Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 24- Rome

Day 24- (originally posted on my facebook account July 5th)

Still in the hovel, but yesterday out by the Villa Torlonia we picked a gardenia and left it in the room so it's a bit better now- more like a subtle mix of clove cigarettes and black mold. 

Marianne holding her favorite flower- a Gardenia. 

I don't even really care though, because we spend the vast majority of our time out and about, though I wouldn't mind a bed that didn't leave splinters in me every time I roll over! Hard as a 500 year old walnut plank!

I love the way you just stumble upon these little vignettes of courtyards seen from the street.

Headed down to Trastevere this morning (we're starting to get this public transport thing wired now, buses included) to see another superstar palazzo from the Renaissance, the Villa Farnesina. Built in 1510 for the Chigi family (the Farnese bought it later), it was decorated by a crew of artists including Raphael, Giulio Romano, B. Peruzzi, il Sodoma, and others. It was built as a kind of party pad on the other side of the river from town, and the decoration reflects that. Lot of randy myths and satisfied satyrs. While it's definitely grand, it's a bit more human scaled than a lot of the ridiculously gigantic palazzi and villas that we've seen. It has a very pretty garden too. 

Little hidden message in the garland border of Raphael's fresco of Psyche. The house was built as a getaway for playtime,  get it?

Trotted across the street to check out a small art collection at the Palazzo Corsini, which is home to the Accademia Lincei, a scientific university that includes Galileo Galilei among its alumni. The collection is housed in some fun neo-classical rooms and I had fun dodging the photo police. It's getting to be a game, and i'm getting good at it! Only got yelled at once today, at the Castel Sant'Angelo.

Trompe l'oeil panel under the windows at the Palazzo Corsini.

We did stop to eat some lunch before launching into number three. I have to give Marianne her due here- she has been a trooper keeping up with me on my never-ending quest for imagery. I know i'm totally OCD about it, and it definitely motivates me to keep going every day here, though I do try to be flexible about stopping to look at other things and water/food/gelato. Her feet have been getting sore from all the walking we do, but she's getting through it and seems to enjoy my enthusiasm and commentary. Or she's good at faking it.

Academy of the history of the Sanitary Arts (?) (Actually, it's about healthcare)

So, on to number three, the tomb of Hadrian, which was converted to a Papal getaway in the 14th century. I was again playing keepaway from the photo cops here, but it was really worth it, as there were a number of beautifully painted rooms with all kinds of ornamental decoration of very high quality. Between them were all kinds of little views of town, culminating in a rooftop terrace that was breezy and had great views almost 360°. The architectural elements of the castle looking down from above seem like they might have inspired movies like Lord of the Rings- lots of curving and concentric walls at crazy angles with crenellations around the outside.

Looking down from the Castel Sant'Angelo- looks like MC Escher might have visited this before he made his crazy monks' staircase.

Our last planned stop for the day was the Palazzo Altemps, a fifteenth century house just north of the Piazza Navona. It houses a good collection of antique sculptures, but of course mostly I was looking at the walls, and I wasn't disappointed. The real highlight is the loggia, a porch open to the courtyard that has a really nice trellis with detailed birds painted all over it. My only mistake was in dawdling on my way there, because I missed being able to chat with someone who was up there doing paint restoration on a scaffold. i just assumed she would be cordoned off from the public, but when I got up there, it was all open. Unfortunately she had disappeared already.

Wish I had been able to chat to this gal about the restoration work she was doing at the Palazzo Altemps.

Walked down through the Piazza Navona with a gelato (limone) and stopped in to check out the fabulous baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, started by the Rainaldis (father and son) in 1652, then given to Carlo Borromini, and finally returned to Rainaldi Jr. in 1668 to finish. It's a swoopy collection of straight lines and curves that makes it feel like it's waltzing through the piazza, and it's interior continues that dancing feel with a golden dome that lets streaming light illuminate the multi-colored marble interior, clad with a number of flowing figural sculpture panels as well. Poor little Agnes' skull is in a glass box in the back for gawking tourists (like us) to wonder at. BTW- the "Agone" part of the name does not refer to her agony at being martyred but rather is the archaic name from which Navona is derived.

Swoopy interior of Sant'Agnese in Agone. Or maybe I was just hungry.

Starting to rain as we took the bus back up the hill to the hovel; when we got out by Termini there was a pretty rainbow, followed by a summer deluge. We waited it out by shopping for groceries in the station, then came back here and did our campout meal in the room.

Cinematic shower at the end of the day! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 23- Froth of July!

(Originally posted on my facebook page on July 4, 2013)

Happy Fourth of July!

Yesterday began with a trip to the Forum and the Palatine hill, which is where the emperors mostly lived. A lot of brick work to look at, but there's a good small museum with bits of sculpture and fresco and info about the Etruscan settlements here that predated the Romans. 

Seriously? Braided pubic hair?

Wandered around out in the heat looking for some of the underground stuff I knew was there but still found difficult to find. Finally located the Casa di Augusto, the only one of four that was open. It isn't a big space, (the Casa di Livia right above it is much larger, but it was closed) but the ornamental panels there are on a par with the work at the Villa della Farnesina. Very fine work! Also had a chatty Italian guard who saw the Bowie t-shirt I had on and gave his approval, then asked if i liked Al Stewart. "Year of de Cat"? One of his favorites! I love little moments like that. 

Interior of one of the rooms in the House of Augustus.  Masterful trompe l'oeil work!

So we strolled down through the rest of the Forum, which really needs some better signage of what the reconstructions look like so that people would have a better idea of what they are looking at (very glad that I have done so much research- makes it a lot more fun to look at the ruins and imagine what was there before.)
From the middle of the Roman Forum looking toward the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Tabularium behind it. Until the 19th century this area was buried under 20 feet of dirt and debris.

We the decided to jump up to the Villa Torlonia, a bit off the beaten tourist path to the north. Took the Metro, which is very like the NY subway- dirty and covered in graffiti, but efficient. Villa Torlonia is in a little park with about 8 buildings built by its owners, including a theater, a museum, and various follies. It's a neo classical assemblage, begun in 1808. At one point it was occupied by Mussolini, and then the Allied Command, and then it fell into disrepair in the post war years. It has been in the process of restoration for about 20 years, with the main house almost complete, and it is a gem! Very high quality decorative painting through 2 floors of the house in all kinds of revivalist styles, with marble, mosaic floors, scagliola, gold, all looking very nice. They also have good documentation of the restoration process. Really fun visit.

The quality (and density!) of decorative work at the Villa Torlonia is truly stunning. 

On our way there, the neighborhood architecture made me remember something I had seen earlier online- a crazy little Disney neighborhood called the Quartiere Coppede (you can look it up on Italian Wikipedia if you like) Not too far away and it was a really fun tour of wacky exteriors done in a mish mash of styles.

Quartiere Coppede. Eclecticism at its best!

Back to town to meet our friends Darius and Erica for a delicious dinner in Trastevere right around the corner from the place we stayed last time we were here 6 years ago. Got the requisite gelati afterwards and made our way back to the casa de stinko, which is becoming like home....not!

Walking across the Tiber at dusk.