, Teatro Argentina – 8.30 p.m.: other government leaders enter)

(Teatro Argentina: a few minute before the first curtain lifts)

(9.00 p.m.: Mussolini reaches the Teatro Argentina accompanied by minister Grandi)

An exceptional cast of singers like

Tito Gobbi, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Nelly Corradi, Italo Tajo

and an extremely young conductor, on his debut in Italy,

a certain Herbert von Karajan, made that day memorable in the history of the Teatro Argentina, above all in the panorama of the opera world.


Not long - within a few years from the date of that evening of 1929 - and Fascism will define its absolutely central role and in imposing tight limitations in respect to the Kingdom and the Church, considered as two merely uncomfortable co-protagonists of Italian history, furthermore destined to take on the simple part of extras, politically speaking.


(25th of October 1943: Entrance Hall and exterior Teatro Argentina façade)


From this night on, the music changes,

 this time it’s a lot sadder and harder, bloody and painful, for the Italians, wrapping everything and everyone in the dark cloak of reason,

but, above all, in the gradual darkness of the conscience and the heart.


Recording made that cold evening of October 1929

by the operators of the ISTITUTO LUCE, Rome, in collaboration with the national Italian broadcasting company EIAR (Ente Italiano Audizioni Radiofoniche) and the DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON record company, Berlin

will remain for ever a unique interpetation in the field of Opera Lyrics Theatre.


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