A Visual Puzzle Awaits You in a Roman Palace!

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Rome is home to many architectural wonders, and one could easily spend days wandering the city and still miss many of the artistic delights and design flourishes that make it a tourist destination and virtual gallery of creative energy.

But did you know there’s a puzzly secret lurking in one of the palaces along Piazza di Capo Ferro?

Indeed, Palazzo Spada is not only home to the Galleria Spada — a large art collection that includes works by Titian, Rubens, Caravaggio, and others — but it also hosts a gorgeous optical illusion that doubles as an architectural marvel.

palazzo spada 3

This corridor is the work of Francesco Borromini, an Italian architect who helped bring the Roman Baroque architectural style to prominence. He was hired by Cardinal Bernardino, who had purchased the palace and immediately began redecorating and redesigning it with the help of Borromini.

In the courtyard of the Palazzo, you will find this corridor, leading to a statue of Mars in a skylit garden area. The corridor appears to be more than 60 feet long.

But in reality, much of the corridor is an optical illusion. It’s less than half that size, measuring just 24 feet long.

Oh, and that marvelous statue awaiting you in daylight at the end of your journey, the kind you see in art galleries where you’re often left staring up at them in awe?

It’s only 2 feet tall.

A combination of careful column placement, a rising floor, and a descending ceiling create the illusion of a much larger space. And yet, even when you know the illusion is there, it’s startling to see someone towering over that statue.

It’s amazing what a mastery of puzzly elements like perspective and space can create, isn’t it?

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