We mount the Scala Spagna and now stand before the French church. We turn right and walk over to a beautiful palazzo (street on the right). Zucarri’s palazzo on the Via Gregoriana. The doorway consists of huge open mouth. A modern variant on Zuccari’s Palazzo in Kyoto.
This kind of 16th century architecture is characteristic of mannerism. Mannerism in architecture, and I’m repeating myself here, means that the Vitruvian Canon, as you have had to learn it, was intentionally violated. Just look at the strange aediculae around the windows.
Zuccari was maybe inspired by the work of the mannerist architect Pirro Ligorio (Wikipedia). In 1552, this architect designed a park with strange monsters. One of these strange monsters was an ogre: a hideous monster that ate people.
Fontana della Barcaccia
We walk back and go down the Spanish Steps to discover a beautiful fountain that Gian Lorenzo’s father Pietro Bernini designed together with his son.
This Fontana della Barcaccia [old boat] was given this shape for a reason. The fountain could not exceed a certain height because of the low water pressure in the Aqua Vergine aqueduct at this location. In this connection, Baldinucci spoke of how ‘any effect of opulence or splendour would be difficult to realize. The solution was found in a low boat floating on an oval basin. A second reason for this design was that a boat had floated up to this exact location in a major flood in 1598. If you look carefully, you will see that the Barberini family left its mark on this fountain too, in the shape of the sun symbol and the three bees.
In the early stages of the design process for St Peter’s grave in St Peter’s, there was some discussion about a big ship with a huge papal tiara on it. As you have already read, a baldacchino was chosen instead.
The name of this famous fountain derives from the three streets – tre vie – that lead here. The water comes from the Aqua Virgo. In 9 BC a spring was discovered near the small town of Salone, which is only 22 kilometres from Rome. The story goes that a young girl (virgo) discovered this spring, hence the name of the aqueduct. The Aqua Virgo partly travels underground, which allowed Pope Nicholas V in 1477 to quickly restore the aqueduct and put it into service again. A simple fountain was built after the water had started to flow again. The present-day fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi.
Pope Urban VIII financed the construction of the new fountain with a wine tax. Pasquino wrote mockingly: ‘Urban taxes our wine, then seeks to amuse us with water.’ The story goes that Salvi died prematurely because of the work in damp cellars and passages. It wasn’t until eleven years after his death that Giuseppe Panini finished the work of its designer. Of course you have to throw some coins into the fountain, if you ever want to return to Rome, that is.
End of Rome day 5
Beginning of Rome day 6: Piazza del Popolo and new streets pattern