Showing posts with label Palazzo Poli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palazzo Poli. Show all posts

7 September 2018

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli – poet

Sonnet writer satirised life in 19th century Rome

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli's poems often poked  fun at the Roman Catholic church
Giuseppe Gioachino Belli's poems often poked
 fun at the Roman Catholic church
The poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was born on this day in 1791 in Rome and was christened Giuseppe Francesco Antonio Maria Gioachino Raimondi Belli.

He was to become famous for his satirical sonnets written in Romanesco, the dialect of Rome.

After taking a job in Civitavecchia, a coastal town about 70km (44 miles) northwest of Rome, Belli’s father moved the family to live there, but after he died - of either cholera or typhus - his wife returned to Rome with her children and took cheap lodgings in Via del Corso.

Living in poor circumstances, Belli began writing sonnets in Italian at the suggestion of his friend, the poet Francesco Spada.

In 1816, Belli married a woman of means, Maria Conti, and went to live with her in Palazzo Poli, the palace that forms the backdrop to the Trevi Fountain. This gave him the freedom to develop his literary talents. They had a son, Ciro, in 1824.

The palace was Belli’s home for 21 years, from 1816 to 1837, but he was able to travel to other places in Italy where he came into contact with new ideas. It was during a stay in Milan that he first encountered dialect poetry and satire. The sonnets of Carlo Porta provided him with a model for the poems in Roman dialect that eventually were to make him famous.

The plaque marking the birthplace of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, in Via dei Redentoristi in central Rome
The plaque marking the birthplace of Giuseppe Gioachino
Belli, in Via dei Redentoristi in central Rome
His sonnets were often satirical and anti-clerical. For example, he dubbed the Cardinals ‘dog-robbers’ and referred to Pope Gregory XV as ‘someone who kept Rome as his personal inn.’

However, during the democratic rebellion that led to the declaration of a short-lived Roman Republic of 1849, he defended the rights of the Pope.

Belli produced more than 2,200 sonnets that document the life of common people in 19th century Rome. He kept them hidden, apart from occasionally giving recitals to friends. Just before his death he asked his friend, Monsignor Vincenzo Tizzani, to burn them but fortunately his friend handed them over to Belli’s son, Ciro, who published a selection of them in 1866, editing them to prevent them from causing offence at the time.

The first complete edition of Belli’s work was not published till 1952, nearly a century after his death.

Belli satirised the way ordinary  working class Romans lives
Belli satirised the way ordinary
 working class Romans lives
Belli’s sonnets expressed with humour what he observed of the Roman lower classes, satirising the way people lived and the clerical world that oppressed them.

Ironically, the poet later worked as an artistic and political censor for the papal government and prevented the work of Shakespeare, Verdi and Rossini from being circulated, among others.

After his wife’s death in 1837, Belli’s economic situation had worsened again and as he grew older, he lost a lot of his vitality and became increasingly critical of the world around him, describing himself as ‘a dead poet’.

He died in Rome after a stroke in 1863 at the age of 72.

His nephew, the painter Guglielmo Janni, wrote his biography in ten volumes, which was published posthumously.

The monument to Belli off Viale Trastevere
The monument to Belli off Viale Trastevere
Travel tip:

A plaque next to the door marks Giuseppe Gioachino Belli’s birthplace at number 13 Via dei Redentoristi, a back street near the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Valle, which is in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a short distance from the Pantheon in central Rome.  There is a monument to the poet in Piazza Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, which is off Viale Trastevere in Rome, overlooking the Tiber near the Basilica of San Crisogno. It was placed there in 1913 and paid for by the public of Rome.

The Palazzo Poli is the palace immediately behind the Trevi Fountain in the centre of Rome
The Palazzo Poli is the palace immediately behind
the Trevi Fountain in the centre of Rome
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Poli, where Belli lived for more than 20 years, dates back to 1573, when the Anguillara family commissioned the architect Martino Longhi to transform a former palace of Baldovino Del Monte, brother of Pope Julius III. In time it was acquired by Lucrezia Colonna and was renamed in 1712 after her husband, Giuseppe Conti, the Duke of Poli. When plans were drawn up for the Trevi Fountain, the central section was demolished and replaced with the monumental facade designed by Luigi Vanvitelli as the backdrop for fountain, which was designed by Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762.

More reading:

The brilliant lyric poetry of Giacomo Leopardi

How Vittorio Alfieri's poetry inspired the oppressed

Ugo Foscolo - poet and revolutionary

Also on this day:

1303: The kidnapping of Pope Boniface VIII

1893: The founding of Italy's oldest surviving football club


8 February 2018

Nicola Salvi – architect

Creator of Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain was Nicola Salvi's masterpiece
The Trevi Fountain was Nicola Salvi's masterpiece
The architect Nicola Salvi, famous as the designer of the Fontana di Trevi – known in English as the Trevi Fountain and one of the most famous and most visited monuments in Rome – died on this day in 1751.

He was working on the Trevi when he passed away, having been engaged on the project since 1732. It had to be finished by Giuseppe Pannini and the giant statue of Oceanus – the Titan God of the Sea in Greek mythology – set in the central niche, was completed by Pietro Bracci, yet Salvi takes credit as the lead architect.

Salvi ran a workshop in Rome that he had taken over when his master, Antonio Canevari, left the city in 1727 to take up a position working as architectural consultant to the king of Portugal in Lisbon.

He completed a number of commissions on behalf of Canevari but spent a good deal of his time tutoring others and might have made very little impression on architectural history had he not submitted entries for two design competitions run by Pope Clement XII in 1732.

One was for a new façade for the church of San Giovanni in Laterano, for which his design was commended and in which he did have some input along with Alessandro Galilei – the winner – and Luigi Vanvitelli.

Floodlights illuminate the fountain at night
Floodlights illuminate the fountain at night
The other was to revive a project started and then abandoned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini one hundred years earlier to design a new fountain at the end of the former Aqua Virgo Roman aqueduct, in front of the Palazzo Poli.

Accounts of the outcome vary, but there is agreement that Salvi’s design did not win, with plans submitted by either Galilei or Ferdinando Fuga preferred. However, both of those architects were from Florence and there was a public view that the job should go to a Roman and, after considering this, the pope decided to give it to Salvi.

Salvi imagined a fountain composed of a large central basin, surrounded by a rough-hewn cliff from which the Palazzo Poli appears almost to have been carved, the whole composition dominated by the statue of Oceanus, set into the central arched niche of the palace, standing directly above the point at which the water emerges.

The monumental façade of the Palazzo Poli was designed by Vanvitelli to provide the fountain with a suitably dramatic backdrop.

The end product, which takes its names from its location at the convergence of tre vie – three roads, represented a classic of Roman Baroque, the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most significant building built in Rome in the 18th century.

The Via Nicola Salvi in Rome skirts the Colosseum
The Via Nicola Salvi in Rome skirts the Colosseum
It defined the career of Salvi, who had been born in Rome in 1697 to a wealthy family thought to have been from Abruzzo originally. Precociously intelligent, he studied mathematics and philosophy before turning to architecture.

Until the Trevi, after a decline in the number of major structures commissioned across the city compared with the previous century, Salvi’s work had been relatively inconsequential, consisting for the most part of small, decorative projects.

He did build a baptistery at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls but that was destroyed in a fire of 1823, while his reconstructed Chiesa di Santa Maria a Gradi in Viterbo was flattened by bombing during the Second World War.

Salvi died at his home in Via della Colonna in Rome at the age of 53, having developed bronchial problems as a result of many hours spent working in the damp tunnels of the aqueduct.

Large crowds flock to the Trevi at all hours of the day
Large crowds flock to the Trevi at all hours of the day
Travel tip:

The ritual of throwing coins over their shoulders into the Trevi Fountain is followed by thousands of visitors each day.  They used to be stolen regularly by gangs of thieves but a law was introduced making it a crime to fish coins out of the basin. Nowadays, the coins are collected by teams of municipal workers every night and given to a charity called Caritas, which converts the money into shopping vouchers for Romans who have fallen on hard times. The coins collected add up to around €3,000 each day.

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita
Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita
Travel tip:

Part of the Trevi Fountain’s fame around the world is down to the starring role it has played in a number of movies, most notably Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, in which Anita Ekberg jumped into the fountain fully clothed, to be followed by Marcello Mastroianni. The monument also featured in Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain and Disney comedy The Lizzie McGuire Movie. When the revered Mastroianni died in 1996, the fountain was turned off and draped in black crepe as the city’s tribute.