Rome’s “shop of horrors”, where the past takes on new life
In the heart of Rome is a place that has been giving a new lease of life to dolls and other time-worn toys for four generations. It is Rome’s very own “shop of horrors”. Be brave and enter the Doll Hospital: if you can overcome your initial fear and not be put off by the bleak heads of the toys in the window, you will discover a magical place. It is a true hospital where each “patient”, after being treated, is sent home with a diagnostic report detailing the repairs they have undergone and how to assist with their “recovery”.
It is located near Piazza Navona, on Via Ripetta. In the workshop, you can attend demonstrations by owner Federico Squatriti and his mother Gelsomina, heirs to a craft tradition going strong since 1939.
Today, the Bottega delle Bambole is an institution in Rome, among the very few historic shops still in operation in Italy’s capital. You can find dolls from every era and in every material, from porcelain to papier-mâché, alongside rare examples of old-fashioned toys, including rocking horses, toy soldiers and puppets. There are also plenty of plaster, ceramic and porcelain ornaments, fabrics and lace for decorating the home. It is a true paradise for antique collectors.