All Roads Lead to Rome and the Galleria Borghese

T-shirt in gift shop of Ara Pacis, Rome

T-shirt in gift shop of Ara Pacis, Rome

It was our 4th day in Rome and we saw a lot.  We picked up La Mama from her hotel around 9:30 or 10 and did not return until 6 or so.  It’s different from being at a job for 8 hours or running errands all day.  If you’re in a place sightseeing, walking, moving, observing, never fully relaxing until you return to your hotel, it can be exhausting, in a good way.  Since I love art and beautiful objects every day in Rome was wonderful to me.  I was grateful for the opportunity to see Rome and amazed that some brilliant artist created what they did.

Standing in the Piazza del Popolo looking at Church of Santa Maria of Montesanto (left) and Church of Santa Maria of Miracles (right), Rome

Standing in the Piazza del Popolo looking at Church of Santa Maria of Montesanto (left) and Church of Santa Maria of Miracles (right), Rome

To continue our hunt for the Caravaggios in Rome we went to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo to see the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter.  Since it was a Sunday we tried to do the polite thing and wait until after Mass was over to gawk at the paintings.  Both paintings are in the Cerasi Chapel just to the left of the main altar so striding up to them in the middle of Mass was awkward.  Also to see the paintings someone has to deposit 1 euro into the metal box which turns on the lights for about 5 minutes at a time.  I was amused watching the lights go out and seeing how long it took some nice person to feed the box.  It was never more than a minute but I wondered if the people standing in the dark closest to the paintings were aware of the generosity of a stranger.  They weren’t yelling out “thank you” once the lights came back on.

I shouldn’t skip over the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria where Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa lives in the Cornaro Chapel.  This was our first stop but it was difficult since we arrived in the middle of Mass.  Other tourists were walking up the side aisle to take a glimpse of the sculpture but I felt uncomfortable.  I sucked it up and followed everyone else but it was really for a glimpse.  Poor timing on our part.

On the East side of Piazza del Popolo is a hill you can walk up to get a nice view of the city.  It was another sunny, cloudless day so it was perfect.

View of Piazza del Popolo with a Christmas tree in the center, Rome

View of Piazza del Popolo with a Christmas tree in the center, Rome

From Piazza del Popolo we walked down Via del Corso to lunch and the Ara Pacis.  The Ara Pacis is an impressive thing.  There’s been criticism of the building Richard Meier designed to house it.  No it does not fit into the rest of the architecture in the area but how could it?  It seems silly to build an ancient Roman style building.

We had a nice lunch at Gusto and then it was on to Galleria Borghese.  You must buy tickets in advance to enter the museum but it can easily be done online.  I highly recommend going to the Galleria Borghese even if art is not your thing.  Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V (1605-1621), needed a place to house his collection.  The grandeur of the building and the collection is testament to how rich and powerful Scipione Borghese was.  Another fun fact is that he only spent 2-3 days there at a time.  I was ready to move in.

Once again no pictures allowed but unless there was a professional photographer I doubt pictures could evoke the awe I felt while looking at the sculptures and paintings.  Not everything was great.  Like any art collection there is a range of quality in the work but the wealth of Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Bellini balance it out.  Here are a few  things that blew my mind:

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-1625.  Courtesy Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-1625. Courtesy Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini was one of the best.  All his sculptures in the Galleria Borghese were breathtaking.  Like I said I wish I could move in so that every day I could spend hours marveling at the art.  Apollo and Daphne are so lifelike.  Daphne’s hair looks touchable in its volume and flow.  The way Apollo’s garments twist around his body and fan out behind him as he chases Daphne is one of the many details that I love.  I wish a shoe designer would copy Apollo’s sandals because I want them.  To enhance the small patch of landscape Apollo and Daphne occupy Bernini added a few rocks on the ground just behind Apollo.  I love those rocks!

There are 9 Bernini sculptures and a few paintings to see but my other favorite was:

Bernini, Pluto and Proserpina, 1621-22.  Courtesy Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini, Pluto and Proserpina, 1621-22. Courtesy Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini, Detail of Pluto and Proserprina.  Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Bernini, Detail of Pluto and Proserpina. Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Pluto chases and grabs Proserpina to take her to the underworld.  Look at how his fingers press into her thigh!  Judging by her face Proserpina is not happy to be going anywhere with this guy.  The tension in her body as she tries to twist out of his arms, pressing her left hand into his face, doing anything to get away from him is mesmerizing.  I walked around the sculpture several times realizing that some new element was revealed as I viewed it from different angles.

Bernini, Detail of Pluto and Proserpina, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Bernini, Detail of Pluto and Proserpina, Galleria Borghese, Rome

At a certain point we had to tear ourselves away.  As much as we wanted to stay I wasn’t prepared to recreate From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  We passed by the citrus garden on the way out and I got a nice picture of the sun setting in the middle of traffic and a Roman pine tree.

Dinner that night was at La Gensola.  I have no pictures.  It was a hiccup in our streak of fantastic restaurants.  Maybe we ordered the wrong things but it wasn’t mindblowing.  La Mama had strapazzata cavolo nero (scrambled eggs with black kale, bacon and other things) followed by the San Pietro fish.  Bf had mozzarella then a tagliata of tuna.  He thought he ordered the wrong thing.  I didn’t taste it.  I had fresh anchovy pâté with crostini and spaghetti with bottarga.  I enjoyed mine but maybe I was really hungry.  It was the first time we saw more tourists than locals.

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