In the soft light of late afternoon, the larger-than-life sculptures of Ristorante Atelier Canova Tadolini seem to glow, pearlescent, against the restaurant’s crimson walls. Ten-foot, toga-clad patricians and outsize classical goddesses crowd the spaces between white-napped tables, while a soldier on horseback looms over a couple seated at a table with a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino.
From somewhere behind the bar, an espresso machine hisses. There’s a clink as a barista places a little porcelain cup and saucer in front of a shop assistant on a break from her shift at the Valentino store, just down Via del Babuino. In front of her, a small model of Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss is a quiet reminder that this place, today a bar and restaurant, was once the great Neoclassical sculptor’s atelier.
The crowds of statues make the space seem small—claustrophobic, even—but Canova’s studio, which he shared with his protege Adamo Tadolini, was in fact quite extensive. Wandering through the interconnected rooms, past the chamber at the back where the tools the sculptors once used are displayed, and up a creaky staircase to the sculpture-lined second-floor dining rooms, it’s easy to imagine the space as it was in 1818, the year Canova moved in.