Check Out Corso and Spagna – Piazza Venezia To the Spanish Steps

Worth Noting

Il Gesù

The mother church of the Jesuits in Rome is the prototype of all Counter-Reformation churches. Considered the first fully Baroque church, it has spectacular interior that tells a lot about an era of religious triumph and turmoil. Its architecture (the overall design was by Vignola, the facade by della Porta) influenced ecclesiastical building in Rome for more than a century and was exported by the Jesuits throughout the rest of Europe.

Though consecrated as early as 1584, the interior of the church wasn’t decorated for another 100 years. The most striking element is the ceiling, which is covered with frescoes that swirl down from on high to merge with painted stucco figures at the base. The founder of the Jesuit order himself is buried in the Chapel of St. Ignatius, in the left-hand transept. This is surely the most sumptuous Baroque altar in Rome; as is typical, the enormous globe of lapis lazuli that crowns it is really only a shell of lapis over a stucco base. The heavy bronze altar rail by architect Carlo Fontana is in keeping with the surrounding opulence.

Keats-Shelley Memorial House

Keats-Shelley Memorial House

Sent to Rome in a last-ditch attempt to treat his consumption, English Romantic poet John Keats lived—and died—here, in the “Casina Rossa” (the name refers to the blush-pink facade) at the foot of the Spanish Steps. At that point, this was the heart of the colorful bohemian quarter of Rome that was especially favored by the English. Keats had become celebrated through such poems as “Ode to a Nightingale” and “She Walks in Beauty,” but his trip to Rome was fruitless. He breathed his last here on February 23, 1821, aged only 25, forevermore the epitome of the doomed poet. In this “Casina di Keats,” you can visit his rooms, although all his furnishings were burned after his death as a sanitary measure by the local authorities. You’ll also find a rather quaint collection of memorabilia of English literary figures of the period—Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Joseph Severn, and Leigh Hunt as well as Keats—and an exhaustive library of works on the Romantics.

Palazzo Venezia

Centerpiece of the eponymous piazza, this palace was originally built for Venetian cardinal Pietro Barbo, who became Pope Paul II. It was also the backdrop used by Mussolini to harangue crowds with dreams of empire from the balcony over the main portal. Lights were left on through the night during his reign to suggest that the Fascist leader worked without pause. The palace shows a mixture of Renaissance grace and heavy medieval lines; salons include frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and a Bernini sculpture of Pope Clement X. The café on the loggia has a pleasant view over the garden courtyard.

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