Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Julius II - The Warrior Pope

Giuliano della Rovere became Pope Julius II on November 1503 with an immediate objective of regaining the lands that had been taken away from the papacy during the reigns of Innocent VIII and Alexander VI by the French, Germans and Spanish. To this end he started a series of wars and secret alliances. However this warrior pope also left a lasting legacy to the Eternal City.

Santa Maria del Popolo is the Della Rovere family church and their chapel is the first on the right as you enter. Above the chapel altar can be seen the charming Nativity scene 'Adoration of the Child' by Pinturicchio.

Via Giulia was laid out by the pope's favourite architect, Bramante, and was intended as a triumphal approach to the Vatican.

On the opposite side of the Tiber is Villa Farnesina, home to Agostini Chigi, treasurer of the Papal states.

The villa contains the work 'Galatea' by Raphael 

The Della Rovere symbol of the oak tree can also be glimpsed on the decorative ceiling.

Pope Julius also commissioned Bramante to build the Cortile del Belvedere in the Vatican.

The courtyard linked the Vatican with Julius's collection of classical statuary which was to become the the Vatican Museums that we know today.

Julius also spurred both Michelangelo and Raphael to produce their finest work - the former in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and the latter in the 'School of Athens'

San Pietro in Vincoli is the last resting place of Pope Julius. Michelangelo was asked to design his funeral monument which was to be the centrepiece of the new St Peter's Basilica but for various reasons it was referred to by the artist as the 'tragedy of the tomb'. The statue of Moses is one of the few that remain of the original grandiose plan. Other sculptures from the unfinished tomb are to be found in Florence and the Louvre.

I've no doubt that Julius would have thought his tomb a tragedy too if he had seen the comical effigy of himself by Tommaso Boscoli.

To complete the Julius experience you could stay at Hotel Colombus which is housed in Palazzo della Rovere. A well in the courtyard bears the family coat of arms.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Hadrian's Villa (Villa Adriana)

Villa Adriana was the largest and richest Imperial villa in the Roman Empire and Hadrian's chosen residence from 135 AD to his death three years later.
Hadrian was a great traveller and parts of the villa were inspired by buildings he had seen around the world.

The Canopus, a canal lined with statues was influenced by the Sanctuary of Serapis near Alexandria.

The Temple of Venus is a small Greek inspired temple.
Other buildings include  a theatre and bath complexes.

The Villa is an ideal place to bring a picnic as there are many olive trees to provide shade.

Getting to Hadrian's Villa from Rome isn't difficult. Take Metro line B to Ponte Mammolo and from there take the Rome - Tivoli (Via Prenestina) Cotral bus to Villa Adriana The stop is 300 metres from the entrance. Tickets to the site cost €8.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Treasure Hunt for Children

Rome lends itself so well to a children's treasure hunt especially if based around animals.

The crest of the Pamphilj family is the dove which can be seen all over the city including inside the church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale. This church was designed by Bernini for Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj and doves play a major part in the decoration.

Yet more doves can be spotted in Piazza Navona on the facade of the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone

If you look upwards you will see a dove atop the obelisk in the centre of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers. The fountain was commissioned by a Pamphilj Pope.

The fountain also contains more animals including a lion bending down to take a drink of water.....

.... a galloping horse......

....and what is thought to be an armadillo. It is more than likely that Bernini had never seen such an animal so used his imagination.

Bees form part of the Barberini family coat of arms and these too are easily spotted around the city, especially in Piazza Barberini where they not only appear on the Tritone Fountain but also on the Fountain of the Bees in the corner of the square. Here they appear to be taking flight.

Bees also appear in the church of San Ivo alla Sapienza where the spiral dome's shape is that of a bee sting.

Both doves and bees can be found in St Peter's Basilica.

 Other animals that are fun to spot are the elephant in Piazza di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The turtles in Piazza Mattei

The snake on Isola Tiburina

And, of course, the fishes in Piazza della Rotonda

Friday, 5 January 2018

12 Riones of Rome - Testaccio

It is no secret that we love Testaccio and would make it our home if we could. One of the many reasons that we are attracted to the area is the connection to the history of food in the city.

In the Republican era this area was chosen as the site of the new river port which would see goods being landed from all over the Mediterranean. The Emporium was built in the 1st century AD and was a warehouse with offices above from which the goods were sorted & distributed. The remains are impressive with even sections of the original quay lined with Travertine marble in evidence.

The Porticus Aemilia was built 200 years before Christ and was a vast complex of warehouses used to house the goods coming from the river port.

One of the goods coming into the port was olive oil from Spain which was transported in huge pottery amphorae. These were not reusable but the ancient Romans didn't just toss these away, they had a regulated system of layering which can be seen in the bars & restaurants dug in to Monte Testaccio.

Amphorae can also be found in the archeological area under the mercato which has been identified as storerooms for the port.  Here the amphorae make up the walls of the rooms.

The importance of amphorae to the area is reflected in the design of the fountain in the central piazza.

In the 19th century a new slaughterhouse for the city was built in Testaccio giving rise to the offal or 'fifth quarter' cuisine that the area is  well known for.

There are so many contenders for our 'Rione Refreshment' tip in Testaccio but after long consideration we are going to suggest pizza bianco with mortadella from Passi on Via Mastro Giorgio - an excellent snack at any time of day.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

12 Riones of Rome - Monti

In ancient Roman times Monti was known as the Suburra, a low class slum full of pimps and prostitutes.

The fire wall that separated Suburra from the Imperial Forums can still be seen.

Today the ivy clad streets are home to vintage shops and trendy eateries.

The focal point of the area is Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, an ideal meeting place by day or night.

Our 'Rione Refreshment' tip is the American Bar at Hotel Forum on Via Tor de Conti. We have a real soft spot for this roof top  bar with sunset views of the Forum and beautifully crafted cocktails prepared by a barman who seems to have been there forever.