Bernini’s genius: Making stone speak

Gian Lorenzo Bernini made sculptures that are simply astonishing. I look at his work and marvel that he lived more than 300 years ago, from 1598 to 1680.

The two most awesome fountains I experienced in Rome were designed by him: The Four Rivers Fountain and the Trevi Fountain. Oceanus absolutely bursts out of Trevi’s stone and I wish I had been able to return to make a better photo of the full magnificence of his figure, the horses and other figures. Bernini designed but did not build his glorious fountain; however, his style pours out of it. (Pictured above.)

One small section of the Four Rivers Fountain, with the Church of the Agony in the background

My shots of Four Rivers also do not do that fountain justice. We visited at night, which is how they should first be seen – it is an almost mystical experience to see them emerge from the dark, glowing like planets. Four Rivers stands in front of a tremendous building, Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, or the Church of the Agony in Piazza Navona. Visitors could spend an entire day in just this one piazza to fully experience the fountains and the church.

Two of my three favorite sculptures in the Borghese Gallery (itself a work of art) were Bernini creations: David and Apollo and Daphne. Another smaller figure – a rider and horse – was so full of his touch that I include a photo

Now THAT is a horse!

here, even though it is distorted from the glass cover. I loved David – so full of energy and purpose – and am convinced that he looks like someone trying to fell a giant. I did not care for the theme of Apollo and Daphne, as she only escapes being raped by turning into a tree, but was completely gobsmacked by the figures.

David about to fell Goliath

Bernini worked against the nature of stone and made it alive, made it speak, pulled the story out so it became breathtaking.

What would it be like to have all of that beauty inside one heart and mind? To have Oceanus awaiting release, swirling and calling through the stone. To have David’s feet thudding, his sling whistling, and perhaps hearing

Daphne escapes nasty Apollo by shape shifting

involuntary grunts as muscles strained for the throw, reaching out of the marble.

History suggests he was a little bit crazy. Perhaps a lot. But he made some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen.

Ecco Roma!

Next street over from ours

(Here is Rome!)

Staying in Rome is a full-on sensory experience. Any big city will immerse visitors in its own bold expression of life, but Rome was unique to my North American perceptions. It is just different from anything in my experience: the palette of warm colors; the buildings and architectural style; the exotic-looking trees; the hordes of

The Tiber River after a rainstorm

tourists intermingled with crowds of Italians; the streets, so narrow in old parts of Rome; the lava rock cobblestones; the traffic (crazy, wild free-for-all!); the language; the layers of history; the never-ending graffiti; the amazingly tasty food; the sound of the birds; the stylish clothes; even the sky hue and tone.

As a traveler I was submerged in another world.  Some of the photos featured on this page reflect my discoveries and delights. They don’t represent all of my experiences,

Cell phone break

such as riding on Rome’s bus and metro (subway) system, which I shall fervently avoid on any other trips. Nor riding on trains transformed by a complete covering of graffiti – even the windows – that made me feel like I was part of an angrily weird living art installation. Or trying to walk quickly on cobblestones that over the years have arranged

Camouflaged  doorway

themselves according to the whims of the heaving, changing earth below.

Around almost every corner was something stunningly old, beautiful or colorful. Our group had a rich and busy itinerary that took us to places that continually astonished me. I simply ran out of words to describe the impact. Toward the end of my visit, my senses were on overload, my feet ached and I was

People walk, bicycles ride, and scooters and cars drive up and down this lane. Really.

exhausted from the miles of walking in heat and humidity. But I came home richer as a traveler, a writer and a human being. And I made some new friends!

All of the photos featured here were taken within a few blocks of where I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome.

Trees parade by the Tiber River
View from our kitchen at sunset