Giuseppe Vasi's Digression - Ariccia
Ariccia is very close to Albano, especially since 1854, when a long bridge across a ravine
cut short the winding road which linked the two towns. The development of Ariccia is strictly associated with pope Alexander VII
and his family, the Chigi,
who in 1661 acquired this small fief from the Savelli.
Alexander VII asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to redesign Ariccia to change the rural aspect of the newly acquired possession and to give it a very modern and urban appearance. The gates and the building shown above belong to this phase of the development of Ariccia.
Ariccia stands over a bowl-shaped valley, the crater of an extinct volcano and it enjoys fine views towards the sea. The bridge built in the XIXth century, while responding to very practical needs has the disadvantage of bringing too many cars into the large square (Piazza di Corte) designed by Bernini.
In 1657-62 Bernini had worked at the restoration of the Pantheon in particular of its portico which had been in part occupied by small houses and in general he cleared the ancient building of all the medieval additions which hid its original shape. In S. Maria dell'Annunciazione he had in mind the Pantheon and he emphasized its cylindrical shape by adding two lateral porches which embrace the church.
Bernini had added to the Pantheon two small bell towers above the portico, but for the Pantheon he designed in Ariccia he chose a less intrusive location and built them on the back of the apse. The interior of the church has a rich stucco decoration based on just two colours: white and gold.
Palazzo Chigi is not a small casino meant for a short summer retreat, but an imposing palace larger than the palaces the Chigi had in Rome in Piazza Colonna and in Piazza SS. Apostoli (now Palazzo Odescalchi). It belonged to the Chigi family until 1988.
Two fountains embellish the square, both a reminder of Alexander VII and his heraldic symbols: six mountains and a star.
Bernini was asked by Alexander VII to redesign a sanctuary (S. Maria di Galloro) outside Ariccia on the road to Genzano.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next step in your tour of the Environs of Rome: Nemi
See my Home Page on Baroque Rome or my Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller.