Thursday 30 May 2013

In Rome...

for a few days of cultural R&R. We're staying in a rooftop apartment in one of the narrrow cobbled streets just to the west of the Imperial Forums, with a view from one window across the ruins of the forums of Nerva and Vespasian, and from the next window over the forum of Augustus and across to the magnificent profile of the Wedding Cake - dramatically illuminated at night - and the rear of Santa Maria in Aracoeli alongside the campanile and profile of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Capitoline. The stairs to the apartment are something of a challenge (I make it 62 going up, and 56 going down - go figure), but are worth it for the light and the view once at the top.

Tuesday's highlight was the Titian exhibition at The Quirinale, much of which was simply glorious....his John the Baptist, the early Madonnas, the Farnese portraits - splendid! Some of the later stuff suggests the start of the decline into chocolate-box messiness that characterised most italian art in the seventeenth century, although Titian's penultimate self-portrait is still wonderful. My choice for pocketing would probably have been the Farnese Danae, where the expression on the face of the subsidiary cupid is masterful in every way.

Thereafter, a look at the Palazzo Corsini - which has adequate ceilings and a terrible collection of pictures (save one excellent Caravaggio, and a goodish portrait of Queen Christina....TD also pointed out a couple of things by Teniers, which I suppose are good of their kind, but they don't do it for me) - via a flypast at Santa Maria in Trastevere, where the mosiacs are impressive, although clearly heavily restored. It's striking how many tourists in Rome appear to succumb to (presumably) long-suppressed childhood influences, and become clumsily translated into semi-pilgrims - awkward genuflections and bending of the knee popping up all over the place, which don't sit well with backpacks, water bottles and sneakers. Many of them also have a rabbit-in-the-headlights expression at the same time, as though themselves slightly startled to find that they're doing it...

Yesterday, to the Pantheon in the morning, before a memorable visit to the Domus Romane, in the cellars beneath the Palazzo Valentini. Although we'd been warned that the former would be crawling with tourists (which it was...absolutely heaving), it didn't seem to matter, as the scale of the place is such that the ants massing beneath the dome are merely that....ants! Technical Dept was in awe at the technical aspects of the construction, and it was easy to transform the t-shirt clad crowd of tourists into the same figures but with tricorn hats and knee-breeches who would have been equally thronging the place three hundred years ago - which makes them distinctly  more acceptable. The Domus Romane was a theatrical triumph! Looking through glass floors suspended several metres above the floors of the original roman house, we were subjected to a mesmerising son-et-lumiere, which elevated what is, after all, only another excavated roman house to something quite spectacular. Some of the 'son' was a bit crass, but the fact that it was in Italian helped...and it couldn't anyway detract from the overall impression of the place. The visit ended with a detailed presentation of Trajan's Column, before we were led down a subtaerranean corridor to a barred gate, and there before us, about ten feet away, was the base of the column itself.

Restaurants have been mostly unmemorable...although lunch yesterday at the Enoteca Corsi in Via del Gesu was good, and worth repeating: honest food, a good ambience, and excellent service. Unlike most other Roman restaurants, which come across as transient and baldly commercial enterprises, the Enoteca Corsi presents as a true family business, with years of experience behind it, and the promise (hopefully) of much more to come.

Just off to the Villa Farnesina, before we have to head to Termini, for the afternoon train back to Pisa.