It’s hot in Rome. All of a sudden summer descended, fully formed. The enervating heat of a Roman summer is pretty wild. The sky is the bluest blue imaginable. Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me..
Late this morning I went to take a look at the Trevi fountain (after all it’s just there; why not?). In the––no longer deserted, but very quiet––centre of town one emerges from the shade of narrow streets blinking into sudden sunshine. Chiaroscuro is everywhere. Elegant fountains gush, doors open on to shady courtyards, café and restaurant tables spill onto cobbled piazzas (more now than before owing to COVID-19: some charges have been waived by the council, outdoor space granted has been increased). This has long been one of my favourite things about a Roman summer: the merging of inside and outside; the insouciant juxtaposition of grandeur and ordinariness.
Another of my favourite things is the effortlessness with which one can admire, for example, one of the triumphs of Baroque architecture. As I scootered back, I stopped at the only traffic light I always hope will be red. It’s at the junction of via del Quirinale and via delle Quattro Fontane. Indeed there are four fountains, but the star of the junction is the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, also known as San Carlino for its tiny footprint. Squeezed into an awkward corner on the ridge of the Quirinal, its architect Francesco Borromini managed to cram in not only a church but also a monastery for the Discalced Trinitarians who commissioned it.
The sun-bleached façade undulates––the classical language of Vitruvius and Bramante sent through a hall of mirrors; the solidity of the Renaissance turned on its head and set in the quicksand of faith.
In front of the wibbly-wobbly church, suspended from a cross-wire in what I shall never cease to consider a relentlessly exotic manner, is the traffic light. I had my minute of the finest the Baroque has to offer, the light changed and I turned right. Fifty metres down the road, I passed Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, the church Bernini considered his finest achievement. Not bad for a spot of drive by Baroque.
Such is my enthusiasm for these churches that I’m going to talk about both of them (inside and out) in one of the two new Zoom talks I’ve just put up.
Borromini, Bernini, and the Baroque: Breaking Rules and Squeezing Pediments will run on Wed 29 July, Sat 1 Aug at 7pm CET & Tues 4th at 11am CET.
The other talk is Ostia Antica: Daily Life in the port of Rome which runs on Wed 5 Aug, Sat 8 Aug at 7pm CET & Tues 11th at 11am CET.
Both will last 50 mins plus questions and cost €15 per person.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for booking and payment details.