9 May 2015

Rome: A walk on the Quirinal Hill

By the time we arrived in the area around the Roman Forums (where you could spend the whole day visiting the sites of the Trajan Markets, the Imperial Forum and the Colosseum) it was obvious that there would be more rain showers and as this was a circular exercise where we would be walking uphill in the streets of the Quirinal Hill in order to return to the railway station we slowly made our way towards Piazza del Quirinale.

The Trajan Forum and the Trajan Markets. The Trajan Markets was a commercial area which was built on different street levels on the Quirinal Hill.  There are now exhibitions on Roman urban living in the newly restored complex of buildings.

The Quirinal Hill is the highest and largest of the seven hills of Rome and at the summit is the Piazza del Quirinale surrounded on three sides by 17th and 18th century buildings.  On the fourth side there's a clear view of St. Peter's Basilica and if you walk down hill again you come to the area where the Trevi fountain is located.

In the piazza is the structure of the Monte Cavallo Fountain (Horse Mountain Fountain) with water basin, obelisk (which was moved from the nearby Mausoleum of Emperor Augustus in the 18th century) and the marble sculptures of horse tamers with prancing horses (Castor and Pollux) that were originally in the Roman Baths of Constantine which occupied the site of the Palazzo Della Consulta (below).

The Palazzo della Consulta was built in the mid 18th century to house the papal court and is now the buildings of The Italian Supreme Court.

Palazzo del Quirinale.  On the site was the town villa of Ippolito II d'Este. His country villa outside Rome in the town of Tivoli is the Villa d'Este which is known for the surrounding beautiful hillside gardens where there are fantastic water features and fountains.

In 1583 Pope Gregory XIII had new works constructed over the old villa and it became the popes' summer palace as it was thought to be a healthy site high up on the hill. Bernini had a hand in the design and the palace extends 360 ms along the Via del Quirinale as it needed to house all the services and workers of the pontifical state as well as the barracks of the Swiss Guards.

Later the Quirinale was a royal palace and for a short time became the headquarters of the imperial court under Napoleon before returning to being a royal residence. Since 1948 it has been the seat of the President of the Republic of Italy.

For the last decade or so conservation has been taking place and this interested me as one of my husband's relatives is involved in the building works. The exterior walls of the Quirinale complex have been changed from a tone of red to a honey/burnt Siena colour scheme based on historical documents.

The Scuderie del Quirinale (Quirinal stables) stands on part of some Roman archaeological remains which can still be seen.  It was restored and inaugurated on 21 December 1999 as a cultural venue for exhibitions of masterpieces loaned from important international art collections and as an educational facility. There's a bookshop specialising in books on art, photography as well as more general subjects and a restaurant which was well worth noting for a return visit to the piazza.

There are two small public gardens along Via del Quirinale.
In one of the gardens is the Monument to The Fallen (below). The dismal light made it difficult to photograph although the rainy weather conditions seemed to suit the subject of the sculpture of the two soldiers wrapped in their heavy great coats or cloaks and with heads bowed.

Further along Via del Quirinale there's a busy intersection between this street and the Via delle Quattro Fontane.

Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) wanted to improve the supply of water and he built an aqueduct which brought water in to the three main hilly districts within the city. The water was distributed through a network of public fountains.  Some were constructed using public funds and others such as these four fountains were built by private citizens who then had the right to supply water to their properties.

Each fountain is different and includes various symbolic details associated with Rome and its heritage and culture. For example, the statue of a reclining woman holding three pears with water flowing from three mountains are heraldic symbols of the pope. With the dog beside her it's thought that she may represent the virtue of Fidelity, but there are no records to confirm this.

The woman with the swan is thought to represent Juno.

The above fountain is believed to represent the River Tiber. There's an oak tree and a she-wolf, symbol of Rome, but these details were added later.

The above represents the River Aniene, a tributary of the River Tiber, which provided most Roman aqueducts with water.
The Via del Quirinale is a long one and continues as Via XX Settembre with more to see along the way so I shall stop at this point and perhaps share more another time.