We are in a cobblestone alley near the popular Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy. Here, a weather-striped window showcases porcelain heads, limbs, and bodies of dolls long lost and completely broken.
Above the creepy repository of disrepaired faces pressed to the glass, small owl figurines perch menacingly. No. This isn’t Rome’s own little shop of horrors, but it is actually the Restauri Artistici Squatriti, known to Romans as “l’ospedale delle bambole,” which means “dolls’ hospital”. Here, Federico Squatriti and his mother Gelsomina, who is now over 80 years old, nurse ailing dolls and other porcelain objects back to health.
The workspace is very small, about 15 square meters, and pungent is the odor of the “medications” used to porcelain patients: glue and solvents. The walls and counters are covered with parts of broken toys and figurines, along with antique plates, vases, and a great number of mysterious objects waiting for Squatriti to give them new life.
The cluttered shop is intriguing enough to draw the attention of passersby, and the contents of the collection are as worthy of a visit as the shop window itself. Moreover, time seems to have stood still among toy soldiers and dolls of all sizes. It is indeed here, in fact, that for years, Squatriti have been carrying on the family tradition of restoration by taking care of very often ancient objects.