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Posts tagged ‘Bernini’

Compendium // Rome > The Perfect Navona Morning

Compendium // a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication. The word says it all, and as The Daily Norm enters a new millennia of posts and travel shares, I have decided to collect thoughts and tips from my own travels in a series of Compendia. Starting in Rome.

Rome is not just a city. It is an experience ripe like an overflowing cornucopia of delicious fruit, waiting to be savoured across a broad spectrum enveloped in richly historical heritage, diva attitude and unabashed street-by-street beauty all bathed in the most glorious terracotta light. But its global reach today is as mighty as its ancient Empire two millennia ago, not so much for its political prowess but for its tourist pull. So to do Rome well, you need to avoid the pitfalls, the dodgy restaurants, and wherever possible the flag-led, headphone-donned, selfie-stick sustained coach parties. Eugh.


Today’s tip for doing Rome well is to get up early, and savour the delights which come of having this stunning city all to yourself. Even in January, when last I went, the sweet seduction of Rome’s ever present sun invited an early rise and made venturing into the still quiet-streets an easy exercise. Hotel location is always important, especially on a short weekender, and my locality, mere steps from the Piazza Navona, meant that I could enjoy this most spectacular of Roman Piazzas as the first rays of Winter sunshine hit the sculptural masterpieces which have made the Square such an icon of Baroque Rome.

Baroque is certainly the word. For this oblong square, which lends its shape to the Stadium of Domition on whose foundations it has been built, is more of an artfest than it is a mere city space. For it was here that, at the height of Baroque splendour and Papal theatricals, Pope Innocent X commissioned Bernini to create the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) as part of his grand plan to put Rome firmly back on the artistic and power-map of Europe. It is, by far, one of the most spectacular fountains you are ever likely to see, and enjoyed first thing in the morning, before those damned selfie-sticks start sneaking their way into every one of your photos, it makes for the perfect commencement to your Roman day.


Turn away from Bernini’s masterpiece, and two other fountain wonders by Giacomo della Porta depicting a Moor wrestling with a Dolphin, and a statute of water-God Neptune respectively can be enjoyed, as can the oval encirclement of the kind of russet, terracotta, pink and butterscotch buildings which make Rome such a year-round place of warmth and splendour. Then, once you’ve soaked in this highlight of Rome, sneak in another anti-crowd coup, and head to my favourite cafe in all of Rome: Caffe Tazza d’Oro on the Piazza della Rotunda, where a simple pastry and a coffee taken standing up at the bar, Italian style, takes on new Roman authenticity, especially with the immaculate ancient Pantheon stands just outside the door.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Natale Italiano | Rome – Day 3: The Mastery of Bernini

Boxing day was officially renamed “Bernini Day” on 26th December of last year, as we set about discovering the works of this genius which literally pepper the city of Rome with as much generosity as London is filled with red telephone boxes. Starting off with coffee opposite our beloved Pantheon in the Piazza della Rotunda, we only had to walk mere metres past the stunning Roman Temple to the Piazza della Minerva to see Bernini’s rather grand elephant sculpture, showing very little of the strain of the ancient Egyptian obelisk which it carries on its back. Meanwhile, a short walk to the West of the Pantheon took us to the even more spectacular Piazza Navona, where of course that incredible Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Bernini lords magnificently over the centre of the not so square Square. That incredible gushing fountain, which appears to bring the gods of the rivers to life before one’s very eyes, also carries at its centre an ancient obelisk, albeit that this time the obelisk is far grander, and one of the most impressible of the 13 major obelisks featured in Rome’s most prominent piazzas (although I understand that this once hails from ancient Rome, rather than ancient Egypt).

Minerva and Navona – two sights of Bernini’s mastery with marble

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All this Bernini sightseeing had given us a taste for something a little more appetising to set our sights upon, and the proximity of the bustling Campo de’ Fiore meant lunch was not far at hand. The Campo, which translates as “field of flowers” is one of my favourite spots in Rome, particularly in the warmer weather when the encircling buildings are soaked with sunshine, and in the square below, market stalls selling the freshest produce and flowers burst into life. On this Boxing (sorry, Bernini) Day, the Campo was relatively quiet, but its restaurants happily open for business – the crispy Pizza with speck and zucchini which followed our entry into one such establishment was truly a delight worthy of this food-lover’s paradise.

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Back to business in the afternoon, and after a sad farewell to my partner’s dearest Mama, we took advantage of the last dying hours of Roman light to make a visit to another of Bernini’s renowned masterpieces, The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa, contained within the Cornaro chapel of the Santa Maria della Vittoria. This stunning sculpture, which appears to show the figures of St Teresa and an angel floating on clouds made of marble, depicts an episode in the life of Teresa of Avila, a mystical cloistered Discalced Carmelite nun, who described a visitation by an angel who appeared to stab her with a golden spear filling her with the pain and ecstasy of god’s love. Lit from above by a little hidden window which reflects off the gilded stucco rays behind the sculptures, this work is truly a masterpiece of Bernini’s oeuvre, and perhaps the most theatrical of all his works.

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For our final foray into the masterpieces of this genius of marble, we went to see Bernini’s mastery, not over sculpture, but over architecture. Yes, after a final Roman dinner in the atmospheric Ristorante Babette in the Via Margutta, we headed to a place whose structure is indebted to the genius of Bernini – St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. This central seat of Catholicism revels in the theatre of religious power and position, and for any visitor walking along the Via della Conciliazione towards St Peter’s imposing façade, there can be no doubting the monumental aspect of this approach. However, surely the most imposing and dramatic feature is the huge colonnaded piazza in front of St Peter’s, a piazza which provides ample space for all the visiting faithful, and further underlines the scale and magnitude of this centre of the Catholic Church. And who was responsible for the architectural design of the palazzo with its vast double rowed colonnades? Why Bernini, of course.

Nighttime walk to Vatican City

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And with that monumental encounter with one of Bernini’s final masterpieces, we ended our last full day in the magnificent city of Rome, a city which provided us with such a rich festive experience, and whose streets and squares continued to buzz, despite the passing of the Christmas season. The following day, we would pack up our bags (and my little pop up Christmas tree) once again, and head further South – to Napoli.


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The Daily Sketch ITALIA – Norms at the Vatican

Just a hop across Rome’s River Tiber, along the Ponte Sant’ Angelo, is a entirely different city. An entirely different country in fact – Vatican City, home of the Pope, head of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is undoubtedly stunning. The immense Basilica of St Peter, and Bernini’s elaborately colonnaded St. Peter’s Square awes with all of the intended spectacle which is only appropriate for the centre of one of the world’s most prominent religions. The Vatican is home to some of the greatest art collections ever known to man – the Belvedere Torso, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, and Raphael’s vast School of Athens, as well as the peculiar site of the Vatican’s own troop of security, the puffy-costumed, beret-wearing Swiss Guards. But something our tourist Norms could never have hoped to witness, on their brief visit, was a parade of Pope Norm and the full school of eminent Cardinal Norms themselves. Spectacle never got bigger than this.

Norms at the Vatican (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.