The Best Design and Architecture: Uncovering Rome’s opulent baroque architecture

Rocco Forte Hotels

Born out of the proportional elegance of High Renaissance architecture the theatrical Baroque style brought dynamism, movement and a renewed sense of grandeur to Rome.


Typified by Bernini and Borromini, the sinuously flowing designs and motifs still seem extraordinary and brave even today. The buildings, as so often in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, that still stand proud as the pinnacle of the Baroque, were the churches, with the style seen as a tribute to the glory of the Roman Catholic church.


At Rocco Forte Hotels there has always been an emphasis on strong design and theatrical elegance. Nowhere more so than Hotel de la Ville and Hotel de Russie, which celebrate the Grand Tour’s history and thirst for knowledge, making it the perfect base from which to explore the opulence of Rome’s great baroque architecture.


Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all'Argentina

20 minute walk

Designed by Giacomo da Vignola in 1568, Chiesa del Gesù was the first Jesuit church in Rome and became the archetype of many Catholic churches in the Baroque period, with its Latin-cross plan, side chapels and dome, and a façade, created by Giacomo della Porta, which was added in 1575. The church’s main attraction is a striking ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (known as Baciccio) titled ‘The Triumph of the Name of Jesus’, in which saints bathed in divine light appear to erupt out of the fresco into the surrounding architecture.


Santa Susanna

15 minute walk

Although it was founded in the ninth century, Santa Susana’s construction continued until 1603 when Carlo Maderno designed its façade. Reinterpreting many of Gesú’s style elements and using a wealth of decorative detailing, Maderno placed double columns on each side of the door and crowned the door and the church with simple gabled pediments. The church consists of a single nave with two side chapels, and inside, six stunning frescoes represent scenes from the life of Susana found in the Book of Daniel.


Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

20 minute walk

The small but arresting Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza is a Baroque masterpiece, standing out for the design of its dome with its corkscrew lantern surmounted by a cross. Designed by Borromini for the Università di Roma following a plan resembling a star of David, this church dates back to 1660 and has a concave façade that seemingly melds into the courtyard. The star of its light-filled interior is Borromini’s rotunda in which he fuses various geometrical shapes. Looking up the dome appears much higher than it really is. Other highlights of the interior include Pietra da Cortona’s picture of St Yves and Borromini’s sculptures and motifs.


San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

10 minute walk

Commissioned in 1634, Francesco Borromini designed the influential San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane church as part of a small monastery for Spanish monks. Defined by convex curves and an undulating façade, its curves are also found in its unusual floor plan of a Greek cross, and came to characterise Baroque architecture. The central figure of Saint Charles Borromeo by Antonio Raggi hovers above the entrance and statues of St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois stand at either side.


Rome’s fascinating Baroque churches are all within easy reach of Hotel de la Ville, Hotel de Russie and Rocco Forte House. To find out more, get in touch with our concierge at or or  call +39 06 977 931.

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