Friday, April 23, 2010

The Trevi Fountain

Rick and I headed out from our hotel on foot. Our destination was the Vatican by way of a few intended sights. With map in hand, we looked for the streets indicated but most of them turned out to be more like alleyways. Street signs are engraved blocks on the sides of buildings. Our first destination was the Trevi Fountain.

This fountain is enormous!

It was based on the design of Nicolo Salvi and built from 1732-1762.

The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche, is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses.

Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea.

In the niches flanking Neptune, Abundance spills water from her urn

and Salubrity holds a cup from which a snake drinks.

Before I went to Italy, I rented the movie Three Coins in the Fountain. I had never seen this film but do think it has contributed significantly to the popularity of this fountain. The movie suggests that if you throw a coin over your shoulder, you will find true love. In Rome, the legend has it that if you toss the coin, then you will return to Rome. I couldn't chance not returning to Rome and so in the coin went.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Borghese Gallery

A wander (def: to go by an indirect route, in our case also unknown) north from our hotel took us to the Borghese Gallery. I was told to make reservations ahead of time, which I did, on line. It was a good thing as none were to be had for the days we would be in Rome. Pictures were not allowed either and so I borrowed these from copyright free places on the internet.

This villa was originally built in the early 1600's and was restored to it's original condition in 1997.

It houses a substantial portion of the Borghese family collection of paintings and sculptures begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V (reign 1605–1621).

Scipione Borghese was an early patron of  Gian Bernini, and thus many of his works are housed here.

My favorite of everything I saw was a fresco on the second floor in the Gallery of Lanfranco, named The Council of the Gods. This fresco decorates the ceiling of a large room, called Sala della Loggia and was done in 1624 by Giovanni Lanfranco.  At the centre is set the scene of the gods gathered in council around Jupiter. This room had originally been an outdoor room and so the fresco had deteriorated. Between 1779 and 1782 the  ceiling  was restored by Domenico Corvi (1721-1803), who added the paintings on the walls and arches. The ceiling is a fresco, which is a painting done in wet plaster. Small sections are worked at a time so the painting can be completed before the plaster dries. The apparent statuary of  men holding up the ceiling all around the edges is done in the trompe-l'oeil style, which tricks the eye into thinking it is 3-D. It was utterly amazing!

I sat in a chair on the edge of the room and looked at this painting for a long time. It was so beautiful.

I had not yet seen the Sistine Chapel.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Santa Maria Maggiore

A quick walk from our hotel, led us to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. A basilica is an important church that has been given special ceremonial rites by the Pope. There are four basilicas in Rome and this is the oldest. It dates back to the 4th century. Something that old is hard to imagine.

The condition of the exterior is a bit underwhelming, but then hey, it is quite old. We should look so good.

I especially like the dandelions growing on the statuary.

But walk inside and you will be totally amazed.

The center aisle.

The sculptures.

The mosaics.

The paintings and frescoes
in even a side chapel.

The gold leafing.

Every little detail ...
a piece of art

Even the floors are stunning marble mosaics.

If you have ever been to Rome, then you know that the work of sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini is everywhere. He is buried in this church and his epitaph simply states "He decorated the city."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Impressions

We arrived in Rome on Thursday, March 25 at about 7 AM, just a tad bit tired and waited for what seemed like forever for our luggage. Good thing it was marked PRIORITY. Otherwise we might still be waiting. Our prearranged transport was spot on, holding that oh so welcomed sign "Millar". Thank God we did not have to drive. Traffic in Rome is comparable to traffic in China--hectic.

Lots and lots of small cars everywhere.

And motorcycles jutting in an out. I have never seen so many and they create new lanes of traffic on an impromptu basis.

Parking meters don't exist and so a bit of the cost incentive to find alternative transport is missing. The trick is finding a place to park your vehicle and probably the reason why vehicles are small. Some are parked on curbs; some are double parked; some even triple. Narrow streets become even narrower and so commences the horn honking. Music to your ears?

Another note is the graffiti on many buildings.

Some more artistic than others but everywhere.

But my favorite, which I have saved for last is the landscape of trees, called umbrella pines, that grow in this area. Simply gorgeous...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ciao, Italia

The trip begins with a very long flying day. Leaving Portland at 7: 15 AM and landing in DC, our first destination. A 2+ hour layover and then on to Italy at 5:30 PM. Eight hrs in the air until arrival in Rome. How to pass that much time. Besides sleep, I found a very good book to read, which has been sitting on my shelf for just the right opportunity.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King tells the story of how Michelangelo who considered himself to be a sculptor and who had already completed two very famous pieces, the Pieta and David, was forced to work as a painter using a fresco technique for which he had very little experience. The story describes not only Michelangelo's challenges and triumphs but also shares the history and politics of the day.

A fascinating read and most appropriate for a field trip to Italy. 

Did you know that in Italy, the name Michelangelo is pronounced as if it rhymes with nickel + angelo.