Saturday, 25 February 2017

When In Rome...

I'd had a less than lovely experience when last in Rome. This unfortunately coloured my views on this city and country for a long time. This recent visit however, went some way to compensating, and I was able to view the city and its people through fresh eyes. Although some things change, others remain the same.

I was pleasantly surprised on this visit to discover exactly how physically small Rome actually is, in comparison to say London, or Paris. It is a great city for walking, as none of the furthest main tourist sites are ever more than a 40 minute walk away. So suitably shod each day, I set off in search of my very own slice of la dolce vita.

The Nicola Salvi designed baroque Trevi Fountain is spectacular, I was lucky enough to be based a short stroll away from here and used to enjoy a quick visit in the morning, and last thing at night, on my evening constitutional, before retiring. Watching the crowds here posing for selfies was an entertainment in itself.

The Pantheon, is a wonderful architectural space, and last resting place of artist Raphael. The huge concrete dome is awe-inspiring with its all-seeing oculus which gives some fantastic light effects. I enjoyed returning at different times of day - opening to closing - to see the different nuances of light and record the progress of Apollo's sun-spot across that spectacular vast dome.

A Bernini elephant sculpture in the Piazza della Minerva.

Piazza Navona, with classical fountain statuary, again courtesy of Bernini, and some less than convincing modern statuary, (it's a living of sorts). The painted interior of the domed church here is absolutely stunning.

The architecturally impressive Colosseum and other remnants of ancient Rome. 

Views of the Fori Imperiali.

Hail Caesar!

It was a bit of a shock to see the numbers of armed soldiers deployed all over the city 24 hours a day, and 'Action Man' (with eagle eyes and gripping hands), below, stationed outside my hotel.

 Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess.

The area around the Spanish Steps above, is heavily littered with other tourists enjoying the sunshine, and also home to Rome's designer fashion shops. I found lots of fresh inspiration (especially in that die-punched leather dress), for a new series of Scissorhands dresses that I aim to create.

Castel Sant'Angelo on the banks of the Tevere/Tiber. The bridge is lined with angel statues and the banks of the river were a very peaceful retreat from Rome's traffic.

Along with lions - bees (representing industry) - are celebrated all over the city in stonework from the period when they were incorporated into the papal Barberini family coat of arms.

Even for a Catholic country I was surprised at the sheer number of churches here. There is literally one on every corner, each beautifully ornate and decorative, vying to outdo the others with either a bigger cupola, more intricate marble carving on the frontage, or more gilded statuary inside. 

The painted ceilings in each church are very beautiful, and I enjoyed popping in to sit for five minutes or more peaceful contemplation at each one I encountered.

This clerical outfitters window reminded me of one of the lovely illustrations in Eric Ravilious's book - High Street (below).

This monument to Vittorio Emanuele II teased me, as I could see it from different vantage points across the city and couldn't work out what it was. It was only on visiting the Colosseum that I realised how close it was. I just had to visit it, and I was well rewarded. Not only did I come across an Edward Hopper exhibition but I was able to explore the monuments interior. It is a magnificent piece of architecture which has an equally impressive regal interior, and several viewing platforms giving great views across the city.

Orange trees in full bloom in the middle of February in the Barberini district. 

"Beware the Ides of March"... The spirit of ancient Rome was evoked, and very much alive in the form of these modern day soothsayers plying their trade on the street.

Dining out was a very good experience. Great food, great wine, and very good coffee.

(Not to mention the excellent gelato!)

Thoroughly enjoyed my Roman Holiday. Arrivederci Roma!