Via del Corso
About half-way along Via del Corso, at the junction with Via delle Vite, a plaque marks the spot where an ancient arch once stood.
The Arco di Portogallo was removed at the behest of Pope Alexander VII (r. 1655-67). The removal of the arch was part of a general refurbishment of Via Lata (as Via del Corso was then called), in a bid to make the road straight once more.
Via Lata was the site of the city's carnival, one of the highlights of which were the Barbary races. Riderless stallions raced the full length of Via Lata, from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia, and the arch would have proved a major hazard.
The exact date and nature of the arch is not certain, but at the time of its demolition it was known as the Arco di Portogallo, as it was attached to the Palazzo Fano, home to the ambassador of Portugal.
In addition to the plaque, the spot is marked by a beautiful street shrine. Its canopy is adorned with eight-pointed stars, which form part of the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VII.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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