Tuesday, April 8, 2014

art schmart

It’s 3 p.m. on a hot Roman afternoon, and I’m sitting by the open window of my bedroom in our little apartment as the church bells ring. Brucie is having his nap. We had a heavy morning of great, great art, with an added bit of joy – a concert. We were in the Palazzo Barberini, a stunning ornate building as always riddled with marble and painted ceilings – there isn’t a bare ceiling in all of Rome, I swear, it puts Michaelangelo into perspective – and we were looking at its masterpieces by Bernini, Holbein - a stern, fat, bejewelled Henry V111 

and a thoughtful Erasmus - 

and Caravaggio (a spectacularly violent beheading), when we heard music. In a grand room, in front of a vast fireplace, a baroque music group were playing recorder quartets and singing madrigals for a crowd of diffident Italian high school students. The acoustics in the room were glorious. It was heaven – especially because my mother used to play in a recorder group and I could hear her tootling.

Then the important decision – where to go for lunch. This time, unlike yesterday, I had brought the guide I bought in Paris – Le Guide Routard, a great guide to the best and cheapest a European city has to offer. But I'd forgotten to bring the map that goes with it. We actually found one of the recommended places on a tiny side street (after I’d asked directions, because Bruce won’t), but it didn’t open for lunch that early, of course. So we ended up having a slice of pizza at an outside bar for 12 euros – mine was arugula and mushrooms and B’s was just mushrooms - delicious.

And then another palazzo and more incredible art – this time the Galleria Doria Damphilj, 

the most important private art collection in Italy, a palace crammed to bursting with paintings you could hardly see, stacked on top of each other to the ceiling, in rooms so ornate – not just painted ceilings but velvet walls and marble statues everywhere – that the place itself competed with the art. One of its most famous works is the portrait of Pope Innocent X by the great Velasquez – this pope being a family member. Also some stunning work by Filippo Lippi, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Breugel and my fave, Durer. No photographs allowed.

After, passed the Trevi fountain, not so jammed. Talk about excess!

Exhausted – it’s an overwhelming feast - we walked home, Bruce this time showing me the way. Now while he sleeps, I’ve done some research from my Routard into inexpensive but recommended places for dinner. Tomorrow – the Vatican. Ye Gods. Literally and metaphorically.


  1. Not sure if they still allow visitors to the roof of St. Peter's, but it's worth the climb if you can. So happy you're there. And, if you like coffee, there's a wonderful cappuccino to be had in the piazza beside the Pantheon. Mind you, you're in Rome, so I imagine there are lots of wonderful cappuccinos (cappuccini?) to be had everwhere. xo Jason

  2. Thanks for the tips, Jason. There are so many visitors in Rome right now, Bruce said the lineup to get into St. Peter's a few days ago was two hours long. Luckily I saw it last time I was here, including the view from the roof. Tomorrow Bruce has booked us into the Sistine and the museum at the same time as the Pope's weekly talk in the square, in the hopes that everyone will be listening and not in our way. Not much hope, I know.