Borghese Gallery

Borghese Gallery

This 16th century Villa, surrounded by a wonderful park, was built by Borghese family. The Borghese Gallery houses probably the collection you have heard most before coming to Rome. The great masterpieces are the works of Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian and the wonderful sculptures of Bernini like David, Apollo and Daphne and the most celebrated sculpture Paolina Bonaparte by the 18th century Italian artist Antonio Canova.

Please note: advanced booking required. Reservation is mandatory for entrance to this museum as the Galleria Borghese only allows entrance to a certain number of visitors at a time.

Downtown Rome Tour

Downtown Rome Tour

Plenty of surprises!!!!

We can start this walking tour from Trevi Fountain Rome’s “wish fountain”, where a small coin dropped into the Trevi’s waters assures your return to Rome and perhaps something more… then our tour continues along the side streets of Old Rome, the city’s historic center, passing near Colonna Square where in the middle you can see a 90 feet high second century a.d. Roman Column dedicated to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Just around the corner a narrow street will lead us to a wonderful church St. Ignacius with a moving cealing!!!!

We will pass then in front of the and we stop inside to marvel at the concrete dome the ancient Romans poured in the 2nd century AD and the light streaming in through the opening at its center. Seeing the Pantheon for the first time leaves even modern architects amazed at how the ancient Romans built it… and exactly in this square we will have a break for a delicious cappuccino… We will deserve it!!!!!… When open, one block away from Pantheon, we can even visit St. Louis of French church that keeps inside three wonderful paintings of Matthieu’s life by the famous Italian painter Caravaggio.

Our tour will end in piazza Campo de’ fiori, with its animated market. The colorful stalls of Campo de’ Fiori’s fruit and vegetable vendors displaying their bountiful produce will be a feast for your eyes. You may also want to pop into Campo de’ Fiori’s famous bakery (“forno”) to sample, stand-up, a slice of the exquisite thin crust Roman pizza fresh from the oven…. but… before leaving you, I will show you the spot where J. Caesar was killed.

Rome in a day

Rome in a day

Here a couple of suggestions. I have put together for those who have a limited time in Rome and want to see as much they can on a guided tour!

Option 1

Vatican museums (Sixtine Chapel) | St. Peter’s basilica | Pantheon | Trevi Fountain | Colosseum | Forum

Option 2

Trevi Fountain | Colonna Square | Pantheon | St. Louis Church and Caravaggio Paintings (closed on Thursdays) | Ghetto | Teatro di Marcello | Capitol Square | Forum | Colosseum

Tivoli

Tivoli

Hadrian’s Villa

The astonishingly grand 2nd-century AD Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa), 6 km (4 mi) south of Tivoli, was an emperor’s theme park, an exclusive retreat below the ancient settlement of Tibur where the marvels of the classical world were reproduced for a ruler’s pleasure.

Hadrian, who succeeded Trajan as emperor in AD 117, was a man of genius and intellectual curiosity, fascinated by the accomplishments of the Hellenistic world. From AD 125 to 134, architects, laborers, and artists worked on the villa, periodically spurred on by the emperor himself when he returned from another voyage full of ideas for even more daring constructions (he also gets credit for Rome’s Pantheon).

After his death, the fortunes of his villa declined. It was sacked by barbarians and Romans alike; many of his statues and decorations ended up in the Musei Vaticani, but the expansive ruins are nonetheless compelling.

It’s not the single elements but the peaceful and harmonious effect of the whole that makes Hadrian’s Villa such a treat. The vast estate is a fascinating succession of baths, theaters, temples, libraries, guest pavilions, nymphaeums, and open-air gymnasiums. The most famous “sight” in the Villa is the Canopus, an artificial valley with a long pool modeled after an Egyptian canal on the Nile, surrounded by colonnades and sculptures. Hadrian did not live long enough to enjoy his creation. He fell ill and retired to Baia near Naples, where he died in AD 138.

Oleanders, pines, and cypresses growing among the ruins heighten the visual impact.

Villa d’Este

Villa d’Este, created by cardinal Ippolito d’Este in the 16th century, was the most amazing pleasure garden of its day and still stuns visitors with its beauty.

Inspired by the recent excavation of Villa Adriana and a devotee of the Renaissance celebration of human ingenuity over nature, Este (1509-72) paid architect Pirro Ligorrio an astronomical sum to create a mythical garden with water as its artistic centerpiece. To console himself for his seesawing fortunes in the political intrigues of his time (he happened to be cousin to Pope Alexander VI), he had his builders tear down part of a Franciscan convent, then divert the Aniene River to water the garden and feed the fountains – and what fountains: big, small, noisy, quiet, rushing, running, in which sunlight, shade, water, gardens, and carved stone create an unforgettable experience

There are fountains of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny cascades that line the stone staircases leading down to the fish ponds at the bottom of the garden to the massive organ fountain that once played music. To this day, several hundred fountains cascade, shoot skyward, imitate bird songs, and simulate rain. The villa is listed as a Unesco world Heritage site.

Suggestions: Confortable shoes, a hat, sun cream in Summer. It can get very hot in Summer, it is better to visit Hadrian’s villa early or in the afternoon.


Photo reference: Paliano, Jastrow, Szilas et al., Wikimedia Commons and Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via flickr

One day in Naples

One day in Naples

It will not take long to understand this city!

Once arrived at the train station, we will make our way through the unruly traffic, honking horns, locals shouting in thick dialect across alleys lined with wet laundry, shrines to the Madonna with blue neon and plastic flowers set into palazzo walls, churches decorated with carved skulls, women squeezed into their shirts and spike heels, helmetless teenagers on mopeds racing the wrong way down slippery one-way streets – It will be immediately clear that two ancient forces drive this unbelievable chaos of a city: life and death.

Everywhere the smell of coffee – our first stop will be in a Coffee bar to try it and the delicious pastries as sfogliatella, babà, pastiera.

Second stop the old part fo the city called SpaccaNapoli, from the Italian word spaccare to split, after the ancient street slicing down the middle of the old city first settled by the Greeks.

The greeks founded the city in 8th century b.c. and used the underground tufa-rock as building material. That’s the reason why you can visit the underground galleries network used as quarry by Greeks, as an acqueduct by Romans and as an escape way during the Second World War.
During our day trip this will be our third stop!

The old part of the citiy has incredible churches to visit as St. Chiara, San Domenico, The Jesuit Church but  is, first of all, the shrine of two great wonders of Naples: Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy in the Pio Monte della Misericordia surely one of the strangest and most breathtaking paintings in all of art history, a weird chiaroscuro tableau that unites an old man suckling a woman’s breast, a disembodied pair of dirty feet, men in armor struggling in the semidarkness, and high above them a mother and child and two angels, Neapolitan boys really, who cling to each other midfall in a strange and tender embrace.

And the San Severo Chapel – Masonic-inspired baroque chapel that we’ll find Giuseppe Sanmartino’s incredible sculpture, Cristo velato (Veiled Christ), its marble veil so realistic that it’s tempting to try to lift it and view Christ underneath. This fourth stop will leave you breathless.

Our fifth stop the Cathedral of Naples (Duomo) with San Gennaro Chapel.
The treasure of San Gennaro is said to rival Britain’s Crown Jewels and those of the Russian tsars in value. It includes a bishop’s mitre encrusted in stones, and a large necklace composed of thousands of gems, donated by many crowned heads of Europe.

Our sixth stop the famous main square Piazza del Plebiscito with the Royal Palace and the great view over the bay and the volcano Vesuvio.

We will end on Castel dell’Ovo that is the oldest standing fortification in Naples.


Photo reference: Baku, Vikashegde via Wikimedia Commons and Nunzia Marlino