Papal Summer Residence
The Quirinal Palace stands on the top of the highest hill in Rome, the Quirinal Hill. The palace was originally built as a papal summer residence by the request of Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 and was completed in 1584. Pope Gregory XIII chose the location on top of the hill as a refuge against the ravages of disease (such as malaria) and the heat that swept through Rome and the Vatican at the time. The facade was designed by Domenico Fontana and the “Great Chapel” was designed by Carlo Maderno. The palace served as an official papal residence until 1870.
Official Royal Residence
In 1870, after Garibaldi’s unification of Italy, the palace became the official royal residence for Italian monarchs of the new Kingdom of Italy. In 1948 it became the Presidential Palace serving as the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. The Italian flag flies on top of the building at all times and the personal flag of the president is flown when he is in Rome. The corazzieri (special guards of the president) watch over the palace at all times, as we discovered when filming (luckily we had a permit!). The Hall of Feasts inside the palace features the largest carpet in Europe. The gardens are open to the public only once a year but the palace can be visited every Sunday morning.
Piazza del Quirinale
The piazza outside the palace boasts a granite fountain with an obelisk on top and two large statues on either side of the fountain. These statues depict Dioscuri ( Castor & Pollux) with rearing horses were transferred from the Baths of Constantine. The obelisk of Augustus is believed to be one of a pair taken from Egypt in the 1st century. The obelisks were discovered near the entrance of the tomb of Emperor Augustus, the Mausoleum of Octavian. The fountain was originally from the Roman Forum. In 1786, on the request of Pope Pius VI, one of the 14.5m obelisks was restored and then erected outside the Quirinal Palace, whilst the other obelisk is at Piazza dell ‘Esquilino.