Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Just like in The Movies

Once more Rome has become 'Hollywood on the Tiber' with no less than three major films in production at Cinecitta Studios and locations in the city itself - Ben Hur, Zoolander 2 and Spectre (the latest James Bond movie).
You could imagine that you are in the movies too as there are many places that have featured in films over the years that you can visit.

The Movie - Roman Holiday
The Scene - Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) meets the press
The Place Palazzo Colonna.( Via della Pilotta, 17 www.galleriacolonna.it )

The Gallery of Palazzo Colonna is only open on a Saturday morning but the entrance fee to the palazzo includes a chance to see the Sala Grande where the above scene was filmed. Indeed, in a small room before you reach the Grand Hall you will see that very scene played on a flat screen TV. Note how the production team very cleverly hide the cannonball embedded in one of the steps!

The Movie -  The Talented Mr Ripley
The Scene - Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) covers up Freddy's death
The Place -  Piazza Mattei
In the middle of this tiny piazza stands the delightful Tortoise Fountain. The tortoises were added by Bernini when the fountain was restored. The green door in the right hand corner of the piazza belongs to the apartment rented by Tom Ripley in the film.

This piazza also appears in our next movie.

The Movie - To Rome with Love
The Scene - John (Alec Baldwin) reminisces about his student days in the city
The Place - Café della Pace (Via della Pace 3/7)

Caffe della Pace is one of the historic cafes of Rome, it has been established for over 100 years and has been in the Serafina family for the last 40. 
A haunt of the great & good from the world of the arts , the story goes that during the filming of Godfather III, Diane Keaton reportedly became so angry with Al Pacino that she slapped his face. The cafe's staff helped avoid a delay in filming by rushing out a bag of ice to keep the swelling down! 
The café is open from 8.30am - 2.00am so it is your choice whether you go for coffee, aperitivo or something in between. My favourite time is after dark.

Café della Pace also appears in our next movie

The Movie - Eat, Pray, Love
The Scene - Liz (Julia Roberts) practices her Italian  by ordering for her friends whilst dining 'al fresco'
The Place - Santa Lucia (Largo Febo)

Whilst Liz and friends dined at lunchtime, I think there is no more romantic spot than the terrace of this lovely restaurant in the evening when it is illuminated by candles and twinkly lights in the trees.

Even more romantic would be to precede your meal with an aperitif in the rooftop bar of the Raphael Hotel which looks down in to the cloisters of Santa Maria della Pace, designed by Bramante.
The hotel is literally two steps from Santa Lucia.
The Movie - The Great Beauty
The Scene - Jep (Tony Servillo) enjoys lunch in his favourite restaurant
The Place - La Veranda ( Borgo Santo Spirito 73)
To my mind the star of the Oscar winning film 'The Great Beauty' is Rome itself. Scene after stunning scene shows the city at its best, especially some of the lesser known sights such as the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola.
 If you have read my previous post you will know that 'The Great Beauty' fills the number one spot on my Rome bucket list but in reality this film deserves a whole bucket list of its own. Included would be dining under the frescoed ceiling of La Veranda, housed in the 15th century Palazzo dei Penitenzieri.
A Great Beauty indeed.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Snow in Summer

As you have probably guessed by now I LOVE Rome and have visited many times. However there are so many things still to see & do  Here are the top  three on my 'bucket list', in reverse order of course, as would happen at any self respecting award ceremony!

Santa Maria Maggiore (aka 'Our Lady of the Snows')

The original church on this site owed its location to a vision that came to Pope Liberius in the 4th century . The Virgin Mary herself commanded that a church should be built where snow fell, as it did......on the 5th August! On that day every year to commemorate the Miracle of the Madonna of the Snow, a son et lumiere show is put on in the piazza in front of the Basilica with artificial snow “magically” falling out of a warm star-studded Roman summer sky.
So third place on the bucket list goes to 'snow in summer'.
Achievable? Absolutely -  just book an early August break in the Eternal city.

Holy Doors - St Peter's Basilica
There are five sets of bronze doors that lead in to St Peter's Basilica and they are mostly ignored by visitors who are drawn in to the magnificent interior. You will find much to admire if you pause a while. The far left doors are the spookiest - known as the Doors of Death because funeral processions pass through them. They are decorated with various scenes of martyrdom. The vultures are particularly ominous!
The centre doors are my favourite. They are from the original basilica built by Emperor Constantine and are the work of Filarete, a Florentine artist.

On the reverse of the doors is Filarete's 'signature' ...........

....he is seen with his workers who are dancing joyfully whilst holding the tools of their trade.
For the purpose of the bucket list, the Holy Doors on the far right prove the most interesting. These doors are only opened in a Holy Year, held once every 25 years (the last was in 2000) when the Pope himself knocks on them with a tiny silver hammer.
So, second place on the bucket list goes to being able to walk through the Holy Doors.
Achievable? Thanks to Pope Francis it is! The pope declared an extraordinary Holy Year which will commence on 8th December this year. So no waiting until 2025 to walk through those doors.
Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta
This piazza, designed by the architect Piranesi and looking like one of his drawings, is home to one of the worst kept 'secret places' in Rome - the view through the keyhole.

The view spans three countries. You are standing in Italy looking towards Vatican city through the gardens of  the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who own the building in which the keyhole is found. The Knights of Malta is an order of chivalry, a bit like the Red Cross, who help the needy people of the world.
It is those gardens that provide the number one wish on the bucket list. In Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar winning film, The Great Beauty, the main character is given the key to the gardens and tours around. This would be an amazing thing to do.
Achievable? Mmmm - quite tricky. The only reference I have found to the gardens on any tour schedule is that of the American Horticultural Society Travel Study Programme (and that is subject to confirmation). It is also a mega expensive tour! Let us say this is a work in progress but no one ever said that ticking off all items on a bucket list was going to be easy!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Holy Week

As you would imagine, Rome has more than its fair share of religious relics and art works. What better time than Holy Week to seek out those relating to The Passion.
Scala Sancta

These stairs are traditionally believed to be from the house of Pontius Pilate and were climbed by Christ on the way to trial. The marble steps are protected by a wooden cover containing holes through which marks can be seen that are said to be the blood of Christ. Faithful Christians ascend the staircase on their knees.
The stairs were bought back to Rome by St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, and are housed across the piazza from San Giovanni in Laterano.

Santa Prassede
Within the church of Santa Prassede lies the gorgeous little chapel of St Zenone. The mosaic decorations include these beautiful angels watching over you from the ceiling.
In a niche to the right of the chapel is a fragment of the column to which Christ was bound. It was bought to Rome at the time of the Crusades.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Fragments of the True Cross, two thorns from the crown and a nail from the crucifixion were bought to Rome by St Helena (she was a prolific relic collector!)

They are housed in a modern chapel,The Chapel of the Passion, within the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The Stations of the Cross line the stairs that lead up to the chapel.

The elaborate reliquaries that hold the relics were designed by Valadier. The fragments of wood form part of the cross.


St Peters
Two Passion related relics are held in St Peters, The Lance of Longinus and The Veil of St Veronica. The lance was believed to have pierced Christ's side and the veil, a cloth used by St Veronica to wipe the brow of Christ on his way to Calvary.
Statues of St Veronica, Longinus and St Helena, designed by Bernini, stand in the piers that make up the central crossing of the basilica. Above these are balconies where the relics were displayed at Easter.

Perhaps the most moving reminder of the Passion of Christ is seen in Michelangelo's Pieta (in the first chapel of the right hand aisle). All the more remarkable as Michelangelo was only 24 when he created this sculpture.

Ponte Sant'Angelo

A walk across this bridge reminds us of the events of Good Friday as each of the Bernini designed angels holds an instrument of Christ's suffering including nails and the crown of thorns.

 Trinita dei Monte

This church at the top of the Spanish Steps houses a version of 'The Deposition'(descent from the cross) by Volterra, a student of Michelangelo

A fitting way to end our Holy Week in the Eternal City.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Girls rock!

Today (March 8th) is a celebration of female achievement across the world. Below are five Roman women who have all left their mark upon the Eternal City.

Cecilia Metella
I have to admit that I know very little about Cecilia, other than that she was the daughter in law of Crassus, a wealthy entrepreneur who financed Julius Caesar. What I do know is that she has an amazing tomb, which in a male dominated Roman society was an achievement in itself!


Wife and mother of  Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, seen here depicted on the Ara Pacis,  Livia left a stunning legacy in the garden room frescoes which can be seen in the Palazzo Massimo museum.
Sister of Emperor Augustus, wife of Mark Anthony and guardian of his children, Octavia is remembered in the Portico of Octavia which Augustus dedicated to her.

Felice delle Rovere
Illegitimate daughter of Cardinal delle Rovere, later to become Pope Julius II, Felice played an important role in renaissance politics by means of marriage and influential contacts. She is depicted in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums.....

......and was also said to be the model for Rachel, created by Michelangelo for the tomb of Julius II.

Anita Garibaldi
Wife of Italian Revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, Anita fought alongside her husband and is immortalised in a statue on the Janiculum Hill.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Queen Christina of Sweden

It's Carnivale time in Rome and this year it is dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden (more information courtesy of Buzz in Rome )

Queen Christina abdicated the Swedish throne and relocated to Rome. Evidence of the Queens' time here can be found at various points. To celebrate her arrival Bernini was commissioned to design the inner façade of the Porta del Popolo through which the Queen entered the city.
Queen Christina first lodged in Palazzo Farnese .

.........she also lived in Palazzo Torlonia on Via Conciliazione........
.......and finally Palazzo Corsini in Trastevere, where Christina's suite of rooms can be seen today.
The final resting place of the Queen is a tomb in St Peters - one of only four women who are buried in the Basilica.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Love is in the air


Our perfect Valentine's Day in Rome would start with breakfast (or brunch) in the prettiest little café - Coromandel (Via  Monte Giordano 60/61). We would choose cake and pastries  from a laden table and enjoy eating them off delicate porcelain  plates.

We would then wander through nearby Piazza Navona towards the Pantheon, stopping at Café Sant'Eustachio,  where the cappuccino comes appropriately decorated.

Walking behind the Pantheon brings us to Piazza Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with its cute Bernini elephant statue.
Not far from here is Moriondo e Gariglio (Via Pie di Marmo 21/22), a delightful box of delights of the chocolate variety. After choosing between the many different freshly made fillings, our chocolates will be lovingly wrapped in  signature red paper. We will have spotted the hollow chocolate hearts which may have been pre-filled with love notes.......or even a diamond ring!!
The Trevi Fountain beckons , although at the time of writing it is only partially visible due to restoration. Very close by, however, is consolation in the form of Baccano (Via Muratte 23). We head to one of the cosy booths and order oysters & a bottle of Franciacorta  then while away the afternoon in this vintage dining room.
Our early evening passeggiata starts at the Spanish Steps. if we are lucky with the weather we will spend time here watching the world go by. Nearby is

Via Margutta. This romantic ivy-draped street, full of antique shops and artists studios, is also home to La Bottega del Marmoraro (at number 53B). Here we pause to have a small marble plaque engraved with a message - may be with lines from a love sonnet penned by Elizabeth Barratt Browning.
We retrace our steps to the bottom of the Spanish Steps where, at the Keats-Shelley House, between 6.15pm - 7.30pm there are readings of  those self same sonnets.
'How do I love thee....let me count the ways'
From here we will be picked up to enjoy an Illuminated Night Time Tour of the city on the back of a cherry red Vespa with Scooteroma Tours
Rome is beautiful by night.......and incredibly romantic!

We will have arranged to end our tour at Marzapane (Via Velletri 39). This dimly lit restaurant is the perfect venue for our Valentine's dinner. A wonderfully relaxing environment in which we enjoy the culinary magic of talented Spanish chef Alba Esteve Ruiz. We make sure that we end our meal with the chocolate dessert that resembles a Ferrero Rocher