Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Museo Carlo Bilotti

A former orangery in Villa Borghese now houses the private art collection of the late Carlo Bilotti.

As well as works by Chirico the gallery also includes a 3D portrait of Bilotti by Larry Rivers. The Dubuffet painting  that appears in the background also belongs to the Bilotti collection.

This work by Andy Warhol is a bittersweet portrait of Bilotti's wife and daughter, Lucy. Lucy died of cancer at the age of 20. The Bilottis subsequently adopted two more children.
Bilotti was born in Calabria but considered Rome his spiritual home. He trained as a lawyer and moved to the USA in the 1960's. He married Tina, whose family had created the Old Spice fragrance.

Until 17th February the museum is hosting an exhibition  by Giacomo Balla that focuses on works painted in the Villa Borghese.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is one of our favourite places to visit in the city.
The entrance is on Via del Corso but from the moment you step into the citrus filled courtyard you are transported to the realms of tranquility.

The audio guide is included in the admission fee (€12) and is narrated by Jonathan Pamphilj, a member of the aristocratic family that still own and live in the palace today. 
The guide gives a personal view of living in such palatial splendour with such asides as "my sister and I got into trouble for rollerskating here (the ballroom) on more than one occasion"

There is an option to go into more depth within each room with the audio guide should you choose.

On selected Saturday mornings you can opt to join a special tour of Music and Art from the time of Caravaggio (see here) It is a very special moment when you listen to music played on original baroque instruments that you see in the art works all around you.

However, of all our visits to this glorious palazzo our most recent, between Christmas and New Year was probably our favourite.

The sumptuous apartments were given extra sparkle with Christmas decorations.

Visiting at dusk meant that the Hall of Mirrors could be seen in all its illuminated glory.

This time we decided to concentrate on the private art collection arranged in the four wings of the palazzo that look into the internal courtyard. There are over 400 paintings so to avoid art overload we picked up the €1 guide from the bookshop and simply stopped to enjoy the works that caught our eye.

This way we 'discovered' the works of Maestro Jacomo

Of course we stopped to admire the work of Velazquez......


....and my favourite Caravaggio

 When you are ready for a break Cafe Doria can be accessed from inside the palazzo but also has an entrance from outside.

Enjoy your refreshments under the watchful eye of a gilded dolphin tumbling from a marble fountain.

Whether you have 40 minutes or 4 hours you will surely find a visit to Palazzo Doria Pamphilj rewarding.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Sacra Sacrorum at The Pantheon

Sacro Sacrorum is a sacred art exhibition of jewellery sculptures by the Italian painter and sculptor Joseph Pace at The Pantheon until 13th January.

The sculptures are made with thousands of pieces of vintage costume jewellery which the artist recovers from the residues of industrial production all over the world.

The exhibts depict scenes from the book of Genesis, such as 'God Forms Woman' and 'The Flood'

The Pantheon has always had a connection with prestigious artists. In the 16th & 17th centuries the portico was used as an exhibition hall on St Joseph's day for pictures painted by members of the artists' club known as the Virtuosi del Pantheon. Members of this club included Carracci and Pietro da Cortona

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Bartolucci - shopping in Rome

Bartolucci is a small store near the Pantheon but it is known to us as 'Evie's Toy Shop' as we have to make a stop in there every trip to purchase a little something for our grandaughter.

Visitors on the well worn path between the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon invariably stop to admire Pinocchio riding his tricycle and the full size wooden motorbike which is usually placed outside the store

The shop dates back to 1936 when the Bartolucci family started a wood working operation. It is still a family run business and just like Geppetto in the story of Pinocchio all the toys in the store are created in wood. Of course the star of the show is the wooden toy puppet from 'The Adventures of Pinocchio' written by Il Collodi.

The Bartolucci family collaborate with the Carlo Collodi Foundation which has been promoting culture for children since 1962. Under the patronage of the foundation they have created Geppetto's Workshop inside the Parco di Pinocchio, a theme park in the village of Collodi.

Photo credit - Bartolucci website

The wooden toys make ideal souvenirs, especially as many of the items can be personalised.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

La Rinascente

Photo credit - La Rinascente

The high end chain of fashion stores known as La Rinascente was founded in Milan in 1917 by merging two businesses together. The name, meaning 'rebirth' was credited to the poet D'Annunzio. Today there are 11 stores in major Italian cities

Sadly I am not in the designer shopper league but that doesn't stop me from absolutely loving the Rinascente Department Store on Via del Tritone.

There is an actual working aqueduct in the basement. The Aqua Virgo was constructed in 19BC by Marcus Agrippa and it still provides water today to many fountains in the city including the Trevi.

The aqueduct can be seen in a beautifully designed area that includes a light show projected onto the walls.

The archtecture inside the store is stunning with a glass ceilinged central hall that brings light to every floor.

On the top floor is a gourmet food hall with local products such as salami & cheeses from the Lazio & Campania regions. Ideal for last minute foodie souvenirs, especially as the store stays open until 11.00 pm.

Also on this floor is Vivi Bistrot, one of our favourite cafes for healthy and tasty food.

However, if I had to give only one reason why I love this store so much it would be for the sunset views from the roof. Absolutely magical

Monday, 27 August 2018

San Paulo Fuori le Mura

St Paul was condemned to death for being a Christian but as a Roman citizen he was afforded the dubious right to be beheaded rather than crucified. The sentence was carried out at Aquae Salviae, now known as Tre Fontaine from the  fountains that allegedly gushed forth as the severed head of the saint rebounded three times to the ground.

 His body was then claimed by a pious matron, Lucina, who arranged burial in the family tomb in a vineyard by the Ostian Way.
The tomb immediately became an object of veneration and when Emperor Constantine put an end to Christian persecution in 313 AD a small basilica was built over the spot.This was replaced in 380 AD by the last major construction project of Imperial Rome, a basilica that was the largest in Christendom until the building of the new St Peters in the 16th century.
The basilica that we see today is a faithful reconstruction of that 4th century building that was destroyed by fire in 1823.

The portico that leads to the modern church echoes the original which stretched from Porta di San Paolo. The basilica is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of rome and one of the four patriachal basilicas. Interestingly it is the only one of the four not to have an obelisk as part of the building.

As you enter the huge nave you get a feel of what an ancient Roman basilica must have been like.

Fragments of the original church survived including this paschal candlestick and the apse mosaics created by workers from Venice. They were commisioned by Pope Honorius III, a tiny image of whom can be seen at Christ's feet, wrapped up in a bundle

Miraculously the relics of the saint below the altar also survived the fire.

The whole world contributed to the rebuilding after the fire including Tzar Nicholas who provided malachite and lapis lazuli used in the two side altars.

The gold medallions along the side of the nave contain portraits of the popes and are modern reconstructions. Recent popes are to be found to the right of the altar and include blank medallions for future papal portraits.

These medallions form part of a tale told around the time of the fire. People had noticed that there was no more room in the basilica for another papal medallion and wondered what disaster was about to befall.
The pope at the time lay dying in the Quirinale palace and was said to be troubled by strange dreams of disaster regarding the church in Rome. The basilica of San Paolo was dear to him as he had begun his religious life as a monk there so when the news of its destruction reached the Quirinale it was kept from him. He died shortly afterwards without knowing of the tragedy.

The gorgeous cosmatesque cloister was fortunately also spared by the fire. It was completed around 1214 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Rome. It was decorated by Pietro Vassalletto who also completed the cloisters at San Giovanni in Laterino.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Sunset Spots

There are so many wonderful spots to watch the sun going down in the Eternal City that it can be hard to select just where to go for the best view.

The Spanish Steps is an obvious choice. Take a seat on the sun warmed marble and enjoy the ochre buildings in the vicinity up real close.

The steps were restored in 2015/2016 with funding  provided by Bulgari. Since then  the ‘no drinks or food’ rule has been strictly observed thus ending our first night ritual of enjoying a glass of fizz as we watched the sun go down.

Fortunately there is a gorgeous wine bar perfectly placed at the top of the steps, Il Palazzetto, which is part of the Hassler Hotel. From here you can watch the sun go down in style.

Another well known spot for sunset viewing is Ponte Umberto where the setting sun is beautifully reflected in the Tiber River.

After you have witnessed the sun going down it is but a short walk from the bridge to The Gin Corner, located in Hotel Adriano, where the bar stocks gins from all over the world. Classic as well as inovative cocktails are also available.

Another sunset spot that comes to mind is atop Janiculum Hill. Here you can have a view of St Peters Basilica on one side .....

......and the whole city set out at your feet on the other.

All under the watchful eye of Garibaldi

Before you begin your ascent to the top of the hill stop in at Les Vignerons wine store ( Via Goffredo Mameli, 61, Trastevere) and pick up a bottle of natural wine or fizz to toast the moment

A newcomer to the sunset scene is La Rinascente, a department store on Via del Tritone, where you can enjoy drinks and nibbles on their rooftop terrace. However do bear in mind that it tends to get extremely busy with people just here for the view.

Who can blame them when you are treated to skies like this.

If you would like an entirely different view as the sun goes down then try Pianoalto (Lungotevere Portuense, 200) who have taken over the rooftop space that once belonged to Pasticcio

Your sunset view here is of the Gazometro, a modern day Roman landmark, as well as Roa’s ‘She Wolf’ in Testaccio

Finally, for the ultimate Roman sunset view, treat yourselves to a Michelin starred meal at Aroma

The view as the sun slips away with the illuminated Colosseum in the foreground is truly iconic.