Sir Basil Spence's first model for new embassy offices, 1962.

Sir Basil Spence’s first model for new embassy offices, 1962.

Rome became the capital of Italy in 1871. In that year, also, the King moved his court (from Turin) to the Quirinal in Rome, the government transferred to the city (from Florence), and the Pope withdrew into the Vatican.

The first British mission house (the status of the legation was raised to an embassy in 1876) was close to Michelangelo’s Porta Pia, on Via Venti (XX) Settembre: it served from 1872 until 1946, when it was blown up by a bomb planted by a Zionist paramilitary group. The embassy moved into the Villa Wolkonsky, which the Italians had sequestrated from the Germans, until it could rebuild new offices and residence on its ravaged Porta Pia site. There followed a twenty-year debate about whether to retain both sites or dispose of one of them. New offices, designed by Sir Basil Spence, were eventually completed on the Porta Pia site in 1971. The residence is still at Villa Wolkonsky.

Vatican City, an independent sovereign state, is separately covered under Europe Non-Union (although it nowadays shares offices with the embassy. The sometime Rome summer residence at Posillipo, shares a page with Naples.


Parts of this entry appear in a wider context in Room for Diplomacy: the purchase of the Via XX Settembre house on pp.115-6; the acquisition of Villa Wolkonsky on pp.239-40; and Sir Basil Spence’s new offices on pp.344-352.]