Bernini, the genius of Baroque

In this itinerary we suggest a very different way of organizing your time in Rome -- around the works of brilliant artist, sculptor, and architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini, considered a worthy successor to Michelangelo, wooed Rome’s papal and power elite to renew the city of Rome in the Baroque style. The result is that much of the city as we see it today, its monuments and churches, are his creation.

Day 1 - “The embrace” of St. Peter's Square

First stop, St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, the symbol of Rome and of all Christianity. Bernini conceived the majestic colonnade surrounding the square and the religious buildings to symbolize the way the Church embraces believers. A revolutionary design at the time, he sought to instill a sense of grandeur, wonder and awe.

You can explore the relationship between faith and works of art in the Vatican with Art and Faith: a Guided Tour of the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter's Basilica . Bernini also created two masterpieces inside the Basilica. The first is the tomb of Pope Urban VIII, with the pontiff seated on the throne flanked by allegories of Charity and Justice, crowned by a skeleton representing Death. The other work is the Baldacchino (canopy), which thanks to the richness of its twisted columns and decoration is one of the symbols of the Vatican. Discover the history and details of the Basilica and its square with our Guided Visit Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter's Basilica, where you also will find other works by Bernini along with some of the most beautiful artistic masterpieces in the world, including Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. A visit to the Vatican Museums is always recommended.

Day 2 - The Fountains, a Baroque explosion

Leaving the Vatican, head towards Piazza Navona along Via della Conciliazione. At the end of the street you’ll find Castel Sant'Angelo , strikingly beautiful and rich in history. Ponte Sant'Angelo hosts Bernini’s ten spectacular angel statues, decorating the bridge to create one of the most famous scenes of the city immortalized in paintings and films such as Angels and Demons by Dan Brown . Cross the Ponte Vittorio continuing on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, arriving in Piazza Navona, symbol of Baroque Rome and today a center of Rome’s nightlife.

Here stands the Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini: Domitian's Egyptian obelisk stands over an elliptical tank in the middle of a marble complex of four figures representing the four major rivers known at the time - the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata.
Continue your walk in the heart of classical Rome where time seems to have stopped at the 17th century... Walk along Via del Corso and Via dei Condotti, reaching the beautiful Piazza di Spagna.

In front of the famous Spanish Steps of Trinita dei Monti stands the Fontana della Barcaccia (Old Boat Fountain), started by Bernini's father (Pietro) and completed by Bernini himself. Proceed then to the picturesque Via dei Due Macelli and then Via del Tritone reaching Piazza Barberini, famous for the Triton Fountain commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini (displaying the papal coat of arms).

You are now steps away from the Trevi Fountain inspired by Bernini’s art, and a perfect ending to this part of the route. The nearby Palazzo Barberini National Gallery of Ancient Art is worth a visit: 34 rooms hosting 500 works including masterpieces of Italian and foreign masters of painting such as Raphael, Caravaggio, El Greco, as well as Bernini's busts of Popes and Caravaggio's beautiful David with the Head of Goliath.

Day 3 - The Borghese Gallery and its statues

Your tour of Baroque Rome would not be complete without visiting the Borghese Gallery. Immersed in the green Park of Villa Borghese, the gallery hosts an invaluable collection of art displayed in luxurious rooms. Here you will find works by Raphael, Rubens, Titian, in addition to the world's largest collection of paintings by Caravaggio.

There are eight major sculptures by Bernini, including the Goat Amalthea, Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius, the Rape of Proserpine, and the David, with a face thought to be the author's. Also striking is the incredible Apollo and Daphne, a spectacular and terrible scene depicting Daphne’s metamorphosis chased by Apollo, a unique work of art for its allegorical value and the emotion transmitted by the movement and the look of the characters. Ticket reservations are mandatory and there's limited availability, so schedule your visit early!

Bernini's Heritage in Churches and Chapels

The masterpieces in the Vatican are just the beginning of Bernini's work in Rome. Churches and chapels throughout Rome contain his sculptures and reflect his architectural influence. A different way to discover the best ones is to take our Rome Cruiser Bike Tour with Guide. If you'd rahter walk, depart from the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria (between Barberini and Repubblica), where the Cornaro Chapel hosts the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila.

This is considered Bernini's best sculpture for its fusion of theatricality and religion, and its powerful images. At Via del Quirinale 29 you will find Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, one of the absolute masterpieces of Baroque architecture thanks to the concave facade with Corinthian pilasters and a triangular pediment. On Via del Quirinale you will also find San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, a masterpiece by Borromini, the other genius of the Roman Baroque (and Bernini's rival) also known for the revolutionary church of S. Ivo alla Sapienza, a few steps away from the Pantheon.