This hill is the highest of the original 7 hills of Rome and covers an area which starts from the top of Piazza di Spagna steps (Trinita’ dei Monti) across to the Stazione Termini. It is also accessed from the bottom of the Via Veneto/ Piazza Barberini. A more impressive access is from the Trevi Fountain and up to the Piazza del Quirinale with its lovely Roman statues of the Dioscuri twins, Castor and Pollux.
Before delving into the Quirinal hill itself this is a useful point to have a quick look at the Trevi fountain. It is the most famous fountain in the whole city and probably one of, if not the most famous fountain in the world. It is the largest in the city and possibly set in one of the smallest squares so that the disproportion tends to enhance the sense of grandeur.
The fountain is actually a “Mostra”: the show piece of where ancient Roman aqueducts actually handed their water over to the city. The aqueduct in this case is the Aqua Vergine whose construction was initiated by Agripa: Emperor Augustus’ right hand man and builder of the Pantheon. The amazing show piece we see was actually created around 1750 by the Nicola Salvi with sculptures by other artists.
The central portion of the façade is inspired by the ancient Roman triumphal arches. The central niche has an image of Ocean, the king of the seas, riding on a sea shell carriage drawn by sea horses. Ocean is flanked by images of Health (left) and Abundance (right). The squares above narrate Agrippa giving the go-ahead for the aqueduct’s construction and the legend of the water’s origins. Popular myth has it that you should throw a coin over your shoulders and into the fountain in order to come back to Rome, two to get married and three to divorce.
Antique prints dating to before the 1700’s show the fountain as a simple bath on the back of a plain building, used by washer women to do their laundry.
The Quirinal is less interesting from the point of view of shopping and dining and tends to be relatively quiet. During the empire the hill tended to be an upper class residential area. The hill was pretty much abandoned after the fall of the Empire and was only subject of urban planning from the 16th Century onwards as powerful families began to built their palaces there again.
The Quirinal palace and gardens was the summer residence of the Pope. It then became summer residence of the Kings of Italy and is now the official residence of the President of the Italy.
The Palazzo Barberini is well worth a visit for its expetional art collection. The Barberini were a powerful family which counted ruthless Cardinals and Pope’s (Urban VIII) amongst its members: “The Barberini did what the Barbarians failed to do” was the popular saying. For example, the central bronze baldachin over the alter in saint peters and the cannons at castle St. Angelo were made with the bronze Pope Urban “pillaged” from the Pantheon.
The Quirinal hill also has its fair share of imposing Roman remains, particularly Diocletian’s thermal baths (on piazza della Repubblica) which Michaelangelo transformed into the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
As churches go San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane is a pearl of the Baroque (by the architect Borromini). Also within this area is the Palazzo Massimo which contains the Roman museum.
Areas of Rome: | The Vatican | Capitoline hill | Palatine hill | The Forums | Villa Borghese & Villa Giulia | Piazza del Popolo | Pantheon | Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori | Quirinal hill | Esquiline hill | Caelius hill | Aventine hill | Trastevere & Janiculum hill | Via Veneto | Outside the city walls |