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Rome, Italy

Ospedale delle Bambole (Doll Hospital)

A hospital where antique dolls are given new life. 

In a cobblestone alley near the Piazza del Popolo, a weather-striped window showcases the porcelain heads, limbs, and bodies of dolls long lost and in complete disrepair.

Above the ghastly repository of broken faces pressed to the glass, small owl figurines perch menacingly. What appears to be Rome’s own little shop of horrors is actually the Restauri Artistici Squatriti, known to Romans as “un’ospedale delle bambole,” or a dolls’ hospital. Here, Federico Squatrito and his mother Gelsomina nurse ailing dolls and other porcelain objects back to health.

The minuscule workspace is approximately 50 square feet and pungent is the odor of glue and solvents, the “medications” Squatrito doles out to his porcelain patients. The walls and counters are covered with parts of broken toys and figurines, along with antique plates, vases, and any number of mysterious objects waiting for Squatrito to give them new life.

Though the cluttered shop might be intriguing enough to draw the attention of passersby, the contents of the collection are as worthy of a visit as the shop window itself. Because Squatrito is equally adept at repairing an ancient Roman platter as he is an heirloom plaything, visitors may encounter any number of curiosities – and stories – when they stop by.