This is our second time traveling Europe by train. We go light, one carry-on each. In previous years I had a Red Oxx backpack, but after a shoulder injury I bought a four-wheel Bric spinner. I filled it with black and navy separates, ready for almost everything except tea with the Queen.
Two years ago we visited Italy last, Rome last of all. This time it would be first. After all, I had never strolled the Tiber River.
I needed to test just how fickle I am. I’ve lived in Paris and visited often; it has always been my great love. So I was shocked by my visceral reaction to Italy, especially Rome. I remembered the magnificent Bernini sculptures at the Borghese Gallery (for which I could not get tickets this year. If you wish to go, plan way ahead!) Bernini works marble like no other. This is a detail from the Rape of Persephone.
Our Hotel San Francesco is welcoming, calm and elegant, in the old Trastevere neighborhood, with its time-aged walls of terracotta, ochre, and gold. The San Francesco a Ripa church is next door. Here is our view.
The first evening we arrived late but in time for a glass of (organic) wine at an outdoor neighborhood bar/café. The server was gracious and warm…the night was warm!
Warmth continued to surround us. Although much of Italian art is about reaching for the heavens, life here is cheerfully grounded in the earth. This earth. This life. Our first morning we walked to the famous Testaccio Market.
It’s artichoke season!
Look who greeted us outside the market, made of bottlecaps!
Sunday we had lunch on a cobbled lane behind the Spanish steps.
Across the way a vine-draped courtyard called to me with its artist’s studio and Red Valentino boutique. I loved this muslin horse.
My friend Annamaria Alfieri said not to miss the Vatican Museum, especially the Map Room. My first sight of the immense narrow gallery sent my jaw dropping.
Italia Antiqua, and below modern Italy.
There is a color I call Vatican blue, so pure and celestial.
The same skies we see in Rome, as here behind the Pantheon.
Another day we walked to the Capitoline Museums, on one of the seven hills of Rome…behind the Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue and the Vittorio monument.
And above the Forum ruins.
The setting is stupendous, the collection astonishing.
Afterward we ate at Tre Scalini in the Monti neighbohood under a curtain of vines.
Art is everywhere in Rome: the magnificent churches! I followed Bernini through several of them. Here, at Santa Maria della Vittoria is St. Theresa in Ecstasy, as an angel pierces her heart with a dart of divine love, causing her both immense joy and pain.
Bernini is a Baroque artist; his work is passionate and theatrical, sensual even in the sacred space. A similar work is next door to our hotel at San Francesco a Ripa, Beata Ludovica in Ecstacy.
And at Santa Maria soprano Minerva, I fell in love with Bernini’s whimsical elephant.
The museums and churches have serious competition with the art in the street. I keep going back to Piazza Navona, an over-the-top space centered by Bernini’s wondrous Fountain of Four Rivers.