October 31, 2013

One week in Rome in October

If you have already visited the must-sees of Rome - here are some more treats. I would especially recommend the Baths of Caracalla - terme di Caracalla - an ancient Roman era splendour which blew me away.
I tried two different hotels on this trip. Both situated between piazza Farnese (Campo dei Fiori) and Ponte Sisto (footbridge crossing the Tiber river).
My favorite was the Hotel Residenza in Farnese. http://www.residenzafarneseroma.it/
Some pros and cons related to this hotel: I loved the room, which felt like it was from a different era, and especially the large bathroom with a bathtub. But unfortunately the windows were covered with some kind of foil to prevent the view to the narrow courtyard. Also, when it was raining, water poured in from the window (even when closed). This is an expensive hotel. We prepaid the room through booking.com. Finally, the location is unbeatable, considering the closeness to the Trastevere restaurants and bars, and to everything else.
The second hotel I stayed at was the expensive Ponte Sisto hotel. The best thing about this place is the garden/courtyard (the first hotel we stayed at had no outside area). But unfortunately this is the most interesting trait of the Ponte Sisto - i my view it is just too posh to be charming.

Check out my updated list of my favorite restaurants and bars in Rome.

Sights in the "neighbourhood" of the hotel:

Ponte Sisto bridge
Being close to The Ponte Sisto (foot bridge over Tiber) gave us an easy crossing to Trastevere. The cobbled bridge is an attraction in itself and offers a great perspective on the beauty of Rome, with the Gianicolo hill rising to the west and St. Peter's Basilica to the north.
Cross the Tiber to arrive in the utterly charming Trastevere neighborhood, with lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.
The Ponte Sisto
Gianicolo, the hill that affords the best view of Rome, is west of the Tiber and outside the ancient city, so it's not counted among the ancient seven. Still, it's close to the historic center, just above the Vatican and the Trastevere neighborhood — and the panorama (not to mention the silence) from the top takes your breath away. At noon, the quiet is momentarily broken by the single shot of a cannon, to mark the exact time, a tradition that dates back to the 19th century.

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola "Er Fontanone"
With its breathtaking view, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola is one of the most romantic and picturesque places in Rome. Known by Romans as “er Fontanone” (the “Big Fountain”), it is a baroque jewel.

Commissioned by Paul V Borghese in 1600 as a monumental display of the aqueduct. Three architects worked on the project. However, the monumental work was created by Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Fontana who, after working three years on the colossal undertaking, succeeded in bring water to the Gianicolo.

As was the practice at the time, all the construction materials were scavenged from ancient monuments. Stone and marble were taken from the Forum of Nerva, and the granite columns from the ancient St. Peter's Basilica built by Emperor Constantine.

The fountain resembles the Triumphal Arches of ancient Rome. It has five arches separated by massive marble columns and three central niches with waterfalls. Originally there were five water basins, one for each arch; however, in 1690 Carlo Fontana created the large semicircular basin that mirrored the shape of the wide viewing terrace.
Behind the arches are three openings that provide glimpses into the Botanical Garden beyond. Above, at the top, there are two winged angels holding the Papal crest, while dragons and eagles stand guard at the ends.

Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina)
The Isola Tiberina has always been a mysterious place, shrouded in legend, surrounded by the river and linked inseparably to the origins of Rome. 
This remarkable piece of land in the middle of the Tiber was called "Intra duos pontes" (between two bridges) by the Romans; the island was connected to the terra firma by two bridges that were originally wooden. One is the Cestio bridge, built in 46 BC by Lucius Cestius and restored numerous times over the centuries because of the flooding of the river. The second bridge, Fabricio, preceded by the Caetani Tower, which belonged to the family that had transformed the island into a small fort in the Middle Ages, was also called "Ponte dei Giudei" (bridge of the Jews) because it was near the Ghetto.

The Isola Tiberina was consecrated to the god of medicine and from then on acquired the fame, reinforced by the presence of a spring of health-giving water, that distinguishes it to this day, of a place of healing and hospitals. During the plague of 1656 the entire island was transformed into a lazaretto.

The Romans built two temples there, one dedicated to Faunus, protector of women giving birth, and the other to Veiove, who guaranteed oaths. The Temple of Aesculapius, with the ditch full of serpents consecrated to the god, which the priests had the task of feeding, stood where the church of San Bartolomeo stands today, with its baroque façade, but built around the year 1000 by Otto III, who dedicated it to St. Adalberto.

Having a coffee at the bar

Art in churches

On this trip we experienced great art in the churches of Rome:

Santa Maria della Vittoria - Bernini
Via 20 Settembre.
View Bernini's sculpture Ecstasy of St. Teresa, in the Cornaro chappel, left of the altar. The sculpture shows the moment when St. Teresa had an encounter with an angel - an experience of religious ecstasy – but today many view the masterpeace to be depicting an erotic experience (described in the best selling book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown).
The church was built in early 1700, and is not a big church by Roman standard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy_of_Saint_Teresa

Gelato in front of the Pantheon

The San Luigi dei Francesi church - Caravaggio
This church, situated between piazza della Rotonda og piazza Navona. San Luigi dei Francesi, 5 Via Santa Giovanna d'Arco
Paintings by Caravaggio: The Calling of Saint Matthew, which hangs in the Contarelli Chapel. Two other Caravaggio works — St. Matthew and the Angel and the Martyrdom of St. Matthew — are also on permanent display here. You'll have to drop a few coins to light up the paintings in the darkened interior, and see how Caravaggio infused his own light into the baroque melodrama.

Church of Sant’Agostino - Caravaggio
Not only does this church have a work by Caravaggio, but the church is worth seeing in its own right with its marble facade built from marble taken from the Colosseum as well as a fresco by Raphael of the prophet, Isaiah. The sole work by Caravaggio, Madonna of Loreto (oil on canvas, c. 1604), is located in the Cavaletti Chapel within the church. Piazza Sant'Agostino, rather hidden away just to the north-east of the Piazza Navona.
Santa Maria del Popolo . Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci
The church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo, contains two of Caravaggio’s works in the Cerasi Chapel: The Crucifixion of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus
The Cerasi Chapel is an excellent example of contrasting styles during the Baroque. Cerasi commissioned Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci to decorate his chapel, two artists with opposing styles during the Baroque period in Rome.  Annibale, sought a revival of Renaissance use of color and light. Caravaggio used his surroundings to his advantage, knowing full well that his works would be viewed from the side rather than straight on and constructing paintings to reflect this. 

Note to self: Next time - a visit to Palazzo Barberini
The Palazzo Barberini, houses a handful of work by Caravaggio. Be sure to check out one of Caravaggio’s most striking works, Judith beheading Holofernes. In this painting, Judith, being urged on by her maid, surprises the sleeping Holofernes and begins to decapitate him. Caravaggio’s stunning realism captures the murder in a most grizzly fashion, capturing a popular Biblical theme and taking it to new dramatic heights. Even the blood spurting from Holofernes’s massing neck wound is so real, with Caravaggio presumably having witnessed a public execution or two that were common in Rome at the time. Caravaggio’s painting is a snapshot of the most dramatic and tense moments in the story: The young Judith, with her furrowed brow and tense arms, pulls back on Holofernes hair while her maid waits to help her clean up the mess while the doomed Holofernes, his eyes bulging, his face contorted in pain and his mouth crying out!
Bernini's fountain at Piazza Navona
Villa Borghese
If you really want to see works by Caravaggio you should visit the Galleria Borghese.
It is important that you book your ticket to the museum weeks early.

Sometimes it pours...

Surrealism - Giorgio de Chirico House

Piazza di Spagna 3. When facing the Spanish steps, walk a little bit to the right, to enter the Giorgio de Chirico House-Museum. This is a chance to get a guided look at some of the signature works of the master of classically fueled surrealism and to get a peek into his sunny attic studio.

The pristinely preserved two-level apartment, where De Chirico lived for more than 30 years until his death in 1978, also lets you glimpse how the city's upper crust have lived for centuries. In this case, it's accompanied by about the best view overlooking the splendid Piazza di Spagna. The living area has been left largely as it was during De Chirico's life and displays dozens of his works. 
Charming Francesca was our guide, and she switched to speaking Swedish once in a while.
The museum is owned and run by a foundation and you must make reservation in advance through their web site: http://www.fondazionedechirico.org/31

Chirico's apartment next to the Spannish steps

Baths of Caracalla

Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52.  
Some of ancient Rome's vanished splendour is still apparent in the vast ruins of the baths of Caracalla. This is a peaceful, green area. 

Traces of the mosaiced baths makes you imagine what a heavenly place this was back in the days
Completed by Emperor Caracalla in AD 217, the baths functioned for about 300 years, until the plumbing was destroyed by invading Goths.
Over 1,600 bathers at a time could enjoy the facilities. A Roman bath was a serious business, beginning with a sort of Turkish bath, followed by a spell in the caldarium, a large hot room with pools of water to provide humidity.
Then came the lukewarm tepidarium, a visit to the large central meeting place, known as the frigidarium, and finally a plunge into the natatio, an open-air swimming pool. For the rich, this was followed by a rubdown with scented woollen cloth.
As well as the baths, there were spaces for exercise, libraries, art galleries and gardens - a true leisure centre. Most of the rich marble decorations of the baths were removed by the Farnese family in the 16th century to adorn the interior of Palazzo Farnese.

Ruins of the once enormous Terme di Caracalla
Contains a total of 22 well-preserved columns from the ruins of the baths of Caracalla, taken there in the 12th century.

Museo Civilta Romana

Piazza G. Agnelli 10, Roma. Check out how Cesar conducted war missions and his war strategies, see models of weapons and warrior clothing. Also, have you ever wandered what ancient Rome looked like? The museum contains a grand-scale modell of ancient Rome - it is worth the whole ticket to see it. 

Ara Pacis

Ara Pacis

The Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace; commonly shortened to Ara Pacis) was consecrated by the Roman senate on 30 January year 9 BC. Ara Pacis was an altar dedicated to Peace, the Roman goddess. The friezes along the monument portray the peace and fertile prosperity enjoyed as a result of the peace brought to Rome by Augustus' military supremacy (Latin: Pax Augusta).

The Altar was originally located on the northern outskirts of Rome, on the west side of the Via Flaminia. It stood in the northeastern corner of the Campus Martius—a formerly open area that Augustus developed as a complex of monuments—and on the flood plain of the river Tiber, where it was gradually buried under four meters of silt over the centuries. The Ara Pacis was rediscovered and moved to its current location, close to the Mausoleum of Augustus, in 1938.

The recent very modern building that covers the Ara Pacis was designed by American architect Richard Meier, and opened in 2006.
For more tips on great sights in Rome (apart from the major sights), see my former post: http://tripstoshare.blogspot.no/2010/10/rome-in-september-2010.html#more
The Pantheon at night