Friday 25 March 2011


To Rome, for a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Palazzo Farnese. The French have been using the building as their embassy since 1874, and for the most part it remains resolutely inaccessible, apart from the odd few days a year when they're required by the Italian State to allow visitors into a few of the rooms - probably every third Thursday after epiphany, as long as it's raining and there isn't an 'r' in the month...I haven't actually been able to find out how it works, but since the French Ambassador confidently asserts that they let in around 8,000 visitors a year, I suppose one shouldn't disbelieve him.
A cynical interpretation of the current 'Open House', through until the end of next month, might be that the French are keen that their lease be renewed when it runs out in a little over twenty years from now, and so are being unusually accommodating. I couldn't possibly comment. What I can say, though, is that the place is stunning. Breathtaking. Wonderful. We were there, first thing yesterday morning, and for about an hour enjoyed the place in the company of perhaps a dozen other people, before the mass hordes descended just as we were departing.
As part of the event, a number of Farnese treasures had been borrowed back from far-flung musueums (although nothing much from the Louvre, which was surprising), and there was a series of very good portraits of various people associated with the history of the building. The highpoints of the experience, though, were Michelangelo's double height 'Salon d'Hercules', and, surpassing everything, the ceiling of the Carracci gallery. Which is beyond-description wonderful. Rich and brilliant, with a degree of technical mastery which simply leaves one gaping. When I first went into the gallery, the shutters were open, and the room was bright with morning sunlight - and by the time I went back for a second look, before leaving, somebody had found the light switch, the shutters had been closed, and the ceiling was bathed beautifully in a golden glow. Glorious - simply glorious!
And Rome was looking its springtime best, as well. Clear sky and warm sunshine, as we walked en route to the Farnese by way of Trajan's Column, the Wedding Cake, and the Campo dei Fiori...and afterwards, as we sat and basked in the Piazza Farnese, and drank coffee (and then prosecco) as we waited for  Charles to join us for lunch (by chance, he was also in Rome for the day, from Milan).
And in fact, at lunch it was almost too hot, with a table outside at Pierluigi, and as the sun moved round, the shade actually came as a welcome relief!

Tonight's Dinner:

Raspberry-vanilla Tarts.