Our history

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125 YEARS OF BABINGTONS

Almost all roads lead to Rome. But all, absolutely all the streets of Rome lead to Piazza di Spagna. At the staircase. At the Bernini fountain. Of the two Berninis (father and son). And then from Babingtons. Think about it.

Beniamino Placido

PART OF THE GRAND TOUR

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And in Rome two young English ladies of good family came in 1893: they were Isabel Cargill, daughter of Captain Cargill, founder of the city of Dunedin in New Zealand and Anna Maria Babington, descendant of that Antony Babington hanged in 1586 for conspiring against Elizabeth I. The two young women decided to invest their savings (100 pounds) by opening a tearoom and reading room in the capital for the Anglo-Saxon community.

The company at the time involved considerable risks, above all because in Italy it was not common to drink tea, sold at the time only in pharmacies.

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The Babingtons tearoom was an immediate success both because Italy was the destination of the Grand Tour for the English and because it was part of a Rome that celebrated the Jubilee and the silver wedding of the royals Umberto and Margherita and into which garments flowed of state and exponents of the aristocracy and the beautiful international world.

Initially Babingtons was opened in Via Due Macelli and a year after its opening it was moved to Piazza di Spagna, in the so-called "English ghetto", inside the prestigious eighteenth century building adjacent to the Spanish Steps and near what is now the Keats and Shelley Memorial House.

Those that were the palace stables, this one too, like the Scalinata by Francesco De Sanctis, were renovated and decorated according to the tastes of the time and soon, as The Roman Herald published, Babingtons Tea Room became the meeting point where "the ladies and gentlemen, tired after the visit or occupied for personal reasons in the city center could, in a welcoming and pleasant environment, refresh themselves with a consoling cup of tea ... "

STORM IN A CUP OF TEA

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 marked a setback to the success of the tea room which however remained open with great sacrifice of all those who worked there. While Europe was experiencing a moment of great euphoria at the end of the war, Babingtons' decline continued and things got worse with the Wall Street crisis and the death in Switzerland, in 1929, of Anna Maria.

It was also thought to close the tea room, but Isabel's sister, Annie, took the situation in hand and, investing all her capital, decided to make radical changes to the room. Thus the furnishings, curtains and cushions were renewed and, under the guidance of Dorothy, the tea room was filled again.

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Despite the anti-English policy of Mussolini, throughout the fascist period and even during the second world war, Babingtons remained always open, with its very clear English sign and the solid bronze characters on a very Roman travertine plaque. Paradoxically, Babingtons happened to meet with hierarchs and politicians in the first room while the third room, around the corner, a few tables away, housed the anti-fascist intelligence agency (which entered and left the kitchen).

MASCHERINO CREATES THE SPECIAL BLEND

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Once the war ended and the times changed, the needs of the public also changed. Cakes and pastries were no longer enough and the menu was enriched with new dishes that still today are the curiosity of Babingtons like the Canary and the Poppy Rice. However, tea always remained the most requested beverage and as such had to receive special care. And so, in a huge London warehouse, Dorothy's third son, Valerio, had the Special Blend, the first Babingtons blend, tailor-made for the water of the Barcaccia of Piazza di Spagna, created. And it was always Valerio who, having to think of a logo for the tearoom, designed the famous kitten. For years, in fact, Babingtons' maids had adopted Mascherino, a cat that lived in Piazza di Spagna at night and during the day was dozing on the comfortable cushions in the tea room. And in recent years two other big news, this time under the guidance of Chiara and Rory, respectively children of Valerio and Diana: the opening of the Babingtons Tea Shop before and later the inauguration of the entrance on the Spanish Steps.

MORE THAN A SIMPLE TEA CUP

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Managed today by the fourth generation descending from Isabel, who survived two wars, several economic recessions as well as the arrival of fast food, Babingtons remained "the mundane address for a clientele choice" (Guida Monaci, 1899).

And in this living room in the center of the city, royal families and celebrities from the world of culture and entertainment have gathered together since then, sure to be received with discretion, as if they were at home.

The menu today offers a rich selection of sweet and savory dishes, respecting the English tradition, from the light meal to Victorian tea.

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In the Tea Shop inside the room it is possible to buy tea from all over the world and a variety of blends signed Babingtons prepared with carefully selected ingredients from our tea tasters.

The new challenge is to maintain the Victorian and more than one hundred years old culture of the room, combined with the taste of meat and fish dishes, the delicacy of the proposals with eggs and the colors of the pastry shop. From scones loved by Queen Victoria, to today's decorated desserts, to "embroidered" cakes. Keeping the teapot on the table, with curry rice, club sandwiches, salads or a slice of chocolate cake.

Because tea harmoniously enhances the taste of each proposal, both savory and sweet, complements the mood, accompanies a conversation and strengthens friendships. Beyond every culture, every time and every age.

Who knows what Isabel and Anna Maria would think of it ...