Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza ★
The swirling, curling dome of this baroque church plays peek-a-boo with pedestrians on the surrounding streets—good thing, as the church itself is hidden in a courtyard
Corso Rinascimento 40
Courtyard open irregular hours (roughly business hours), but closed Saturdays
Church open Sundays 9am–noon (closed July–Aug)—this is not a big deal, since it's really the exterior you come to see
• Baroque Splendors in the Age of Bernini
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The curlicue dome atop Sant'Ivo.Beyond a nondescript doorway halfway along the boulevard that parallels Piazza Navona, it a courtyard hiding one of the loveliest baroque churches in Rome.
Borromini designed the courtyard of Giacomo della Porta's Palazzo della Sapienza in the 1640s, surrounding three sides with porticoes and the back with the magnificent glowing white facade of Sant'Ivo church. (Palazzo della Sapienza means "palace of learning" and this was the seat of Rome's university from the 15th century until 1935.)
This geometrically complex and highly influential baroque playground of concave and convex curves is topped by a remarkable spiraling oval dome that looks an awful lot like soft-serve ice cream and subsequently became a favorite feature on baroque churches throughout northern Europe.
Although the light-filled oval interior is fine as well, don't let the church's brief open hours put you off, because the best part really is that facade.
- Planning your day: It's really all about seeing the dome, which takes all of 30 seconds. It's really just a "see it in passing" sort of sight. The church itself is rarely open, and not worth bothering, so budget a grand 5–10 minutes for this one, most of which you will spend simply finding it.
- Tours to Sant'Ivo: See Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (at least the exterior) on a guided walking tour of Rome:
- How to see it, even if it's closed: If the building's courtyard is closed, you can still see the cool dome, peeking above the Roman rooftops, if you go to the west side of nearby Piazza Sant'Eustachio (home to the famous Caffé Sant'Eustachio coffee shop with fab cappuccino) and look up to the east.
- Attend mass: Sundays at 11am (except July and August, when it is closed).
- Churches in Rome
- More sights in the Upper Tiber Bend
- Sights in the nearby Lower Tiber Bend
- Sights in the nearby Tridente neighborhood
This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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