Among the most impressive buildings in Buenos Aires, and once the tallest in South America, this oddly decorated building with a central tower is a showstopper among all those on Avenida de Mayo. Its eclectic design can be called many things, among them Art Nouveau, neo-Gothic, neo-Romantic, and Asian Indian revival. The design of the building is based on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Opened in 1923, it was the work of eccentric Italian architect Mario Palanti, who used largely materials imported from his home country. Palanti was part of a movement of architects who believed that Europe would suffer another great apocalypse, and that South America would be the only place where architecture would survive. The building's entrance is supposed to be Hell, and the patterned medallions on the floor here simulate fire. The interior gallery at this level is decorated with grotesque dragons, and if you look closely, you will notice that those on the east side are smaller and female, those on the west are male. Floors 1 through 14 represent Purgatory and 15 to 22 represent Heaven. The interior is significantly less interesting than the exterior and lobby. However, tours take you to the rooftop lighthouse, meant to represent God and Salvation. The views up and down Avenida de Mayo, and especially to Congreso, are unparalleled. The building is also designed so that at 7:45pm on July 9, Argentine Independence Day, the Southern Cross directly lines up over the tower. On the 25th of every month, the lighthouse is turned on and on Friday nights, there is a special tour with wine tasting, called Extraordinary Nights.
Palanti hoped Italy would send Dante's ashes here, and he designed a statue of him with a receptacle for that purpose. Neither the statue nor the ashes ever made it to the building. Palacio Barolo was renovated in 2008, and in 2010 a replica statue, created by Amelia Jorio, was placed in the lobby, but certainly the ashes will never be brought here. Palanti designed a similar version of this building in Montevideo, the Palacio Salvo, as well as the Hotel Castelar a few blocks down Avenida de Mayo. Miqueas Tharigen, the nephew of the building manager, started giving tours in English and Spanish of the building in 2004. He is now joined by his brother Tomas, and they include a visit to the uncle's administrative office, preserved from the 1920s. In addition to the tour, where they explain the secret Masonic symbols, they offer wine tastings, using a special Palacio Barolo wine label, produced in Mendoza. Tours are scheduled as listed below, but if you contact Miqueas, he can make other arrangements or schedule evening tours. Be aware that elevators and passages are tiny in this building, and that what is usually a 40-minute tour will take longer for groups of more than 10 people.