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Optical Illusions in Rome

Photo Credit: Anthony Majanlahti

The incredible city of Rome is a feast for your eyes, but can you always trust what you are seeing?  Here are some of very favorite optical illusions in Rome.

Galleria Spada  

In the Piazza Capo di Ferro, near the Piazza Farnese and Campo di Fiori is the Palazzo Spada which houses the private art collection of Bernardino Spada.  The real treasure, however is hidden in a quiet corner of the courtyard. Designed by Francesco Boromini, one of Rome’s most important Baroque architects. Find the amazing example of forced perspective that makes the length of the corridor look much longer than it actually is.

Piazza San Pietro – Saint Peters Square

The magnificent Basilica di San Pietro dominates the vast Piazza San Pietro.

Under the patronage of Pope Alexander VII, who was behind many streets and buildings in Rome during his papacy in the mid 1600’s. He commissioned his good friend Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design a piazza that would show off the splendor and power of the catholic church. in 1656 Bernini began work on the piazza. Construction was completed in 1667. The plans for the piazza went through many changes and shapes including a trapezoid, a circle and eventually the elliptical shape that you see today. The piazza measures 1,115 feet by 787 feet.

There are 284 columns and 88 pillars set in four rows.  This impressive work is according to the artist, said to symbolize,  he ‘gathering of Christianity’.  Find the small disc to the left of the obelisk if you are facing the basilica. Stand directly on top of the disc and look towards the large columns.  Watch the four rows disappear into one single row.

Shrinking Cupola 

via Niccolò Piccolomini

Hail a taxi, rent a car, bike, or scooter, you can even take a bus for this incredible trick of the eye near Vatican city.  Start at the end of the street -  via Niccolò Piccolomini  – the farthest away from the view of the dome of Saint Peter’s and head towards it.  The closer you get to the dome the smaller it appears!  The illusion will still work if you are on foot, but it is much more dramatic if you are on wheels. This illusion known as an Illusion of Contrast that has to do with perspective, the round shape of the dome and a slight curve in the horizon that combined  create this fantastic trick of the eye.

The Ceiling in Sant’Ignazio

Andrea Pozzo was a well know baroque painter living in Rome in the 1600’s.  His illusory technique called quadratura was particularly masterful. The nave ceiling of the Sant’Ignazio church near the Pantheon is thought of as his masterpiece.  measuring 55 feet in diameter this detailed painting is one of Rome’s most astonishing optical illusions. A large dome was planned to be built like so many churches in Baroque Rome, but a neighboring convent complained that it’s construction would block their view.  Andrea Pozzo came up with a solution that you will believe is three dimensional. As you move from directly underneath the image, it flattens and you can see the illusion’s trick.

 

 

Post By Priscila Siano (198 Posts)

+Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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