Clock Tour / Via del Corso

On the Corso, at the height of the Sciarra Building, at the beginning of the twentieth century appeared a newspaper stand surmounted by a clock. This clock has been well-known throughout Rome for being the oldest clock in the city, together with its sister in San Silvestro Square, and also for its shape or, better yet, for its unmistakably art nouveau architecture. In the past and for many long years it has been a renowned meeting place. Meanwhile, because it was the newsstand of “The Newspaper of Italy,” as it was situated in the place where, that same year (1901), the famous newspaper was born, which had its editorial office and printing house right in front, namely in the Sciarra Building, and the clock was placed on its top, in the same year, by the Hausmann Company. Moreover, during the postwar period – the advent of television was still far away – many people crowded all the time in front of the windows that the great newspaper had placed at eye level on the façade of the building, where photos relating to the events of the day, taken by its news photographers including the famous Porry Pastorel, were displayed.

The bulk of photos was exhibited when “newsies” came out of the Sciarra Building with bundles of freshly printed newspapers, shouting the headlines. This happened around noon, when the “Little Newspaper of Italy”, midday edition, came out and was called “The Little” in Rome and around five o’clock in the afternoon when the five editions of the afternoon and evening came out. But there was also another reason which made this newsstand a traditional meeting place and that is the signal ceremony of the astronomical noon given by the nearby Observatory of the Roman College, by lowering the famous “ball of St. Ignatius.” When twelve o’clock drew nigh, around the newsstand, which was an excellent place for observing the movements of the “ball”, a fair crowd began to gather, including many regulars, in order to check the accuracy of their own timers, a ceremony which in case of verified punctuality, ended for most of the “fanatics” with the immense pleasure of showing their watches to their neighbours.

Of course, this authentic “rite of punctuality” forced the newsstand owner to keep the clock that was crowning his newsstand perfectly adjusted, and in doing this, he made it a traditional meeting place for Romans, therefore: “under the clock of the Newspaper of Italy” and the clock was also a silent, but unappealable, referee in the inevitable discussions on punctuality. Then, in more recent years, since the publication of the newspaper was interrupted and the ownership of the building changed, the clock declined to the point that its quadrants, now useless, were covered by paint. In 1991, the newsstannd owner commissioned the Hausman Company to install a new clock, but this time an electronic one, returning thus to its hundred-year-old tradition of absolute precision.