Top 5 (+1) places where to see Bernini's art in Rome

January 14, 2015
Enrico Catani

Architect, sculptor and painter… Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680) definitely was one of the greatest artist of that era. Permeated with passion and vitality, his art works are a splendid example of the baroque's extravagant theatricality. Gianlorenzo Bernini’s art is scattered all along the city, and if you walk through the historic centre of Rome you will certainly run into some of his greatestmasterpieces: from public fountains and church interiors to outstanding sculptures and exquisite paintings housed in public galleries.
So, to help you out, ItalyXP has made a list of where to find Gianlorenzo Bernini's top sculptures, architecture, and paintings in Rome.

1. Piazza Navona

At the centre of this oval square, right in the heart of Rome, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the most famous masterpiece by Bernini: the Fountain of the Four Rivers, a wonderful example of Baroque art andone of the greatest fountains in Rome.
Completed in 1651, the original plan of the architect was to create a fountain that has to be admired walking around it, giving to the viewer the possibility of gradually discovering new details from different points of view.
Each of the four giant statues represents a major river of the then-known four continents: the Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the Americas.
Interesting fact: the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which stands right in front of the fountain, was designed by architect Borromini, the greatest rival of Bernini. Their rivalry was so brutal that Bernini sculptured the giant figures above the fountain as if they were showing disdain for the church: one of the statues shows fear for the imminent collapse of the building, while other statues seem to turn away from it in disgust. 

2. Galleria Borghese

In this splendid art gallery, located in the centre of the Villa Borghese, you can visit many amazing early sculptures realized by Bernini in his late early 20s, including the David, the Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Persephone, and – realized along with his dad, Pietro Bernini – the Aeneas and Anchises.
Among those, particularly interesting is the sculpture of Apollo and Daphne: a life-sized Baroque marble masterpiece, carried out in three years of work (1922 – 1925), which depicts the legend of the tormented love between the god Apollo and the nymph Daphne, who was transformed into a laurel tree by her father Peneus, god of the woods. And this is the exact episode that artist Bernini decided to represent in his sculpture. 
You can admire those splendid art works by Bernini through a guided tour with skip-the-line tickets!

3. Sant’Angelo Bridge

The Ponte Sant’Angelo, originally known as as “Ponte Elio” from the name of the emperor Elio Hadrian, certainly is among the most beautiful bridges in Rome. It was built in 239 AD to connect the city to the entrance of his mausoleum: the magnificent Castel Sant'Angelo.
Many important historical events connected to this bridge have occurred over the centuries: in 1300, the first “Holy Year” proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII, was imposed for access to the bridge a traffic regulation for the large crowd of pilgrims. Dante Alighieri testifies that on the deck, which was the shortest way to get to the Saint Peter's Basilica from the city, were created two opposite paths delineated by a row of box offices.
The appearance of the monumental bridge, now has undergone several transformations over the centuries. But since the 1668 it was beautifully enriched with ten amazing statues of angels, all designed by master Bernini. Make sure to cross this enchanting bridge, to admire those sculpture and reach the Vatican City.

4. Saint Peter’s Square

The Saint Peter's Square, known locally as Piazza San Pietro,is the main square of the Vatican City and one of the main attractions in all of Rome.Overlooked by the imposing Saint Peter’s Basilica, the square is an architectural masterpiece designed in the 17th century by Bernini.
This magnificent elliptical square is surrounded by two sides of imposing Doric columns arranged in prominent colonnades which, according to Bernini, symbole the embracing arms of Mother Church. This is probably the greatest place of worship in Italy and one of the main gathering place for tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. 
A visit to the Saint Peter’s Square is almost a prerequisite for any visitor in Rome: you can book a vatican private guided tour with skip-the-line tickets, as well as a vatican small-group tour and a vatican group tour.  

5. Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums, which are located in the beautiful Piazza del Campidoglio, house some important works of Bernini
The first one, the Marble Head of Medusa, represents the famous mythological monster: according to the Greek myth she was a woman with snakes for hair, who could turned anyone to stone who gazed on her. The statue. Like many of Bernini's sculptures, this depicts the most dramatic and transitory moment as she reveals her own pain and anquish.  
The second one is the Statue of Urban VIII. The depicted Pope was actually Bernini's greatest patron and who put Bernini in charge of his entire artistic career. Bernini realized other works depicting this Pope, most notably his tomb in Saint Peter's Basilica.

(+1). Spanish Steps

Located in the central part of the Piazza di Spagna, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, the Fontana della Barcaccia (which can be translated as “Fountain of the Worthless Boat” or “Fountain of the Ugly Boat”) was crafted in 1627 by Pietro Bernini, probably helped by his son, Gianlorenzo.
The humour? The fountain depicts a sinking boat, half submerged and spouting water out from its sides. Legend says that before the walls along the Tiber were built, the river often flooded and once, during a great flood in 1598, a boat was washed ashore and remained in the square after the water drained away. 
An enchanting piece of art, best to be visited early in the morning, in order to avoid the hundreds of tourists that crowd the square everyday and enjoy it in peace before moving on to other sites!

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