Sunday, 30 June 2013

Raphael and a Rude Frieze

Thursday 27th June

Breakfast this morning is at the delightful Coromandel, where we enjoy scrambled eggs & guanciale.

On our way to the river we pop in to Chiesa Nuova that has paintings by Rubens around the altar. Saint Domitilla, the subject of one of the paintings, is said by my guidebook to be 'truly luscious'! Judge for yourselves.

The fountain outside the church ,which looks like a soup tureen, once stood in Campo di Fiori where the statue of  Gordiano Bruno is now placed.

After crossing the river we reach Villa Farnesina. The approach to the villa is lined with orange & lime trees.

The Villa was built for Agostino Chigi, the Siennese banker to Pope Julius II and patron to Raphael. He gave sumptuous parties at the villa, at the end of which he encouraged his guests to throw the gold & silverware in to the Tiber. Unbeknown to them, nets had been placed in the water so that he could retrieve his treasures!

Once inside the full glory of the decoration designed by Raphael is revealed. The main rooms were designed as a loggia to bring the gardens right in to the house.

The decoration reflects this with garlands of fruit and flowers including sweetcorn which had just arrived from the new world. Some of the pairings of fruit are decidedly suggestive which must have been deliberate!

Whilst Raphael didn't paint  the friezes he did complete 'Galatea' in her scallop shell chariot.

On the ceiling the Chigi coat of arms is quartered with the Della Rovere oak tree, the arms of Pope Julius II. This was a rare honour.

Upstairs is an example of trompe l'oeil in the simulated loggias at the ends of the room. Through the columns are glimpses of Trastevere as it was in the 16th century.
After leaving Villa Farnese we spotted the house of La Fornarina, the baker's daughter who was Raphael's lover.
 We walked back across Ponte Sisto to Campo di Fiori where we picked up slices of pizza bianco at Roscioli. These were enjoyed at Il Vinaietto with a glass of chilled Frascati. If only all lunchtimes were like this!


After lunch we shopped at Norciniera Viola, a shrine to all things cured pork related, and bought guanciale & pancetta.

Back to the apartment to drop shopping & freshen up then out once again. This time we use the little electric buses to take us almost to Ponte Sant'Angelo. Enjoyment of the Bernini angels is slightly marred by the presence of the fake designer handbag sellers.
We continue up Via Conciliazione. Half way up we peer into the courtyard of the Colombus hotel. The well head here is decorated with the Della Rovere oak tree, denoting the fact that it once was Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, home of a Della Rovere cardinal.
 We walk in to St Peter's Square and across to the beautiful Bernini colonnades. Behind the right hand colonnade we find the Fountain of the Four Tiaras.
Before going in to the basilica itself we stop to admire the huge bronze doors. We have passed through these many times but have never realised the detail on them until today. The main doors are by a Florentine goldsmith, Antonio Averlino , known as Filarete, and date back to the 15th century. The panels feature Jesus, Mary, St Peter & St Paul.
Flanking the ancient doors are three modern bronze doors designed by Manzu, whose works we had seen when we visited the Vatican museums.
On the back of the original doors is the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete & his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.
Inside the basilica itself and we are drawn as always to the sublime Pieta, created by Michelangelo when he was only 24.
Next to the Pieta is the tomb of John Paul II, who is beatified and will become a full blown saint later this year.
After exploring the basilica we left to take the obligatory photo of the Swiss guard and started to walk to Janiculum Hill.

 This is a favourite walk along Borgo Spirito Santo where we always look for the ruota degli esposti, the wheel on which unwanted babies were placed in to the care of the  hospital of Santa Spirito in Sassia. We have never managed to find it yet &, true to form, we don’t find it today. Unperturbed we carry on upwards, passing the lighthouse on the way.
The lighthouse was a gift from the Italians in Argentina in memory of their country of origin.
Once we reach Piazza Garibaldi we find a suitable spot in which to enjoy our drinks. What a view!

We make our way down into Trastevere & walk through to the number 8 tram. On the way we book a table at Da Ivo for tomorrow night when we are meeting up with family.

The tram takes us all the way to Casaletto where two minutes from the tram stop is the trattoria , Cesare. We have so looked forward to visiting here as all the foodie reviews are amazing. We are not disappointed.

We started by sharing gnocchi fritti & polpette di bollito (shredded veal meatballs)
Mains were grilled lamb & mixed fried fish

We don’t usually order desserts as we prefer to find gelato but who could resist this?

The only problem is that after tasting their gnocchi fritti, Gnocchi Thursdays will never be the same again!
Content, we stroll over to the tram & take it all the way to Piazza Venezia (this extension from Area Sacra is brilliant for us. The end of the line now connects with the 117)

We don’t want this evening to end so we walk to Campidoglio to view the Forum by night.




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