Rome architecture tour | The genius BorrominiRome, Italy
Rome: Borromini, the Insufferable Genius Tour is an inspiring self-guided audio tour in the heart of Rome. Discover credible and original stories written by top local professionals and explore the history of architecture in Rome. Take your tour now and enjoy it instantly on your smartphone device.
The tour celebrates the rivalry between Borromini and Bernini as they both strove to become the pre-eminent architect in Rome. Borromini’s life was defined by this rivalry. According to the latter “in architecture, one should be guided by the human body, but Borromini must have been inspired by chimaeras.” Borromini’s work was admired by few and his personality by none. Even he seemed utterly unsatisfied with himself.
The tour follows the life of Borromini from his birth to his suicide and employs iconic buildings in Rome (both churches and palaces) to demonstrate the guiding principles of his architectural style and the influence exercised on his work by the rivalry of Bernini and his difficult relationships with his patrons and the Roman society at large.
The tour begins at St. Peter’s Basilica and its impressive baldachin, the large sculpted bronze canopy produced by the combined efforts of Bernini and Borromini. As you walk outside and you stand in the middle of St. Peter’s Square you are invited to consider the difficulties faced by Borromini, a quarrelsome but talented man who was not willing to adjust to the social codes of his time to win the acceptance of potential clients. And yet he managed to change forever the face of Rome, as is evident on the basilica of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini and the Oratorio dei Filippini where Borromini almost fulfilled his ambition of building a façade from a single piece of terracotta.
Piazza Navona is defined by Borromini’s work and ideas. The beautification of Piazza Navona was instigated by Pope Innocent X and S. Agnese was the final element in the overall plan. The pope entrusted Borromini with the building of the church of S. Agnese in Agone but it was his misfortune to see his work pass into the hands of his great rival, Bernini. One should not fail to study the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi; a popular story claims that Rio de la Plata seems to struggle to avert his gaze from S. Agnese, as if Bernini wanted to protect him from the sight of his opponent’s façade.
Borromini also excelled in lay architecture. This tour enables you to admire his novel ideas and competent hand in an inspiring assortment of buildings such as Palazzo Barberini, Palazzo Falconieri and the Collegio di Propaganda Fide. It concludes at one of Borromini’s signature works, the innovative concave surface of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.
1. Saint Peter’s BaldacchinoRivalry always pushes an artist to become better. And no artists despised each other with more passion than Francesco Castello Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
2. Fontana dei Quattro FiumiIt is said that Bernini positioned the sculptures at the Fountain of the Four Rivers in such a way as to turn their gaze away from the church built by his rival, Borromini. Myth or fact?
3. Collegio di Propaganda FideFollowing the death of pope Innocent X, Borromini lost all hope of any future papal support. The last twelve years of his life he focused on finishing older commissions.
Saint Peter’s BaldacchinoIn 1649 Borromini was the chief architect at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. One evening he noticed a worker, Marco Antonio Bussone, smashing a boulder on the basilica’s new sculptures. Borromini got furious at this perceived betrayal and ordered his assistants to thrash the worker. Bussone received many heavy blows and succumbed to his wounds. Only the pope’s intervention saved Borromini from punishment.
To each his own
Fontana dei Quattro FiumiEach river carries a number of allegories with it. The Ganges, being eminently navigable, carries a long oar. The Nile's head is draped with a loose piece of cloth because, at the time, nobody knew where its source was. The Rio de la Plata is sitting on a pile of coins as a reminder of the riches of the Americas. The threatening snake on the side is an allegory for the fear of rich men that they will lose their money. The Danube touches the pope's coat of arms, since it is the largest river closest to Rome.
Following the real antiquity
Collegio di Propaganda FideThe columns to the right and to the left of the first floor window are in the Doric order. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was uncommon to use them without a base but Borromini, who was well acquainted with classical architecture, did not use a base. Once more, his attention to detail becomes fodder for criticism by his ignorant doubters who accuse him of veering away from classical principles.
Tiny, happy person who wanted to be a writer but by accident became an Archaeologist. You will find me in libraries working on my PhD. I am the one with the blue hair.
|Address||Saint Peter’s Baldacchino|
|Starting point||Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City|
|Finishing point||23 Via del Quirinale, Roma|
|Areas||Vatican City, Pantheon, Palazzo Barberini, S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Piazza di Spagna|
Why take a self-guided tour?
This is a self-guided tour based on the award-winning storytelling concept developed by Clio Muse and the fascinating narratives prepared by our handpicked destination experts.
You can enjoy each multilingual tour by using your smartphone or tablet at your own pace even if you are offline. The interactive map on your screen will guide you step-by-step as you explore all points of interest along your route. Each stop comes with a selection of our signature stories allowing you to tailor the tour experience to your personal interests and schedule.
After downloading Clio Muse app, you can access this tour and activate it any moment you wish and also repeat it any time. To best enjoy our multimedia self-guided tour (comprising maps, video, audio and text) we recommend the use of headphones.
By clicking "Add to cart", you are purchasing this tour in English. This tour is also available in the following languages: Ελληνικά.