Historical Archive of the Italian Foreign Ministry
This archive is known in Italian as the Archivio Storico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri or ASMAE. It is the central repository of Italy's diplomatic records, including those produced at embassies and consulates abroad.
Ministero degli Affari Esteri,
Servizio Storico Archivi e Documentazione - Ufficio II - Archivio Storico Diplomatico,
Piazzale della Farnesina,
1 - I-00194 Rome, Italy.
+39 06 3691 3235
Schedule & hours
Monday to Friday, 9am to 2 pm. Closed at Christmas, Easter, and two weeks in August.
Italian, though English is also spoken by the archivists.
The archive is in a small corner of a massive Foreign Ministry building. The part that researchers see consists of three rooms. From the main hall of the building, you enter a room containing photocopiers and two cabinets that hold catalogues. The second door on your left leads to the office of Dr.ssa Stefania Ruggeri, who is the main (but not the ultimate) chief of the archive. The door on your right leads to the reading room, which contains about a dozen comfortable work tables and the open shelves on which requested documents are stored.
The Foreign Ministry building is north of the centre of Rome and northeast of the Vatican, just beside the Olympic stadium. The archive is accessed via the entrance on the west side of the building (facing the stadium).
Description of holdings
The holdings are fairly extensive. Three principal lacunae: a) pre-unification holdings are few b) certain material was damaged or destroyed or dispersed during World War Two c) a good deal of material is uncatalogued and therefore inaccessible (by the archive's own definition). There is a good deal of material to be found about Italy's African colonies.
History of the archive
Brief history here. The archive itself is Office II. Office I produces annual volumes of "Texts and Documents on Italian Foreign Policy" and Office III manages a library which is open to researchers. (previous location(s) of collection held there, and any information that might help researchers to navigate previous systems)
Catalogues & finding aids
There are cursory online lists of holdings here and here. See also an English version here. About one hundred catalogues are available at the archives itself. Some of these are published, while others are internal documents. The links above also contain lists of published works on the holdings. Those with a special interest in North Africa should consult Inventario delle fonti manoscritte relative alla storia dell Africa del Nord esistenti in Italia / Sotte la direzione di Carlo Giglio ; Istituto di storia ed istituzioni dei paesi afro-asiatici della Università di Pavia, 5 vols. (Leiden:Brill, 1971-).
Languages of materials
Restrictions & difficulties
Generally speaking, there is a fifty year limit. One can petition for thirty years, in certain cases. In files concerning individuals, the limit is seventy years.
Uncatalogued material cannot be consulted.
Future of the archive
(what direction is the archive going? what rumours have you heard?)
This list of regulations (in Italian) gives details about permits and restrictions. It is highly recommended for foreign researchers to register in advance, by faxing or mailing three documents: a) a letter based on the model posted on the website; b) a letter (in Italian or English) from a supervisor, if you are a student, or a "nota verbale" from your embassy, if you are a professor or have no research supervisor, addressed to Prof. Francesco Perfetti, director of the unit; and c) a copy of your passport.
It is not a good idea to show up unannounced, even though the staff will do their best to accommodate you. You may face these difficulties: a) if your name is not entered in the computers of those controlling access to the foreign ministry building, you cannot be given access; b) once inside, the archive staff cannot always approve your application immediately; c) you need to contact the archivists to book a table and a pigeon hole for documents well in advance, as the reading room is often fully occupied; d) certain holidays insinuate themselves. It is wise to call and confirm before your visit, so they know to expect you.
Permitted and prohibited items
- Permitted: laptop computers (there are power outlets at every desk), digital cameras
Fill out an order slip in triplicate. You can order two boxes per day. Orders must be in by 11 in the morning to be received the next day. Document delivery at 9:30 and 11:30.
Ordering classified material
(what special permission is necessary?)
It takes a day for documents to arrive. They are delivered to a numbered pigeon hole (book your number in advance) in the reading room.
Photocopying, photography, microfilming
(what are costs, permits, and page limits? how long do you have to wait?)
Sign a register upon arrival each day. At the main desk of the reading room, there is a form on which one lists all folders consulted. There is a form for permission to use a camera.
- Busta: folder, envelope, case
- Fascia: file
Dr.ssa Stefania Ruggeri and Dr.ssa Paola Busonero are the regular staff of the archive. Both are very kind and helpful. Prof. Francesco Perfetti is their boss, but he is not an everyday presence in the lives of most readers.
(scholars who are familiar with this archive)
(published works based on research at this archive)
There is a coffee machine and a vending machine across the hall from the archive door. One floor up, on the first floor, is a cafe which also sells food. There are quite a few restaurants five minutes walk to the east, at the top of Ponte Milvio(try Mondi).
There are lockers just outside the door of the archive. Ask for a key from the archivist in charge of the reading room.
From Ottaviano metro stop, take bus 32 (direction Tor di Quinto). The bus drops you off right at the building, which you can recognize by its mass and flags and proximity to the stadium.