We now knew that we needed to have metro-passes for the bus and the train, but there are no kiosks to buy them / no machines / no signs / no one had them / knew when they’d have them / would be open when you needed them / and/or knew who else might have them. You finally learn that they are sold in bars and tobacco shops. But these are closed all afternoon. Despite the challenges, we got tickets and on Sunday, we took the train to Rome, destination Pyramid Station. The pyramid tomb was built into the Roman wall at the bequest of a little known bureaucrat who, in the first century AD, became enamored of the glamour of Cleopatra and Egypt. Like Ron and I, in other words.
We went immediately by taxi to the Galleria Borghese. Last fall we took a DVD course on European Art and discovered Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Working in the early 1600s, he exemplifies the Italian Baroque in sculpture. We saw his “David” ; “Apollo and Daphne” ; and “Truth” ; among lesser works. The Borghese has “David” and “Apollo and Daphne” each set in the middle of a large room, where one can walk closely all the way around. Wisely, the Galleria has tickets which limit visitors to 2 hours and a limited number of tickets are sold for each block of time. So the view can be intimate and within arm’s reach. Nothing prepared us for the delicacy of detail and workmanship. I admit I have not been so close to Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” or “Moses”, but Bernini surpasses them IMO.
We also visited the Borghese to see their collection of Caravaggios, such as “Madonna with a serpent” ; “Sick Bacchus” and “Boy with a basket of fruit.” Caravaggio was the bad boy of the Baroque [and we always say, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it.”], often run out of town for scandals and scrapes with the law. We fist met him in Malta and were transfixed.
Our next destination was Santa Maria del Popolo, which we reached by strolling through the Borghese Park, formerly the private grounds of the Borghese family, well outside the city of Rome. The park is very large and was being enjoyed by family groups on a beautiful Sunday. We entered the actual city of Rome through one of the ancient gates. And from there into Piazza Popolo. [It is hard to take this name seriously, what with the Popalope⃰ and all.]
But inside the church is the Cerasi Chapel, containing two splendid Caravaggios: “The Conversion of Paul” and “The Crucifixion of St. Peter”. As in many of his works, Caravaggio uses dramatic light and dark to create high drama. Paul is literally driven to the ground by the light, while his horse and groom remain literally in the dark, puzzled by his behavior. Peter is hauled upside down by three thuggish men, whose darkness underscores the frailty of the old man on the cross.
We left as Mass began, taking the Metro to the Museum of Rome, which turned out to be a delight. So much so, that we stayed on there rather than going to see one more Bernini. [“The Ecstasy of St. Theresa” which one cannot get close to].
The Museo Nazionale Romano is jammed with treasures, all unearthed from within the city walls. As you can imagine, whenever building is done in Rome, something is discovered. In 2 cases, the museum very nearly recreates villas discovered along the Tiber, including frescoes, mosaics and household goods. Statues dominate the collection, with 2 superb bronzes: “The Boxer” with his bleeding wounds highlighted in copper; and “The Hellenistic Prince” who face is likely a portrait [not so, his perfect physique.] Among the many mosaics, we encountered a style we had not previously seen—making a picture with shaped bits of colored marble, akin to the art of inlaid wood.
Tired, we took the train past Ostia and on to Lido, the famous Roman beach. Our plan was to have a nice dinner overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Imagine our shock when we discovered that there is virtually no public access to the beach; all the sand is privately owned and covered every inch with chaise longues and umbrellas. There are no restaurants with ocean views. There is one public pier and some benches overlooking the private beach. Frustrated, we made our way to the McDonald’s across from the pier. I got a Focaccinino, which proved to be a round focaccia bun with the world’s saltiest ham—so much so that the crystals of salt literally crunched in my teeth. And that salt was the closest we could get to the sea at Lido.
Back to the B&B, we determined to rest watching TV. We discovered that “Star Trek,” “Thomas the Tank Engine”, and a movie about Robert E. Lee are very amusing in Italian.
⃰ The Popalope is a fictional creature with the pope’s face, antelope antlers and jack-rabbit ears.