Sunday, 23 June 2013

Caravaggio,Churches and Cheap Eats

Friday 21st June

First stop today our local café, Er Baretto, where the barista is an expert in creating works of art on a cappuccino.
After partaking of the obligatory cornetti we then walked to Piazza Repubblica. The sight of the Fountain of the Naiads never fails to please.
I love the story of the models for the Naiads - two sisters, who, in their old age were taken out to lunch every year by the architect of the fountain, Mario Rutelli, who had immortalised them in stone.
Santa Maria degli Angeli is a stones throw from here and is interesting on many levels, not least that it was adapted by Michelangelo from the halls of the Baths of Diocletian. This gives an idea of what a great Roman bath would have looked like. Michelangelo used the tepidarium (warm room) as the nave of the church. Original Egyptian granite columns line the transept.
The juxtaposition of ancient & modern art is used to great effect.
And finally, a meridian line passes through the church that is marked by a marble line in the floor. There are stars' names marked along the meridian at different points. Up in the corner is a small hole where, if you stand on each star's name at certain dates of the year, you can see the star through the hole as it passes over the meridian.
Metro from Repubblica to Barberini and admired the Bernini Bee Fountain on the corner of Via Veneto – the bees looked as though they were ready to take flight.

Into the Capuchin museum where we admired Caravaggio’s study of St Francis in Meditation. The genius of Caravaggio is highlighted as we have seen many depictions of St Francis by unknown artists in the museum prior to arriving at the point where the Caravaggio is displayed. The rough & torn habit that St Francis wears in this picture is so realistic after the idealised portraits that have gone before.
The museum leads in to the famous Capuchin Crypt where the bones of long dead monks are arranged in all sorts of patterns. I can’t say this would be top of my list as a ‘must see’ but it is very popular. We left, pondering the words displayed here:

‘What you are, we once were – what we are, you will become’

Out in to the sunshine and a shortcut through to Via Sistina and the top of the Spanish Steps. The view of the Roman rooftops & cupolas from the steps of Trinita dei Monti is a favourite (so much so that a couple of years ago I dragged my husband up here at the crack of dawn so that we could see the sunrise on our anniversary) We have never been in to the church before and particularly wanted to see the paintings of Daniele da Volterra who was a pupil of Michelangelo. The influence of the great artist can be seen in ‘The Deposition’ where the muscled bodies echo those on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. On the way out we noticed this tree, cleverly made up of coloured votive candles.

Walking along the Via Trinita dei Monti towards Piazza del Popolo we passed a beautifully fragrant jasmine hedge.

The church of Santa Maria del Popolo had to be on the itinerary this year as I have just finished reading ‘The Pope’s Daughter’ which tells the story of Felice, the illegitimate daughter of Cardinal Della Rovere, later Pope Julius II. Who is supposedly buried here. Whilst we didn’t find the tomb or memorial to her we did see the Della Rovere chapel with its beautiful nativity scene by Pinturicchio.

Of course there are the two Caravaggio paintings which are always worth seeing no matter how many times we visit the church – The Crucifixion of St Peter & The Conversion of St Paul. The story goes that when Caravaggio learned that Annibale Carracci’s altarpiece would hang between his two paintings he showed his opinion of his fellow artist by pointing the large rear end of Paul’s horse towards Carracci’s work ! Probably not true but funny all the same.
A bonus this year is that  it is possible to view the Chigi chapel - it has been under wraps for the past few years when we have visited. Fans of Dan Brown's Angels & Demons will appreciate the next couple of photos.
Demon's Hole


Habakkuk & the Angel
Almost lunchtime, but not before a stroll down a favourite street, Via Margutta. The marble fruit at number 109 would be an ideal memento to take home(I have my eye on the figs) as would a cute marble sign from number 53. We may have to return here later!
Lunch is at a pastificcio on Via della Croce. For the princely sum of €4 you get a choice of pasta & red or white wine - a bargain!

The pasta is delicious, silky smooth and the gnocchi, light & fluffy. Dessert is take out tiramisu from Pompi.
We take the little electric bus back to Monti and our apartment.
Tonight we are heading out once again to the Spanish Steps with our chilled bottle of prosecco - we are in luck as this time the bus arrives and soon we are feeling the warmth of the steps as we sit and drink in the view.
Too soon it is time to take the metro to Cipro. A block from the metro station is, I swear, the best pizza by the slice you will ever taste - Pizzarium.

What else for dessert but gelato - this time from Il Bistro. Unusually here you find savoury flavours as well as sweet. We can recommend the chilli but also the dark chocolate with bitter sweet orange.
 We head to the Vatican where we have pre-booked tickets for 'Vatican under the stars' - summer evening openings after hours. Whilst there are quite a few people here, there are nothing like the usual crowds of people that make a visit in the day an ordeal rather than a pleasure. We are concentrating tonight on the Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartments and the Modern Art Collection.
In the Stanza di Eliodoro , Raphael depicts the aforementioned  Felice in the 'Mass of Bolsena'. Felice looks on lovingly but the gaze of her father, Pope Julius , who is celebrating mass, is elsewhere. The group of Swiss Guards in this picture includes a self portrait of Raphael.
 Felice is dressed in black.

Raphael is gazing out of the picture
Raphael also depicts a famous courtesan of the time as Sappho
Pinturecchio also uses family members in his decoration of the Borgia Apartments. Here we see Roderigo, Pope Alexander VI as well as his two sons, Cesare & the Duke of Gandia.

This room was believed to be the dining room of the Borgias - heaven only knows what dirty deeds these walls have witnessed.
On to the modern art where we enjoyed Matisse, Bacon and Morandi
Morandi - Italian still life painter influenced by Cezanne. His paintings featured in Fellini's  La Dolca Vita

Bacon's portrait of Innocent X
One last look at Michelangelo's Dome then back to our terrace for a night cap

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