It’s finally spring in Rome, and you know what that means — sunshine (well, usually), long days, increasingly warm nights… and time to take advantage of some of the best parks in Rome. Here are three of my favorite parks in Rome:
Monte Mario: Located on the highest hill in Rome, just to the northwest of the city center, Monte Mario park — not surprisingly — comes with some of the city’s best views. (Check out the shots above and below if you don’t believe me). Since it’s outside of the city center, north of Vatican City, it’s also one of Rome’s most peaceful parks. And it’s got a perk for astronomy geeks: This is where the Rome Observatory is, as well as the Museo Astronomico Copernicano — and this was the location used as the prime meridian, instead of Greenwich, for maps of Italy until the 1960s. Click here for the location of Monte Mario Park and its nature reserve.
Villa Borghese: Rome’s answer to Central Park, Villa Borghese dates back to the early 17th century, when it was the playground for the noble (and pope-producing) Borghese family. Today, locals and tourists alike take advantage of its tree-lined paths and green spaces, jogging, picnicking, even pedaling those funny 4- or 5-person contraptions (and threatening to take out anyone else in their way!). Here’s where to come to people-watch, admire the view of Piazza del Popolo from the Pincian hill, or to pop into one of the park’s several top-notch museums — the Galleria Borghese among them. (Below, part of the gardens at the Galleria Borghese). Click here for the location of the Borghese gardens.
Villa Pamphili: Rome’s biggest park, Villa Pamphili, located just west of Trastevere, is also one of its richest with both flora and fauna. Here’s where to come to go for a long jog, admire the fountains, or sit and admire swans swimming across the pond. (And as you can see from the photo, below, it’s pretty in the autumn, too!). Click here for the location of Villa Pamphili.
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.
In Rome, it's the Italian Renaissance that gets the glory. In a city filled with paintings and sculptures by the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael, that's how it should be.
But with such larger-than-life pieces, it can — ironically — be easy to forget in Rome just how influential Italy's renaissance was beyond its borders. After all, the importance of the art isn't just that every tourist flocks to the Sistine Chapel to stare at more than 10,000 square feet of fresco. The real question is: Why do they? And, in no small part, it's because the Renaissance launched in Italy would go on to shape art both up until today — and across the entire European realm.
Unless you're stopping in Germany and the Netherlands and England along with Italy, that can be tough to get your mind around on one trip. Until now.
The Galleria Borghese is showing an excellent exhibit on the work of Lucas Cranach. Appropriately titled "Cranach: The Other Renaissance," it brings together, in one space, the pieces of one of the foremost artists of the German Renaissance with Italian Renaissance masterpieces… and the ancient sculptures that inspired both.
Born into the same era as Michelangelo and Raphael, Cranach became a court painter to Saxony's Frederick the Wise in 1504. He would remain a court painter until his death in 1553. With his status, he had access not just to the rulers of the realm, but also to their art — which included pieces from the Italian masters.
The relationship between his art and that of his Italian peers (or, in many cases, predecessors) is highlighted again and again. There's no looking at his "Primitive Man (The Golden Age)," for example, and not seeing the Florentine Botticeli's "La Primavera," executed some fifty years earlier. (Sadly, Botticelli's piece isn't in the Borghese exhibition, so you'll still have to go to Florence's Uffizi Gallery to get the full picture).
"Primitive Man (The Golden Age)," Lucas Cranach, 1530
"La Primavera," Botticelli, 1482
Even while Cranach drew on Italian models, though, his style was all his own. His figures are less proportionate, the clothing more sumptuous, the messages more moralizing. And his Protestantism — a close friend of Martin Luther, he introduced Luther to his future wife and painted a widely-reproduced portrait of the couple (included in the exhibit) — significantly influenced his paintings, too.
Just take his "Centurion at the Cross," a stark contrast to Pinturicchio's crucifixion scene. Hung side-by-side in the exhibit, the two paintings highlight the widening divide between Luther's followers and the Roman Catholics. Cranach's crucifixion scene is stark, bare, the centurion's sighting of Jesus unmediated by anyone — or anything — else. His conversion is a lonely one, undertaken because of inner faith alone.
"Centurion at the Cross," Lucas Cranach, 1539
Not so in Pinturrichio's piece. Here, the saints Jerome and Christopher mediate, praying both with — and on behalf of — the viewer. That's exactly what the Protestants rejected.
"The Crucifixion," Pinturrichio, 1473
The exhibit isn't perfect. Some of the rooms seem to be reaching: While you could certainly have a conversation about various types of Renaissance portraiture from looking at a line of unrelated portraits of unrelated men, for example, the resulting jumble overwhelms. The exhibit is far clearer, and more effective, when it picks more precise themes to compare.
Still, it's a treat even to just see so much of Cranach's work in one place. You can see both his style developing, and can tell when he hits on a marketable idea — like his "Ill-Assorted Couples," a humorous but moralizing theme he repeated more than 40 times in his workshop's output.
It's neat, too, to see the influence he and other German Renaissance painters may have had on other artists in the collection. Take one of Cranach's "Ill-Assorted Couples," for example, and then take a look at Gerrit van Honhorst's "The Concert" (in the Borghese's permanent collection). Yes, van Honhorst's piece is explicitly Baroque, not Renaissance. Yes, it's Caravaggesque in its realism and dramatic lighting.
But van Honhorst also seems to draw something from his fellow northern painter — particularly in showing a joyful scene debased and warped, both humorously and with a moralizing intent. In Cranach's piece, is the old woman paying off the young man for love? In Honthorst's, is the young woman stealing the man's earring and about to pass it to the old woman behind her? How else are the scenes similar… and how, separated by 100 years and their respective art movements, do they differ?
"Ill-Assorted Couple," Lucas Cranach
"Concert," Gerrit van Honhorst, 1623
It's exactly those kinds of conversations you can have at the Borghese's newest exhibit.
"Cranach: The Other Renaissance" is on at the Borghese Gallery until February 13. For more information about the exhibit, click here. For more information on the Borghese, including how to book (you must book in advance), click here. All Borghese tickets include entrance to the Cranach exhibit; the price for a ticket is now €13.50.
All images above except for "La Primavera," "Venus and Cupid" and "Concert" courtesy of the Borghese Gallery. Images of the other pieces courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art.
Rome has so many exciting events coming up this autumn, I decided not to fit it all in one post. I will be updating this one, though (unlike my early-autumn events list), so bookmark this and check back. Last updated: November 11.
Lots of these events involve the extended, or free, openings of old favorites — so plan ahead to save a buck and miss the crowds.
September 21-25. Archeojazz, with a guided tour followed by a live jazz performance at the Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella.
Until October 28. The Villa Farnesina, usually open only weekdays from 9am-1pm, is open every Thursday evening, with free guided tours, from 7:30pm-10pm.
November 17. Budapest Bar-Urban Gipsy concert at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis at 9:30pm. Reservations are required (call 060608), and the concert is free.
November 20. Musei in Musica, with free live concerts (and a couple of dance performances) in 47 different museums and institutes in Rome.
November 27. Jazz Noir at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere, a free performance of music and noir lit reading at 5pm (with your €5 ticket to the museum).
Until December 2. RomaEuropa Festival. The annual festival, now in its 25th year, boasts a series of music, dance and theater performances. Highlights this year include a production of “Orpheus” with hip-hop music and music by Monteverdi and Philip Glass, the British rock group “The Irrepressibles,” and Laurie Anderson’s “Delusion,” a multimedia series of mystery plays that include violin, puppetry, and visuals.
Until January 8. Each weekend except for the Christmas holidays, the Centrale Montemartini hosts its “Central Notes” concerts. The food and wine tasting, plus concert, costs €8. The showings are on Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 10pm.