In the last decades of the sixteenth century Rome was completely transformed, especially for the work of three truly exceptional characters, one from the Marche and two from Ticino:
Sixtus V, Giacomo Della Porta and Domenico Fontana.
The first was cardinal Felice Peretti, elected pope in May 1585 with the name of Sixtus V. Of modest origin, the cardinal distinguished himself for his rigour as an inquisitor and for his remarkable enrichment.
In fact, an immense estate had been created, Villa Peretti Montalto, which occupied the current area from Termini Station to Santa Maria Maggiore.
In the five years of his pontificate, he would have the two artists of Ticino origin, Giacomo Della Porta and Domenico Fontana, create an urban plan of the city that can still be read in the fabric of the city.
In support of the urban transformations, he had a huge amount of buildings built and completed the dome of Saint Peter, which had been interrupted for twenty years after Michelangelo’s death.
But Sixtus V was also distinguished by the ease with which he made the death penalty imposed on anyone who did not follow his orders.
The second protagonist was Giacomo Della Porta, who was above all a sculptor and made wonderful fountains such as the Fontana delle Tartarughe in Piazza Mattei and the one in front of the Pantheon.
He was a pupil of Michelangelo before and of Vignola after, he worked on the Church of the Gesù, the Palazzo del Campidoglio and the Church of Trinità de Monti. After the pope’s death, he designed Villa Aldobrandini di Frascati for Pope Clement VIII.
The third protagonist was Domenico Fontana, who also came when still young from the Canton of Ticino and began to work on the construction of Villa Montalto for Cardinal Peretti. When in 1585 the cardinal became pope, he and Della Porta were entrusted with the total transformation of the city.
Fontana, who was above all an architect and urban planner, designed the Sistine Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, the Palazzo del Laterano, the Palazzo del Quirinale, the apsidal part of San Giovanni in Laterano and the Papal Palace in the Vatican (the one from which the Pope looks out ).
But his truly brilliant works were the completion of the Dome of Saint Peter, with Della Porta, and the Sistino urban plan.
The urban plan of Sixtus V was a true great regulatory plan, with the tracing of the straight roads that join the various basilicas including via Sistina, via Merulana and via di Santa Croce.
The city developed on this plan until 1900.
After more than 1000 years, a large Roman aqueduct was restored, with the name of Felice Aqueduct, which went from the town of Colonna to the centre of Rome.
The obelisks were erected, which the Romans had brought from Egypt, being placed as focal points of the straight streets: the obelisk of San Pietro, that of Santa Maria Maggiore, that of San Giovanni, that of Piazza del Popolo.
In 1592, because he did not get along very well with the new pope Aldobrandini, Domenico Fontana moved to Naples where he did many works on behalf of the Viceroy, including the Royal Palace in Naples, until his death in 1607.
From 1580 his nephew, Carlo Maderno, had also collaborated with him, who in 1608 created the facade of the Basilica of Saint Peter for Paolo V.