The Quirinal Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome located at the northeast of the city. One of many famous places in Rome, the area boasts many architectural gems built over centuries by Roman aristocrats as well the splendid official residence of the Italian President
Piazza del Quirinale, one of the highest points in the city, offers beautiful views across to the Saint Peter’s Basilica. The magnificent Renaissance Presidential Palace is open to public on some Sunday mornings and is certainly worth a visit even though you would have to queue for about 30 minutes before you get in. Every afternoon the change of guards at the Palace attracts many spectators.
Beside the Presidential Palace stands the spectacular fountain Monte Cavallo with statues of Castor and Pollux holding two horses. Between the mythical twin brothers stands an obelisk from the Mausoleum of Augustus, which was added in the 18th century.
Walking around the Quirinal Hill reminds about the glorious past of the city when powerful local families were trying to surpass each other building grand palaces here, one bigger than the other. Some of them are used today for state institutions such Ministry of Defence and Constitutional Court. The 17th century Palazzo Barberini houses Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica which contains an impressive collection of Renaissance-period paintings, including works from El Greco and Caravaggio. You can chill out in the palazzo’s gardens for free.
The small church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale is a real Baroque pearl built by the famous Bernini, who, apparently, considered his only perfect work. The legends say that he often came here to sit and admire the structure and décor of his own masterpiece. Just down the street from it is another Baroque gem: the beautiful church San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane designed by Francesco Borromini. The two architects were bitter rivals and it is up to you to judge who was better, however, in this particular case, Borromini certainly gets kudos for building a stunning church in such a tricky place, as an intersection of two busy streets. While inside the church make your neck crick a bit and admire the spectacular honeycomb ceiling.
On the outside corner of the church you will see one of the four Renaissance fountains, Quattro Fontane. Each of these four corner fountains is incorporated in the buildings. They depict the rivers Tiber (il Tevere), river Arno, and two goddesses, Diana and Juno. When you will discover this place, you will certainly put it under the category famous places in Rome and understand why it is famous !
Photos by: Giorgio Galeotti, Richard Mortel, Hannah Swithinbank.