Two rivers and seven hills. The legacy of the great empire and papal power. Byzantine mosaics and Renaissance frescoes adorn churches and basilicas, domes and iconic monuments, richly decorated squares and fountains. Rome is travertine tiles and cobbled streets. It is underground temples and the ruins of a wartime past. Alongside these priceless treasures that have made Rome the eternal city, is the modernity introduced by architects like Renzo Piano, Massimiliano Fuksas, Zaha Hadid and Richard Meier. The spirit of Rome is also in its neighborhoods, each with its own identity, its trattorias, bars, its traffic and the enigmatic spirit of its people.
All this beauty can be admired by following an unusual itinerary, which interweaves territorial and industrial tourism, following the footsteps of Birra Peroni. The brand was created in 1846 in Vigevano, but its history is profoundly linked to the city of Rome, which has been its home for more than a century and a half. Over the years, Birra Peroni moved to various attractive corners of the city – places that are still easily identifiable today.
Birra Peroni in Rome
In the first half of the 19th century, entrepreneurs, bankers and workers migrated from northern to central Italy in search of work and success. Among them was Francesco Peroni, a small brewery owner from Vigevano. Trends in the beer market, which saw beer transition from an elite drink at the end of the 19th century and the Giolitti era, to a drink of the masses during the Fascist era – along with the expansion of Rome – led Birra Peroni to change its headquarters. In 1864, the company was located in Via dei Due Macelli 74, in what today is the Salone Margherita theatre. A stone’s throw from Piazza di Spagna, the symbolic place of the Roman bourgeoisie, it was close to its consumers of the time. In 1871, growth in production meant the company required more space: a building in St. Peter’s Square, to the left of the colonnade of the Basilica. After more than 10 years in Via dei Due Macelli, the company spent 25 years in its new headquarters, that belonged to the Santa Maria della Pietà Asylum: 3,200 square meters for around 30 workers, that included manual laborers and employees. In 1896, the founder’s sons moved the company to a factory near the Colosseum, in Via del Cardello. During this time, Birra Peroni signed agreements with the Roman Society for the Production of Ice and Artificial Snow, and the two companies merged in 1901. Peroni ice and beer reached hospitals, the Royal Household, large hotels and Roman cafés. At the time, the urban layout of Rome had been changing for a few years. The city had expanded outside its gates, with a lot of construction taking place on the Nomentana and Salaria roads. The Prati and Flaminio districts had grown and an industrial area had been created in Testaccio. Birra Peroni grew with the city, entering the new century at the Porta Pia ‘Citadel’, in the Salario district. The industrial plant stretched between Piazza Alessandria, Via Mantova and Via Bergamo. It included apartments for employees, a canteen, rooms for after-work activities, as well as cold rooms and a wooden Art Nouveau chalet-brewery with a garden. The turreted building designed by Gustavo Giovannoni on the corner between Piazza Alessandria and Via Bergamo housed the Sudhaus (the brewing room), while the block now occupied by MACRO (the Rome Museum of Contemporary Art) was used for ice production and the housing of horses and wagons.
In 1971, Peroni left the illustrious Salario plant, whose buildings have now been skillfully restored and put to other uses, and moved to the Tor Sapienza industrial area, which currently hosts the production site, the historical archives and the corporate museum.
This is how Birra Peroni succeeded in leaving its indelible mark on Rome, from the historic center to the areas outside the Aurelian Walls, all the way to the suburbs of the city in east. In addition to the memorable locations near Piazza di Spagna, the Colosseum and St. Peter’s, and to the current facility, the company’s expansion in the area is evidenced by the former Peroni brewery in Via Brescia, the Roman Icehouse in Via Flaminia (which today is the Faculty of Architecture of the Sapienza University), and two former ice and beer stores that are still active: Trattoria Valentino in Via del Boschetto and the Antica Birreria Peroni in Via di S. Marcello, near the Basilica of SS. Apostoli, the Quirinale palace, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Lastly, it is possible to visit the historical warehouse in Ostia, by the sea.