Literally a three-minute walk southeast from Rome’s historic Piazza del Popolo is a place locals call “shop of terrors”. The Artistic Restoration Squatriti Hospital of the Dolls gets this name due to the window display of disembodied dolls’ limbs and heads; in fact if it wasn’t for this showcase of toy body parts, the shop could easily go unnoticed among the chic clothes shops and fast food bars.
Behind the doors of Via di Ripetta, 29 is the workshop belonging to the Squatriti family who restore antique toys and dolls that may have fallen out of favour.
Originally from Naples, the Squatriti family started out as travelling actors until the Second World War brought a lack of employment and hunger. This made Federico Squatriti rethink his career options. After retraining in restoration he took over the small shop that is now run by his great-grandson, also named Federico.
The shop’s interior that is stacked with everything from puppets to dolls and tin soldiers and the occasional antiquity has the comforting smell of plaster and wax that gives the visitor a feeling of stepping back in time.
Federico’s original passion has been passed down through the family’s generations and the love of doll restoration that this family has could almost be considered genetic.
The current Signor Squatriti has a workshop of 50 sqm and using glue as bandages and solvents as medicines, he works at the art of curing dolls and giving them new life. His shelves bow beneath the weight of broken limbs and porcelain figures and obscure toys that wait for him to repair them.
This intriguing oddity of a shop beckons visitors and Federico is often on hand to chat about the family passion or spin a yarn about some interesting piece that has passed through the doors. In fact so adept is Federico at the art of restoration that dolls and antiques arrive from all over the world seeking his attention, meaning if you drop by you could see him repairing the cracked skull of a papier-mâché doll or a damaged Etruscan figurine.
Every damaged doll that arrives is treated with care and has attention lavished upon it with the same love as a child would have done at the start of the toy’s life. With antique restoration businesses diminishing in the modern age, it’s good to see old skills being continued and passed through a family for other generations to avail themselves of in a dolls time of need.
The Squatriti Hospital of the Dolls is located on Via di Ripetta 29, 00186 Roma. Ph: 06 3610232.
For lovers of dolls, you can also visit the Cesaretti doll hospital and museum, Ospedale delle Bambole, also near the Piaza del Popolo, on Via Flaminia 58.