Tag Archives: Rome

Rome Day 8 – Lovely Day for a Strike

Our last day in Rome together there was an incredible transportation strike and let’s just say, it couldn’t have worked more to our advantage. Our professor was incredibly upset, trying to figure out how to get us to the other side of Rome and back for our day’s activities. So, we decided to get up early and hoof it and it turned out to be a beautiful day with us seeing several things we may otherwise not have.

The main stop was to be ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation & Restoration of Cultural Property) but as we were walking there it just so happened we passed S. Pietro in Vincoli, the location of Michelangelo’s Moses. We also enjoyed the beautiful views of Isola Tiburtina (Tiber Island), and all because of the strike!

Michelangelo's Moses, Santa Pietro in Vincoli

Isola Tiburtina

ICCROM was founded in 1956 by UNESCO and is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage.  We had the joy of hearing two employees speak, Paul Arenson, Manager, Knowledge and Communication Services, and Alison Heritage, Conservation Research Specialist.

ICCROM contributes to preserving cultural heritage in the world today and for the future through five main areas of activity:

  1. Training
  2. Information Source
  3. Research
  4. Cooperation
  5. Advocacy

5 Key Aspects of ICCROM

  1. Values
  2. Bridging gaps with communities
  3. Plurality of approaches (not one size fits all)
  4. Plurality of disciplines
  5. Plurality of contexts

ICCROM is a very interesting place and has an amazing research library.  It’s definitely a resource I’m going to keep in mind for the future.

We also visited two more churches (LOTS of churches in Rome).  The first was Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, a 5th century church in Rome, Italy, devoted to the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. The second was the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin, an 8th century church where the Bocca della Verita or the Mouth of Truth is located. Visually, this may have been my favorite church in Rome, simply because of its LACK in overwhelming shiny decor. The Mouth of Truth sculpture is thought to be part of a 1st century fountain and it is famed as a lie detector. Though it was really made famous by the movie Roman Holiday, it has been believed that since the middle ages that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth, then it would be bitten off.  Rest assured friends, I still have my hand.

I only speak the truth!

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

This was a truly amazing and wonderful trip and I hope you have all enjoyed taking it with me via my blog (albeit a much LONGER blog trip then I had intended).  One cannot do Rome in eight days, but if I had to, I couldn’t have asked for better or more efficient guides than I had in Charlotte and her husband, Derek.  I learned an incredibly amount and saw more amazing things than I can even mention.

Farewell dinner

 


Orange Groves and Beautiful Views

Sunday was my sort of day in Rome, the weather was amazing and we visited incredibly interesting places…I’m going to leave out the fact that I did get pooped on by a bird while standing in a lovely orange grove atop a hill.

View from Rose Gardens, Aventine Hill

We began our day in one of the most depressing ways possible at the Museo Storico della Liberzione di Roma or the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome.   During the Nazi occupation of Rome, approximately September 1943 through June 1944,this building was used as a detention prison by the Command of the Security Police.  A couple of the cells remain as was within the museum, with names and painful inscriptions carved into the walls of the cells by those detained there without light and little ventilation.  Several of the prisoners that were held here by the Nazis eventually met their demise during the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, when ten Roman or Jewish prisoners were chosen to die in order to compensate for each single German that had been killed, totaling 335 people.  Though we did have limited packets of information in English, all of the exhibitions were in Italian, making it difficult to read the entire story.

Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Next on to the Centrale Montemartini. I found this Museum to be absolutely fascinating because of the history of the institution itself.  The Museum is housed in what used to be the first public thermoelectric center in Rome (electricity plant).   Much of the hulking equipment and industrial machinery are still present in the building, which for a time had merely become offsite storage for the Capitoline Museums antiquity overflow.

In 1997 a structured exhibition was created in order to maintain accessibility by the public to these works of art, it was called “The Machines and the Gods”, which placed side by side classical art and industrial machinery.  I feel this is truly one excellent example of adaptive reuse and a perfect dichotomy of new existing with old. I especially enjoyed the use of soothing blues and greens for wall/accent colors as it helped to make peace of the transition between the harsh gray machines and the smooth tans and whites of many of the artifacts.

As far as our structured portion of the day, it was fairly short.  So far the rest of the afternoon Luciana and I headed out to Aventine Hill (another of the Roman hills) and it was absolutely lovely.  It was a peaceful afternoon of walking, sitting in the orange and lemon groves, looking at beautiful churches with more beautiful views, rose gardens and the absolute BEST view of all of Rome (or so I think).

Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, gorgeous!

On Aventine Hill there is a keyhole in a door to a garden.  If one looks through the keyhole you see down a shrub lined path with a sunlit opening at the very end.  Through this opening at the end you see a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s.  Now I thought this might be a little hokey but after seeing it I think I would definitely put it on the list of things one must do in Rome.  It is unfortunately hard to take a picture of this glorious view, especially with my brick of a camera so I’ll have to cite somebody else here.  Alas, another wonderful day in Rome.

What my camera saw at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.

What I ACTUALLY saw through the keyhole! Photo from http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Villa_Malta


Rome and Contemporary Art…and Neon Lit Bathrooms

You all know me and contemporary art….

We visited two different contemporary art museums on our sixth day in the lovely city of Rome and were accompanied by Shara Wasserman, Professor of Contemporary Art and Gallery Director, Temple University in Rome, and visiting Critic Cornell University in Rome.  She was delightful, a very honest and witty guide to the city of Rome.  I’m sure Charlotte (our professor) appreciated a little break from insane tour guiding.

The first museum we visited was MAXXI (Museo Nazionale dell’arte dell XXI secolo) which was designed by Zaha Hadid.  For those of you who don’t know who that is, she is an extremely well known architect, who more recently designed the performing arts structure for the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi which I wrote about earlier.  Some of you may also know my thoughts on modern architecture and my feelings toward this building were not extremely favorable.

MAXII

Modern architecture is dirty.  Modern architecture contains a lot of interesting looking, but filthy little crannies. This structure had all open grated walkways and stairways built over lights so when you looked down all you saw was what seemed to be nearly impossible to clean spaces filled with dust, lint, and pennies.     Another interesting point, there was NO seating built into the structure.  Hmm.

Architecture at MAXII

Another aspect of this museum that I found interesting was that the Director of the museum is a government employee from the Ministry of Culture, they do not come from a museum background.  I’m beginning to find it more and more interesting (and challenging) to think about big company CEOs and business people taking over museums with no knowledge of how we roll, just the business aspect of thing.  However, one of the exhibitions that was on display was particularly interesting, both the exhibit itself and peoples’ reactions to it.

The exhibition was The Plexiglas and Mirror Paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto.  It was a collection of mirrors that had been painted on with various scenes/people as you can see in the photograph below.  It was interesting to see people more interested in their own reflections and doing silly things in the mirror than actually paying attention to the art itself and the effect it created as a whole.  On one end of the exhibition was a very large mirror that reflected back over several of the other mirrors, creating depth and an intricate interlacing of the stories depicted in each individual mirror.  The thing I really disliked about this exhibition was that it was displayed in a very long rectangular exhibit space and though the mirrors were placed seemingly at random throughout the room, the text panel for each was on one of the room’s walls.  They were quite distant from their respective works.  No good.

Pistoletto Exhibition SpacePistoletto Exhibition

Second we went to MACRO (dell’Arte Contemporanea Roma), architecture by Odile Decq.  Again, very modern and you can see some similarities between the inside of the buildings.  One piece of art here that I found particularly interesting was by Ernesto Neto called When Nothing Happens. See the photograph but it was this incredible hanging THING. The hanging sacks were filled with various spices including black pepper, cumin, cloves, ginger, and turmeric.  Not only did it smell lovely but the colored spices also made the sculpture that much more interesting.

MACRO

MACRO Inside

Ernesto Neto Piece

This little drawing on the wall I felt could have been a portrait of me by Dan Perjovschi part of The Crisis is (Not) Over. Drawings and Dioramas. 

Also, MACRO had slam bangin’ bathrooms.  Usually it is socially unacceptable to wield a camera in a public restroom…but we all did it anyways.

We spent much more time in here than necessary.

The evening brought us to the Colosseum  at night.  BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL.  I always wish there weren’t so many tourists everywhere I wanted to be a tourist… and enjoy myself peacefully.


The Vatican, ooof.

Vatican City from the Outside

The VATICAN! Need I say more? Readers, if you are interested in this sort of thing and plan to take a trip to Vatican City then I advise you block at least one entire week just for this little city. We spent an entire day there and I was so overwhelmed by the end we went almost immediately home. No more sightseeing was to be had.

The Vatican collections are vast, elaborate, beautiful and… well very very shiny. To use part of a quote from an anonymous Monsignor I had the opportunity to chat with, “we have an embarrassment of riches.” Embarrassment, I’d say. The Vatican has more money wrapped up in its artifacts and in the display of them that you could feed the world forever I think. We had an incredibly interesting meeting with Dott.ssa Alessandra Uncini, Head Registrar in the morning before beginning our walk-through.

The Royal Collection held at the Vatican was not a museum BORN as a museum, in 1506 Pope Julius II acquired the first statues that would later begin the collections. Collections were built through personal commissions of the Popes, Cardinals etc and also many artifacts were brought back by missionaries after travels to foreign lands. Like I mentioned with the Borghese collections, in 1798 when Napoleon overthrew the Pope and the museums many of the artifacts were taken away to Paris not to return until 1815 after Waterloo.

The Vatican Museum

This return was curated by Antonio Canova, a sculptor, and the Vatican Museums’ first curator. If you ‘d like to talk about a curator’s nightmare, absolutely no catalog was in existence for the more than 150,000 artifacts until the 1950s. The cataloging system was designed specially within the Vatican and allows them very careful tracking of the movement of any artifact. The Museum has an interesting setup which includes many employees but seven very specialized registrars who all report to ministry. Anymore there is very little acquisitions within the museums, and even less deaccessioning as in keeping with Italian common heritage and cultural identity – you DO NOT deaccession your own history. Best parts of the day – Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Both incredibly beautiful and true must see places if you go to Rome.

Outside of St. Peter's Basilica

Inside of St. Peter's

Inside of St. Peter's

Okay, earlier in this blog I may have lied but I COMPLETELY tried to block out of my mind what happened after the Vatican that day. A couple of my fellow classmates and I did a little souvenir shopping in some shops across from Vatican City. One of them you super stereotypical shop with key chains, shirts, hats, toys etc. was run by a little Asian family. We went in and were browsing and I saw a bottle opener key chain in the shape of Italy that was red, white and green. The perfect cheesy gift for my sister, right? I pick it up with intentions of buying it, and get super distracted by some scarves, I set the magnet on a shelf and immediately try them on for Luciana to approve.

We do this for like ten minutes, my pre-buying sense of my post-buyers remorse kicks in and I say NO and we walk out (myself forgetting all about the magnet). We’ve been down to a couple of other stores and are walking back the other way to catch a bus and WHAM, little Asian family is accosting me in the street and trying to tear my purse open. TERRIFYING, none of us had any idea what was going on, nor could we understand.

Then I realized they thought I stole the magnet, I walk back into the store with them still attached to me, the woman trying to unzip my purse, pick the magnet up off the shelf and hand it to the man who was screaming at me and pointing at the ceilings (about cameras I think). He stops, the woman…still trying to get into my purse, lucky for me she weighed maybe 100 pounds less than me, I knock her off and walk out of the store. Luciana and Erin staring on in pure terror. I’ve never been accosted like that before, especially after spending an entire day in one of the holiest places in the world. Honestly, I don’t steal and if I was going to it wouldn’t be at the risk of a 2 euro magnet. Notice Jenni, you never received this magnet. Ahhh, Rome.


Beautiful Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese (built 1613-16), what a beautiful place to begin the day, a wistful mansion retreat  built almost exclusively to house hundreds of Italian Masterpieces, not necessarily to live in.  We met first with Maria Assunta Sorrentino, Exhibitions Coordinator and Register, along with some of her colleagues.  The speakers explained how Borghese is one of 3,000 some federal museums in Rome.

Ceiling Painting, Galleria Borghese

Most any cultural institution in Rome is run by the government in some capacity, greatly influencing funding and their abilities to collaborate with other museums or institutions.  Though the collection here is massive a large portion of the original collection survives in Paris.  One of the Borghese sisters married Napoleon Bonaparte and during his raging plunder of European high culture and arts, the Galleria Borghese was not spared.  However, because of his relationship to the sister, the Borghese art was “sold” not stolen.

Hands down the most amazing things (for me at least) here are the collection of Bernini sculptures.  This man was a true artist and my “stolen” photos, aka hip shots, do no justice to the beauty of these pieces.  Every muscle, every expression, EVERY LITTLE THING is intricately perfect. Love, love, love.

Bernini Sculpture

After, we met with Manuela Cuccuru at the Gagosian Gallery to view the exhibition, “Made in Italy.”  There were some big name artists in the show including, Damien Hirst, if you remember my post about the Golden Dipped Cow.  However, you all know me and modern art, our relationship is fairly non-existent.  The meeting with Manuela was interesting however, learning about how they jury their shows and how they feel they are comparing to other galleries around Rome.  We spent a really long portion of our day at Borghese so we all sort of split ways at this point.

A small group of us travelled on over to the Cimeterio dei Cappuccini/Crypt of the Cappuchins.  This is sort of one of those weird things you think only exist on the travel channel. It’s a little crypt under a church, Santa Maria della Concezione, built by the Cappuchin monks out of the dead exhumed from a cemetery, and later their own relatives and brothers. Thousands of bodies literally adorn the walls and ceilings in intricate mosaics of random bones.  You have light fixtures made from spinal discs and walls stacked with skulls.

The bodies age from 1500 to the 1870s, though this particular crypt wasn’t in existence until 1631.  The bodies aging older than that were ordered to be moved from another cemetery in Rome. Unlike most people I wasn’t unsettled by being surrounded by so many dead bodies, I was struck by the fact that people had spent hours below ground with rotted/rotting corpses creating ornate designs in bones and fastening them to walls.  To each his own I suppose.


The Science of Museums – Rome Day 3

Just when you think you’re beginning to get homesick, you find a little piece of home right around the corner from your hotel.  Nothing like Atlantic City, Rome style.

Atlantic City in Rome?

The best part of day three was to get to see museum science in action.  I LOVE THIS STUFF! I mean I have considered being a conservator just so I can discover the history and original form of objects…but I guess I love designing exhibitions more.

Courtyard of Villa Medici

First stop was at the Villa Medici with a tour of the AMAZING garden and labyrinth.  Inside we saw the special exhibition “Poussin and Moses: From Drawing to Tapestry” and something that was very interesting about the exhibition space was a fairly steep incline with “stairs”.  They were really stairs though because each rise was only a few inches and the flat of each stair was a few feet. Charlotte’s (my professor), husband, Derek, enlightened me as to the origin of such stairs.  Villa Medici is built on a large hill and horse stable was located farther up the hill, the stairs were built to be useable by the horses. Learn something random all the time.

Terrible panoramic, beautiful view

The structure was built in 1564 on the ruins of a 2nd century villa,  the walls and structure were ornamented with 1st and 2nd century antiquities, like the piece of freize from the Ara Pacis (you’ll hear about that later) who now has a replica piece.  The Medicis made their start in banking and devised double entry ledger writing.  Along with bringing in a fortune Lorenzo began bringing many artists and musicians to the household until it became a sort of school, which it still is.  Twenty-four artists come from France at a time to stay at Villa Medici, now the French Academy, in order to study in Italy.

The garden is very typical Italian, notice there are no flowers.  Original Italian thought was that man is the center of the universe so he should have complete control over his things.  Bushes you can prune and control, flowers you cannot. Thus the lack of flowers.  My favorite thing in the gardens was the mini sculpture garden depicting the massacre of Niobe’s children.  Essentially Apollo and Artemis were jealous that Niobe had been able to have fourteen children so they killed them all. For a much more informative and romantic version of the story read here.

Sculpture Garden of Niobe Massacre, Villa Medici

The first interesting piece of science for the day you’ll see below.  A room in one of the towers of Villa Medici where you can see they have literally peeled through time back through consecutive layers of paint.  It’s like Christmas and unwrapping the same present with a million different layer of paper, the suspense!

Paint Layers

Next we wandered down the Spanish Steps (actually built by the French) to the Keats-Shelley Museum where we had a tour by the most darling little Irishmen.  Saying that makes him sound old, he wasn’t but he was just pint sized and spritely.  This was the final home of John Keats, the poet, who died from tuberculosis after a truly tragic life.

The Spanish Steps

Those of you who know me, know how I feel about the mixing of the old and new. Incredibly torn.  Sometimes I love it, but most times I really hate it. One instance where I really disliked it was the Museo Ara Pacis Augustae where the Ara Pacis (Alter of Peace) dating is enclosed in a piece of architecture by Richard Meier.  It’s just a big empty, stark, waste of good museum space.

Ara Pacis, Alter of Peace

The interesting thing about marble in Rome is that when you see it now it’s whites, tans and browns.  Had you seen it when it was created a large majority of sculpture and architecture would have been brightly painted.  You can’t get much of the context from this photo but it shows the science of trying to find out what colors would have been used on which areas of the Ara Pacis.

What the colors on the outside of Ara Pacis would have actually been.

View from Janiculum Hill

Next, another of the Roman hills, this time Janiculum Hill where they have restored sculpture for the the 150th Anniversary of the unification of Italy.  Another BEAUTIFUL view.  We finished the evening at the American Academy in Rome.  It serves a purpose similar to that of the French Academy at Villa Medici.  Students and/or artists may reside here to study and practice in Rome and enjoy the Italian Culture.  As it was an open house we were able to view many of the current residents work and studios.

Dinner tonight was at La Tana dei Noiantri inTrastavere which seems to be the hopping place for the teens to thirty somethings crowd.  Pizza, again. Delish. I can’t help it.


The Grand Tour

Hello again friends! I was supposed to write about Rome while everything was fresh in my mind.  You can see that that has happened.  Work, school, moving into a new apartment and the manfriend have all sort of sucked up most of my spare time.  BUT, three weeks later, here is day two of Roma.

Markets of Trajan

Day two in Rome was simply out of control; so much amazing stuff and insane amounts of information to attempt to digest.  Beginning in the 1660s young English and Northern European Aristocratic men would undertake a  journey they referred to as The Grand Tour. The Grand Tour was the name given to the ideal way of obtaining one’s education: they would travel all through Europe, ending in Italy and on into Rome: soaking up the language, sport, art, manners and culture as they went in order to become a “properly” educated citizen of the world.  This day felt like my grand tour and I feel like I did as much in a day that they did in several months to years.

We began at the Markets of Trajan and the Museum di Imperiali.  This location was basically the very first indoor shopping mall.  A large portion of the structure has been turned into a museum.  The really interesting thing is how well they have modified the space to be a working museum without imposing too far on the original material of the structure.  The once open doorways and windows are covered in clear plexi-glass and ramps are built in but not permanent.  By ethical standards of adaptive reuse in historic structures, no alterations should be made that are not reversible without harm to the building.  From the top level of the market we got another excellent view of Rome and the Forum below.

Plexi Entrance Wall

You could really see the effects of time on all the structures, including a part of the market structure where medieval dwellings had been built to create another floor of the already existing building.  Next to the market is the Column of Trajan, spiraled with a beautifully detailed relief telling of the military history of Trajan.  Makes you think, whatever happened to craftsmanship?  So much effort used to go into everything and now we are blessed with things like tin-sided churches.

Column of Trajan

Greeted by two large horse statues, the protectors of the city, we visited Capitoline Hill which is known as the “city center”.  Here you see a lot of Rome’s most renowned sculpture including the classic Julius Caeser on his horse, the over-sized head, hand and foot of Constantine, the she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus and many, many, many more.  Much of this sculpture wasn’t moved to the Capitoline until the 1470’s when the Pope returned them to the city and its people from the papal collections.  At this point the sculpture became one of the first really “public” collections in history. I’m not sure why it struck me so, but one piece I found oddly beautiful in the Musei Capitolini was of the satyr (you all know I LOVE satyrs!) Marsyas.  He made the awful mistake of challenging Apollo to a music competition and for that lost his hide and his life.  This statue is carved from a deep purple veined marble which was to represent the many lashings he received for his folly.  Though sad, the statue is very beautiful and moving in a way.

Protectors of the City

Marsyas

Something I found throughout my entire time in Rome was the fact that in Rome it is IMPOSSIBLE to separate the old and the new, everything is all tossed together and built up next to each other.  I. LOVE. IT.  Rome touches on so many museum issues for me that I could write a million blog posts.  Hopefully posts will come someday about reconstruction versus preservation and also more on the integration of the old and new in Roman museums and galleries.

We did a ton of interesting stuff on day 2 but I can’t elaborate on everything or this would be as long as a guide book.   Enjoy the photos of things we saw/did and I’ve added some external links in if you’d like to read more about something.

Mattei Family Sculpture Garden, an extremely expensive display of self-wealth.

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Palazzo Mattei di Giove

Piazza Navona includes some AMAZING Bernini fountains/sculptures, that guy was just fantastic at what he did.  Here, this fountain represents the four rivers.

Piazza Navona

The Four Rivers by Bernini

We saw a LOT of churches whilst in Rome and not being my favorite bit I’m not going to elaborate on all of them though I might pop a few pictures in.  We ended up at the Pantheon (Temple of the Gods).  There is still much that is left unknown about this structure and its purposes which made it a little hard for me to get into, but it’s still one of those “must see” sites.

After class hours we wandered off to the Forum, dinner and the Trevi Fountain. You could spend an entire day wandering around the Forum reading about all of the different structures that are there.

After, we ate at a L’Archetto, a macaroni joint that boasts more than 100 different sauces/gravies.  It was delicious.  As for the Trevi Fountain it is enormous and beautiful and I loved it.

The Forum

L'Archetto, YUM!

Trevi Fountain