Trinità dei Monti Rome

 

Trinità dei Monti

Santissima Trinità dei Monti Roman Catholic Church and monastery are at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Obelisco Sallustiano stands at the church’s entrance.

Borghese Chapel Cesare Nebbia

Trinità dei Monti is a French national church and one of Rome’s main attractions. The church contains magnificent Renaissance art and has interesting history. In 1502, to celebrate France’s invasion of Naples, Louis XII began, but never finished, construction of the church.

Spanish Steps from Above

“The present Italian Renaissance church was built in its place and consecrated in 1585 by the great urbanizer Pope Sixtus V. During the Napoleonic occupation of Rome, the church was despoiled of its art. After the Bourbon restoration in the 1800s, it was renovated and returned to its former state at the expense of France’s Louis XVIII.”

Spanish Steps Photo Shoot

Trinità dei Monti has several chapels with splendid paintings, statues, and frescoes by Italian artists:

Pucci Chapel Frescoe Taddeo Zuccari

Since 2016, members of the Emmanuel Community began living in and serving Trinità dei Monti – a place of education, meetings, worship, and prayer.  A French caretaker adjusted chairs in the cordoned off main chapel, lit candles, and asked several young women who were inappropriately dressed to cover up or leave the premises.

Ceiling Trinità dei Monti

Tourists heeded the signs of silence posted throughout the church. It was a peaceful place to sit in contemplation. Outside, the street was bustling with people and lined with Maseratis and Ferraris for a flashy sports car photo shoot near the Spanish Steps.

Daniele da Volterra Frescoe

Communication is one of the things I like most about Italy. You don’t need to speak the language to understand what’s being said – gestures and facial expressions tell all!

Daniele da Volterra Frescoe

Pucci Chapel Frescos by Perino del Vaga

It was another sweltering day in Rome. On the metro, a handsome Italian offered me his seat. I sat down next to an English couple with a baby who was clearly overheated. She was adorable and looked frazzled with bright pink cheeks but seemed happy and wasn’t fussy. The couple said they were finding it difficult adjusting to Rome’s sultry summer weather – me too….

Trinità dei Monti and Obelisco Sallustiano

Dome Trinità dei Monti

Tomorrow I’ll get an early start and try to plan shady activities with frequent café stops. I discovered a fantastic underground Chinese Szechuan restaurant – Xiang Zi – in the Prati District and had a delicious lunch!

Xiang Zi Szechuan Restaurant

Campo Marzio Rome

Rome Panorama from Campo Marzio

Yesterday I spent time walking the upper areas of Campo Marzio, the Roman district that “boasts ruins with some of the most famous monuments in the world”. The district was dedicated to Mars, the Roman God of War. Campo Marzio covers a large area, including Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, and Trinita dei Monti.

During the age of ancient Rome, Campo Marzio was outside Rome’s “official city boundaries”. Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, Rome’s last king, turned the area into an enormous wheat field. Later it became a place of worship and then an area for military practice and exercises. Located in “neutral territory,” it was also a designated place for receiving foreign ambassadors.

Bernini Angel Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

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“Rome is a whole world, and it takes years if only to recognize themselves. Lucky those travelers who see and manage to leave.” W. Goethe

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The area I explored doesn’t have many tourists but it’s full of ruins and busts of Roman dignitaries –  interesting place but not great for photos. It has a fantastic viewing point with panoramic vistas of Rome!

From Campo Marzio

Later in the day I returned to Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo for a second visit. It’s near the Flamino metro station on the way back to my apartment. The Basilica’s exquisite art deserves more than one viewing. It fascinates me.

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

I’ve been to Saint Peter’s Square several times this trip and during a previous visit to Rome toured the Vatican and Sistine Chapel –  so far, I’ve not braved the tourist lines to revisit those places. There are works of art everywhere in Rome!

Piazza del Popolo, Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, and Museo Leonardo da Vinci 

 

Dome Santa Maria del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) “marks the northern edge of tourist Rome”. It’s in the tridente neighborhood surrounded by the church of Santa Maria del Popolo and parks.

Piazza del Popolo

The hot weather in Rome zaps your energy. I’ve been leaving my apartment mid-morning, returning around 4 pm to recharge, and going out later – when things cool down a bit. Although the metro is great, getting around in the heat requires effort and energy. Walking is the best way to see Rome.

Caravaggio Crucifixion of St. Peter Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo isn’t Rome’s most popular piazza, but it’s beautiful. “This oval space, fills a basin between the Tiber River and the terraced 19th century Pincio Gardens leading up to Villa Borghese Park. The gardens belonged to Nero’s family and supposedly hide the site where they secretly buried the crazed and despised emperor after he committed suicide.”

Caravaggio Conversion of St. Paul Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

In the middle of the piazza there’s an “ancient Egyptian obelisk of Ramses II surrounded by a quartet of lions sending sheets of water splashing into basins at their paws”. Romans moved the obelisk from Heliopolis Egypt and placed it at Rome’s Circus Maximus. In 1589, Pope Sixtus V ordered the obelisk moved to Piazza del Popolo.

Interior Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

The 15th century church of Santa Maria del Popolo is at the northern end of the piazza. It contains priceless works of Renaissance art by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Carracci, and Pinturicchio.

Ceiling Santa Maria del Popolo

“Pope Sixtus V’s grand civil engineering project was creating the first modern European city by linking Rome’s major churches. With the help of Italian architect Domenico Fontana, he created new squares across Rome. Sixtus V anchored each square with an ancient obelisk and linked them with a web of three streets branching from each square to symbolize the Trinity.” Rome has the most obelisks of any city in the world – eight from ancient Egypt, five Roman, several modern versions, and one from Ethiopia.

The Last Supper Leonardo da Vinci

It was customary for pilgrims to come to the Eternal City to gain “indulgences” – remission of the time to be spent in Purgatory by their souls or those of their relatives. During pilgrimages, they visited Rome’s main churches, including Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo and:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • St. Paul Basilica
  • St. Sebastian Basilica
  • St. John Lateran
  • Basilica of the Holy Cross
  • St. Lawrence Church
  • St. Mary Major Basilica

Exterior Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

Museo Leonardo da Vinci

I visited Museo Leonardo da Vinci which blew my mind. The museum is under the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. I didn’t know that da Vinci was a military mastermind.

Da Vinci Military Inventions

The museum contains models of the many military machines he designed for battles. I thought of him as a painter more than a military engineer. Touring the museum gave me a new appreciation for his well-deserved title “The Universal Genius” – artist, designer, experimenter, philosopher, scientist, anatomist, cosmologist, cartographer, engineer, and architect! The museum contains reproductions of some of da Vinci’s paintings and drawings and information about the creation and crucial restoration of his most famous masterpieces, including:

  • The Last Supper
  • Mona Lisa
  • La belle Ferronnière
  • Portrait of a Young Fiancée
  • The Virgin of the Rocks

Lion Fountain Piazza del Popolo

As with all things Roman – in addition to their beauty, the artwork and architecture have historical significance and many layers of deeper, symbolic meaning.

Piazza del Popolo Obélisque

Villa Borghese Rome Italy

Neoclassic Building Villa Borghese

Yesterday, I walked throughout Villa Borghese, one Rome’s largest parks with gardens, museums, galleries, and more. The sprawling urban park is north of central Rome in the upscale Spagna district near the Aurelian Wall. Other notable attractions in the area include Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, and Piazza di Spagna.

Galleria Borghese

I took the subway to the Spagna metro station, but the 20-minute walk from the subway to the park was slightly confusing since there were several exits marked “Villa Borghese”. The metro circles Central Rome, so once you arrive at the subway station getting to your exact point of interest involves a walk or taking a taxi or bus.

Pietro Canonica

Met an Italian family who had tried the same subway exists. We laughed after running into each other several times retracing our steps. Together we figured out that the Via Veneto exit was the best way to Villa Borghese’s main entrance. In Rome, I’ve learned that asking for directions isn’t wise and a fully charged phone and good mapping app are indispensable.

Lake Garden Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese Lake House

Rome’s subway is overwhelmingly massive and deep! At some stations, it takes 10 – 15+ minutes just to get down to the trains. Yesterday there were machine-gun-carrying guards – many with dogs – positioned throughout the subway. It’s probably connected to the most recent terror attack in the UK. I didn’t notice this level of security before.

Villa Borghese

On the way to Villa Borghese, I passed beautiful palazzo-style buildings, galleries, and cafés. One gallery, THESIGN, had a Frida Kahlo exhibit so I stopped for a few minutes. Every day I notice more colorful street and subway art – examples are attached.

Spagna Building

Villa Borghese is named after its first resident, Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, the favorite nephew of Pope Paul V. The Park has restored seventeenth-century buildings and spectacular neo classical nineteenth century architecture – like the Casino Clock and Lake Garden. Abundant pine and plane trees (sycamores) are beautiful and include several species.

Spagna Building

Galleria Borghese exhibits art from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, with masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Bernini, and Canova. I assumed the museum would be open, but to my disappointment and surprise, it was sold out through June 6.

Dragons Villa Borghese

The large Villa is home to:

Subway

After Italy’s unification in the twentieth century, the State acquired the Borghese complex. In 1903 the park was given to the City of Rome and opened to the public.

Magnifico Giro in Bicicletta a Roma

By the Coliseum After a Day of Bicycling

Thursday, I enjoyed an all-day bicycle tour of many of Rome’s famous historical monuments! It was a small group of three led by our Italian guide, Emanuele.

Pantheon Interior

The other two members of the group – Conor and Cara – were Americans from New York City traveling through Italy for several weeks. On their way to Rome they visited Milan and the Amalfi Coast, and were headed to Florence and Venice before returning to NYC. I thoroughly enjoyed their company and we could not have had a better guide.

Rome Vista

Historical Monuments and Romantic Cobblestone Backstreets

I was uncertain about the bicycle adventure, but the day exceeded my expectations and was a perfect orientation to Rome. After a brief lesson on riding the electric bikes, we began the tour at 10 am and ended at 6 pm.

Spanish Steps

The fun day passed quickly! We stopped for an occasional photo, sipped needed espresso at cafés, enjoyed a delicious lunch, and cooled down with gelato.

Pantheon Dome

The e-bikes were easy. You must pedal and control the gears, but they provide an uphill “boost” when needed. To avoid Rome’s aggressive city traffic, for most of the tour Emanuele led us through less-traveled cobblestone backstreets with interesting Palazzo style facades, flowered window boxes, and wonderful Italian names. Bicycling Rome’s main roads can be dangerous. It’s challenging dodging joggers, dog walkers, groups of dizzy preoccupied tourists, motorcycles, and automobiles.

Great Synagogue of Rome

Emanuele gave an excellent commentary about Rome’s many treasures – enough detail but not too much. My only regret was not being able to photograph the gorgeous backstreets – impossible while riding a bike. Hopefully I can leisurely retrace the backstreet trail before leaving for Istanbul.

Rome Vista

Each of the sites has its own legends and history – too much for this blog.  A few photos are attached, but with our fast pace there wasn’t time to contemplate photography.

Rome Water Fountain

We began at the TopBike shop on Via Labicana and continued following Emanuele’s well-planned route which started and ended near the Roman Coliseum. This is a list of some of the historic places we visited during the tour:

  • Baths of Caracalla – Roman Bath ruins
  • Il Colosseo
  • Colonna Traiana
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Palazzo del Quirinale
  • Fontana di Trevi
  • Piazza di Spagna
  • Santa Maria del Popolo
  • Piazza Campo Marzio
  • Palazzo Madama – Italian Senate
  • Piazza Navona
  • Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Anima
  • Pantheon
  • Ponte Mazzini
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • Piazza San Pietro – St. Peter’s Square

Rome Street Art

La Fontana di Trevi is an incredibly beautiful masterpiece – impossible to capture in a photo. You must see it from every angle! The fountain’s travertine was recently cleaned by Fendi making it even more striking. I threw a coin into the fountain from the right hand over the heart and left shoulder.  One version of the Trevi Fountain myth, is that tossing a coin into the fountain ensures you’ll return to Roma.

Piazza Navona

One of my favorite churches was Santa Maria dell’Anima near the Pantheon. An unassuming building from the outside, the church has many chapels with magnificent frescoes, paintings, and sculptures by Italian artists like Gian Lorenzo Bernini, considered the most outstanding sculptor of the 1600s. Other Italian artists who contributed to the magnificent artwork include Carlo Saraceni, Giovanni Francesco GrimaldiFrancesco Salviati, and Giuliano Finelli – most of them were new to me.

Gold Mosaics Piazza di S Maria in Trastevere

I enjoyed the magnificent mosaics inside the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. The Basilica is at Piazza di St. Maria where exterior renovation of the façade and bell tower is in process. Basilica art is generally breathtaking but it’s a challenge taking photos because of the darkness, altar candles, and light from the impressive domes and stained-glass windows.

Trevi Fountain

Later in the day we saw black smoke billowing from what looked like the heart of Vatican City. It turned out to be a junkyard fire nearby. The fire “spread through scrapped cars, exploded gas tanks, and sent a thick, dark plume of smoke through the northeastern quarter of the Italian capital. There were no reports of injuries”.

Piazza di S Maria in Trastevere

Italy’s Republic Day June 2

Altare della Patria – Altar of the Fatherland

Today is Republic Day in Italy, a national holiday. On June 2, 1946, Italians voted to abolish the monarchy, and the Republic of Italy was born.

Pantheon

On Republic Day, the gardens at Palazzo del Quirinale (residence of the Italian President) are open. The president – Sergio Mattarella – presides over a traditional wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Italy’s Unknown Soldier of World War I. Afterwards, military bands perform and there’s a huge parade through central Rome along the Via dei Fori Imperiali – a street that runs in a straight line from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum.

Bernini Angels Chiesa S Luigi Dei Francesci Dipinti del Caravaggio

Yesterday jets from the Italian air force’s “Frecce Tricolori” buzzed central Rome – a performance like the Blue Angels during Fleet Week in San Francisco. During today’s Republic Day celebration, the squadron will leave a trail of green, white, and red smoke (the colors of the Italian flag) over the Altare della Patria – Altar of the Fatherland.

Ceiling Chiesa S Luigi Dei Francesci Dipinti del Caravaggio

Government Concerns

Italy isn’t unlike other countries with political and economic woes. Emanuele said he preferred not to discuss politics. Later, he couldn’t help voicing his concerns about the recession-plagued country’s growing inequalities between rich and poor, and the corrupt practices of Italy’s government. This is a sad but familiar theme throughout the world.

Piazza di S Maria in Trastevere

I’m not knowledgeable about Italy’s government, but could tell Emanuele’s concerns were sincere. However corrupt, the current Italian government seems better than the crazed emperor, dictators, and monarchs who ruled the country in the past.

Fountain de la Barcaccia by Bernini – Foot of the Spanish Steps

Roma Italy

St. Peter’s Basilica Vatican City

I’m slowly getting acclimated in Italy – a vast change from the Czech Republic, and for that matter from Portugal and Denmark. Comparing cultures isn’t productive, because there are always many differences which make life more interesting.

I spent the first day exploring central Rome and ended up wandering around Vatican City in late afternoon. Didn’t take many photos. Vatican City’s shady tree-lined streets and casual atmosphere feel comfortable and the cafés and restaurants are cozy – plus it’s very beautiful!

In Front of Fountain

Haven’t planned many activities yet and am giving myself a few days to get used to the change. Time is the beauty of staying longer in one place.

Rome’s underground metro is straightforward. It circumvents the city but gets you close to all the major areas and sites. Traffic is terrible, so the underground is undoubtedly the best way to get around.

Trevi Fountain

In Prague, when someone over 50 enters a subway or tram with no seats available, a younger person immediately gets up and offers their seat – NOT the case in Italy. There are many raucous young people and they seem on another planet. Not being judgmental, as I probably was that way as a teenager – can’t remember back the far ;o(. On the other hand, Italian men over 50 are quite attentive and go out of their way to be helpful if you get lost or need assistance….

Dome

There are so many motorcycles in Rome crossing the street could mean taking your life into your own hands. It’s a bit like Saigon Vietnam – you just go ahead and do it, because waiting for a “safe” crossing may mean never getting to the other side! Rome doesn’t have automated “walk signals” everywhere – at least I didn’t see any where I was today. Have noticed that when beautiful young Italian women randomly step out in front of any moving vehicle, everything seems to suddenly come to a screeching halt!

The restaurants in central Rome are hideously expensive – although Italian pasta, pizza, and risotto are fabulous – really. I had dinner at a small restaurant near my apartment last night and noticed they brought me a “special” menu – everyone else (clearly local Italians) ordered from one on their table. I went along with it, but will avoid that restaurant in the future.

Rome Motorcycles

On Thursday, I’m taking a bicycle tour of Rome’s major architectural sites – glad to have a few days to work up to that. The weather is wonderful but it’s hot and people gravitate to shady cafés and piazzas, especially near the Tiber (Tevere) River. I’m continuously wearing a sun hat. Honestly feel a bit intoxicated with Rome and need to get more grounded. One of the few negatives of traveling solo is there’s no one to tell you when you’re getting goofy…. My experience with long-term trips is it takes at least two months to get into the swing, after that everything is smooth – two more weeks!

Made note of favorite areas (so far) for cafés and restaurants and will return for dinner later in the evening. Am considering some day trips outside Rome.

More rambling later…

Concert Church of St. Martin in the Wall Prague

St. Martin in the Wall Gothic Church

Yesterday evening I attended a concert at the Church of St. Martin in the Wall. The well-preserved church is described as a “nearly intact medieval work and rare example of valuable Romanesque and Gothic architecture”. The church’s excellent acoustics make it ideal for classical concerts.

Interior St. Martin in the Wall

In the 13th century, the south wall of the church was built next to Prague’s Old Town walls, hence the name “in the wall”. During the 14th and 15th centuries it was reconstructed as a Gothic church and now belongs to the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren.

Old Prague Music Ensemble

The Old Prague Music Ensemble is one of the best string quartets – two violins, viola, and cellist – I’ve heard! Their performance was flawless as they played well-known pieces by Smetana, Vivaldi, Bach, Bizet, Mozart, Pachelbel, and Brahms. They also played a beautiful Adagio by Tomaso Albinoni, an Italian Baroque composer new to me. The violin and cello solos were fabulous!

St. Martin in the Wall

Can’t believe I’m leaving Prague tomorrow…. It was three beautiful weeks and I’m sad to go and will miss this city! More later from Rome with sizzling summer temperatures…

Ceiling St. Martin in the Wall Church