Perhaps unexpectedly, our Roma Barocca stroll starts with imperial Rome, not Bernini and Borromini! The Quirinal Hill was a residential district during the empire and was therefore fit out with all the infrastructure that Romans needed to live decently. As we discuss the Quirinal’s history at our meeting point in Piazza del Quirinale, two ancient Roman statues will overshadow us. Representing Castor and Pollux, they originally decorated the monumental public baths that Emperor Constantine bestowed on the neighborhood. One of them can be seen in the picture here.
After several devastating invasions in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D., the Quirinal Hill, its apartment buildings, public baths, and senatorial villas were slowly abandoned. During one of those invasions (in 537 A.D.), Goth enemies destroyed the aqueducts that furnished Rome with water. At that point, the Quirinal, Rome’s tallest hill, was left high and dry. Without water, the area lost its appeal. Until the mid-1500s! At that point, astute Cardinal Felice Peretti invested in cheap real with the idea of constructing a villa on the deserted hill.