Thursday, April 1, 2010

ROME IN THE COMPANY OF CARAVAGGIO





"Let's go to Rome this weekend," said our friends. We were hardly settled in Pisa, but who would say no to Rome? Not us, especially when the object of the trip was the Caravaggio art exhibit at the Scuderie del Quirinale which runs until June 13. 

La Freccia Bianca - the White Arrow train - pulled into the Pisa station only five minutes behind schedule and arrived in Rome three hours later. That gave us more than enough time to take the metro across town, deposit our bags at our hotel and walk back to the museum to pick up our tickets reserved for a 6 p.m. entry. (This exhibit  is the hottest art ticket in town so unless you are willing to spend three to four hours waiting in line, reserve your tickets in advance.)  

Caravaggio, born Michelangelo Merisi in Milan in 1571, created a new naturalistic style of painting. Whether saints or sinners, his subjects were shown with all their imperfections -- scars, wrinkles and even dirty feet and nails. His sometimes shocked audience, nonetheless, were dazzled by his realistic style. His masterful use of chiaroscuro continues to influence art today, 400 years after his untimely death at the age of 39. 

The show at the Scuderie features 24 masterpieces of Caravaggio. It seems like a small number, but it took us more than two hours to take in the beauty of it all. The crowds were manageable since by 6 p.m., many tourists are already back at their hotels thinking about dinner.  

Our dinner reservation at Trattoria der Pallaro, on the via del Pallaro not far from the Piazza Navona, was for 9:30 p.m., an hour when things are just getting going in most Rome restaurants. Chef-owner Paola Fazi welcomed us, posed for a photo in her kitchen and kissed us goodbye when we left. The menu costs 25 euros and there are no choices to be made. Paola brings you what she has cooked that day: first a selection of antipasti, then homemade succulent pasta, fish, meat, salads, dessert and even a carafe of the house wine. After such a dinner, we were glad to have a long walk back to the hotel. 

The next morning we visited three churches that have works by Caravaggio  - Santa Maria del Popolo, San Luigi dei Francesi and San Agostino. We couldn't get reservations for the Galleria Borghese, which has a Caravaggio room, so that will have to wait until next time.  

Lunch was a great big ice cream cone from the fabulous Giolitti, Rome's best gelateria. Afterwards, we trekked over to the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel.  The crowds were enormous, but the museum is very efficient in getting people in quickly. It was our first look at the chapel since restoration was completed in 1999. The restoration of the walls and ceilings lasted 20 years - twice as long as it took Michelangelo and other famous painters of the day to paint them.  

For our second dinner in Rome, we chose Grano, a sophisticated restaurant with good jazz and great food and wine that is located on a small square not far from the Pantheon.

Sunday noon found us at a piano concert in the 17th-century Capella Paolina in the Quirinale Palace. The Paolina Chapel has exactly the same dimensions as the Sistine Chapel. Instead of frescoes, however, its ceiling is decorated with gilded stucco angels. The concerts are free, but you do have to pay five euros to get into the Palace, which you can tour before the concert starts.

Many of the restaurants in Rome that are open on Sunday offer lunchtime buffets. We chose Babette, located on via Margutta, traditionally known as Rome's "artist street." Works by local artists hang on the walls and give the place a cozy feeling. Their buffet offers everything from soup to nuts and, of course, pasta and risotto.  It was a long, leisurely lunch and we tried a bit of everything.

Early that evening, we boarded the train, closed our eyes and slept as La Freccia Bianca sped along - in the darkness between the sea and the mountains - back toward Pisa.

(Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, but to see the works on display, click here to go to the museum's website.)

To see my photos of Rome, click here.




A presto,
Geraldine






Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor

2 comments:

  1. Oh, Geraldine, I'm foaming at the mouth jealous! Sounds wonderful! I agree--how could you not head to Rome. Sounds like you're having a fabulous trip. Savour some gelato for me, and raise a glass or two. Cin-cin!!

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  2. I FINALLY opened this blog. I just had to wait until I had enough time to do it justice and properly digest it's contents. And "digest" is a most appropriate word.
    I love Caravaggio; have been to the C room at Borghese and all those churches too. But, the reason I have printed out your blog for my Rome file is the list of restaurants. Doesn't matter how long it takes before we go back -- they'll still be there.

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Thanks for your comments.