This artistic- intellectual tradition went on during the 20th century. Giorgio De Chirico, for example, had his table. And even now, amongst the tourist, it is always possible to find some painter sitting and working in one of the drawing rooms that look like the compartments of a an extraordinary train, even more beautiful than the Orient Express.
One of the roman “must” is certainly the “Caffe Greco”, the oldest coffee shop in Italy after the mythical Florian in Venice. Founded in 1760 by some Greek that was called Nicola Greco (the Greek), this marvellous caffe is still in the same place, via dei Condotti, the street of the most luxury shops like Bulgari, Gucci or Tiffany, near the famous Spanish steps, in the hearth of Rome.
But the Caffe Greco is not just a very “chic” place to have a nice coffee and delicious pastries, it is a piece of history, a jump in the past. When you enter in a row of little drawing rooms with comfortable armchairs and the walls covered by 19th century paintings, you have a strange impression of being transported in the past. You can almost feel the presence of poets like Byron, or Shelley and Keats that lived in the neighbourhood (on the piazza di Spagna) and use to come often to the Caffe Greco. Before them Casanova was already a regular. And later, Goethe, Chateaubriand, Stendhal, Wagner, Ingres, Corot, Henry James…The Caffe Greco was a part of the “grand tour “.
Nicola Gogol who lived for years in Rome wrote on one of the marble table of the Caffe his masterpiece, “The dead souls”.
This artistic- intellectual tradition went on during the 20th century. Giorgio De Chirico, for example, had his table. And even now, amongst the tourist, it is always possible to find some painter sitting and working in one of the drawing rooms that look like the compartments of a an extraordinary train, even more beautiful than the Orient Express.
In these days, unfortunately, the future of the Caffe Greco is in danger because the owner wants more money from the “Antico Caffe Greco Srl company” that already pays a very big rent. Probably he had received some extraordinary offer from an important label. Fortunately, from the fifties, the Caffe Greco is officially considered as a “national monument” and should be protected by the ministry of Culture. Let’s hope! The lost of such a treasure is unimaginable.
If you want to buy a good quality coffee, in beans, powder or capsules, or just to drink one of the best espressos in town, you have to go to one of the eleven “Castroni” shops that you can find in different parts of Rome. It is not a coffee shop (and in some of them you cannot even drink a coffee, just buy it) but much more than that: a sort of “épicerie fine” as would say the French. An even more for the Romans: An institution.
The first shop of the Castroni group that was founded in 1932 by Umberto and his wife Augusta, was the one of via Cola di Rienzo that remains, even today, the best stocked one.
You can find in all shops of the group marvellous teas, spices, salts and many other very sophisticated specialities from all around the world. But also many Italian traditional high quality food as jams, honeys, pasta of all types and colours, chocolate, biscuits, wine, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegars, truffle sauces etc… etc…
If you want to try to cook Italian during your staying in Rome, Castroni is the best place to go because you will not only find the best food but also good advices. The fourth generation of the family Castroni has a rule: in every shop it has to be at least one member of the family. And that makes the difference. Even if the shops are huge, they have nothing to do with anonymous super markets but still have the humanity of little family groceries that are disappearing.
A visit to one of the Castroni shops is a must if you are in Rome also because it is the best place to find big or little gifts to bring home to your friends and parents . In these days especially, Castroni offers so many delicious Christmas traditional specialities, coming from the whole Italy, as torroncini, panettoni, amaretti, full of colours and joy.
A Devil Or A Cardinal?
In Via Veneto, very close to Piazza Barberini and Piazza Di Spagna, in the Capuccini church dedicated to Santa Maria Della Concezione, the picture of the first altar on the right is a representation of the Archangel Michael who kills the devil. The work is by Guido Reni. The artist surpassed himself: he painted the Archangel Michael so beautifully that many compared him to the Apollo of the Belvedere. But the best part was the defeated devil, whose evil ugliness emerged in every detail. The painting obtained unanimous consensus, a true masterpiece.
The only discordant voice was that of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, the future Pope Innocent X, who had already reserved disapproving words for the artist in the past. The noble cardinal complained of the incredible similarity between the dying devil and him. Reni defended himself frankly:"I could not see the angel and I had to paint it according to my imagination. The demon, on the other hand, I met him several times, I looked at him carefully and I painted his features just as they are".
Who knows if Pope Innocent X learned the lesson: never speak bad of an artist, his revenge can be eternal ...
The Baptism Of The Knife
In the Pigna area, behind Piazza Della Minerva (Pantheon), there is a street that takes its name from a famous tavern that lasted until the beginning of 1900.
The Palombella tavern was the meeting point of Roman bullies. Here was born the so-called "cicciata", or "the baptism of the knife" for all the bad guys of the city. The cicciata was a real initiation for anyone who wanted to be respected and welcomed among the bullies.
The neophyte had to challenge an experienced bully with a knife. The target to hit was not a vital point, but the "ciccia", that is the belly of the rival: from there comes obviously the name "cicciata".
If the new arrived bully won the duel he was admitted in the bullies association and the initiation rite ended with a solemn drunkenness with all the members. When visiting the Pantheon have a look at Via Della Palombella and try to imagine what was going on there centuries ago!
The history of Carbonara is uncertain, mysterious and debated. There is not an official version recognized by all but many and various hypotheses about the birth of this delicious dish of the gastronomic tradition of Lazio Region, like the Amatriciana and Gricia.
There is a nationalist hypothesis that says that the birth of the Carbonara is related to the woodsmen who were producing charcoal during their seasonal migrations to the Apennines between Lazio and Abruzzo. They would bring saddlebags with eggs, pecorino cheese and pork cheek and they would prepare the pasta on open fires. In this case the recipe would be the evolution of the "cacio e ova" typically consumed by the farmers and by the woodsmen of these lands.
There is another (interesting) version that says that the recipe was born by chance during the occupation by the American troops in Italy, around 1944 with the introduction of bacon and lyophilized eggs. The legend says that American soldiers added their ration composed of bacon, cream and powdered eggs to spaghettis.
After the liberation of Rome, the dish became increasingly part of the menu of Roman taverns from 1946 onwards.
Carbonara’s history is complicated and uncertain while present-day Carbonara’s offer is much more clear and definite! That is why we want to present you a guide of the top 7 Carbonara’s in some of the best Roman restaurants.
Have a look to the Puntarella Rossa article from last year (still up to date) clicking here.
If you are in Rome before the 19th of August, you can also make a “ grand tour”, as it was called in the 18th century , in Venice (and even in London!) without leaving Rome, thanks to a magnificent exhibition that opened a few days ago in the Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi (with a view on the beautiful piazza Navona) : “Canaletto 1697-1768”, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the artist’s death.
With 42 paintings, 9 drawings and 16 books and documents, it is the largest exhibition ever held in Italy of Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, and especially beloved by the curious British travellers of his time.
Symbol of the 18th century, the venetian painter was a genius of the “vedutismo”, the painting of urban landscapes, at the same time realistic, with a lot of very precise details, and full of dreams and imaginations. Some of those “vedute”, when mostly invented by the painter, were called “Capriccio”. Canaletto whose father was a theatrical scene painter, was particularly inspired by the roman ruins that are the subject of many of his “capricci” painted when he was staying in Rome.
Nevertheless, his most beloved “model” was his native Venice, with his canals and palaces, the Ponte Rialto, the Piazza San Marco, the famous celebrations of the wedding of Venice with the sea on the boat Bucintoro etc…
But he painted also a lot of “vedute” of London and the Thames. And, thanks to this roman exhibition, it is possible, for the first time, to see a huge painting of Chelsea on the Tames that was cut in two pieces by Canaletto himself, probably to earn more money.
The left side, with the Chelsea College is exposed in Blicking Hall (National trust) in Norfolk and the right side, with the Ranelagh House, in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes” in La Habana, Cuba. Now they are together again, for the first time, in Rome.
The exhibited paintings and other peaces are from museums all around the world (National Gallery of London, Kunsthistorishes Museum of Vienna, Pushkin museum of Moscow, the Budapest Museum etc… ) and also from many private collections. But some of those are missing. For example, the Canaletto’s of a very special collectionist: the queen Elisabeth II. To see them you’ll have to go to Buckingham Palace!
The Museum of Rome, Palazzo Braschi is opened every day, except Mondays, from 10h to 19h.
Entrance: Piazza San Pantaleo, 2.
There are at least tree or four reasons to visit in these months the Ara Pacis Museum, along the Tiber embankment, on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, in the hearth of Rome.
First to admire the marvellous roman bas relief, more than 2 thousand years old, that decorates the monumental alter called “Ara Pacis Augustae” build in 9 AD to celebrate the victories of the first roman emperor, Augustus (from 27 BC to 14 AD) in Spain and Gaul.
Second, to get a close look on the very controversial glass and travertine construction of a great American contemporary architect, Richard Meier that protects the alter. The Ara Pacis Museum is, in fact, the only modern construction that exists in the central part of Rome so that the contrasts could be disturbing.
Third, to see “The Ara as it was”. That means, first of all, full of colours, like all the roman monuments. Every Friday and Saturday evening, from 7h30 to 11 pm (last entrance at 10pm) the visitors can, with AR visors (Samsung GearVR) and the cameras that have been built into them, have a fully immersion in the antique Rome and assist with Emperor August and his family (that are represented on the altar, amongst other bas relief) at a sacrificial ritual through a film with actors, a 3d reconstruction of the Ara Pacis and computer graphics.
But that is not all. From the 7th of February until the 3rd of June, in the lower part of the Ara Pacis Museum, there is a very precious exhibition: “Magnum Manifesto”, that celebrates the seventy anniversary of the foundation of the famous photographical agency Magnum, in New York in 1947.
The exhibition has 3 parts:
Part 1: 1947- 1968 Human Rights and Wrongs.
Part 2: 1969-1989 An Inventory of Differences.
Part 3: 1990- 2017 Stories about Endings
It is possible to understand by these titles that the exhibition offers to the visitors an accurate and not at all trite historical documentation of the second part of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st. The Magnum members where always very concerned about what happened in the world and their watchful eyes certainly played a very important role in the recent History.
Museo dell’Ara Pacis
Tel 0039 060608
Opened from 9h30 to 18h30.
THE ARA AS IT WAS Friday and Saturday 19H30- 23h00
There is a magic address in Rome for kids: via Flaminia 82.
At the beginning of one of the ancient Rome consular roads that starts from Piazzale Flaminio (and finishes on the Adriatic coast), nearby the very central Piazza del Popolo, you can find, walking just a few minutes along the tramway rails, inside the old tramway deposit of the Borghetto Flaminio, a double surprise.
A magnificent museum for children from 3 to 11 years (with twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, activities for babies from 0 to 3 years old) called “Explora”. And also, in the same place, one of the oldest Neapolitan pizzeria (founded in Naples in 1870), the “ Antica Pizzeria Da Michele” that was opened in Rome last year by the descendants of Michele Condurra.
A double pleasure if you have children under 11. And even if you don’t! You’ll discover a fantastic place full of little Romans (that often visit the museum with their teachers) and little tourists from the entire world who play together. And then, you’ll enjoy your “Margherita”, “Marinara” or “Napoli”, the specialities of the “historical” pizzeria as did a few years ago Julia Roberts….a scene of the movie “Eat, pray, love” was shot “Da Michele”, in Naples.
The museum Explora has four sectors. The first is called “Me” and, to introduce the children to the mystery of life, recreates a mother ‘s womb. The second, “Society”, is a miniature town that has a supermarket, a post office, a bank, a petrol station and even a dentist. So the children can play and, through that, observe and experiment a daily life of adults. The third section is dedicated to the “Environment” with solar panels and waste recycling systems to teach the children how to respect the nature and their surrounding. The fourth sector is “Communication” with a television news show made by the children that interact with all the available materials and tools.
An unforgettable experience for your family!
“Explora” is opened every day from 9H30 to 19h30 except on Monday.
Tel: 0039 06 3613776
Antica Pizzeria da Michele is opened from 12h to 17h and from 19h to midnight.
Tel 0039 06 32600432
October is, for Rome, a very special month. Usually, in the beginning of autumn, the weather is beautiful: Sunny, but without the tedious heat of the summer. The best moment to walk around through the little alleys of the "centro storico" and the so many "villas", the public parks and gardens, that contribute so much to the "grande bellezza" of the Eternal City.
This magic moment of the year is called "Ottobrate Romane", an appellation that has a long history. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Romans used to celebrate the end of the grape harvest, often going in the country, around the city walls, eating, drinking wine, making music and dancing. These feasts, called "Ottobrate Romane" , were in fact the continuing of an old tradition: the antique bacchanalia, in honour of the god of wine Bacchus.
Today, these bacchanalia have a new face: the city is full of all kinds of events and celebrations. It is maybe not just by chance that the "Rome Film Fest" takes place in October (from the 26 October to the 5 of November) as, also, in part, the "Roma Europa Festival" (20 September to 2 December).
Much more that a real film festival as Cannes, Venice or Berlin, that are attended almost only by professionals and specialised journalists, the "Rome Film Fest" is meant to be a popular "festa" for the inhabitants of a city where the cinema has been always so important, the city of "Roma Città Aperta" (Rossellini) and "La Dolce Vita" (Fellini).
The movies, the official selection and others, are opened to the public, even with a free entrance in some cases. The Romans (and the tourists) have also a unique opportunity to see many stars and big film makers from the whole word, not only on the red carpet that is rolled out at the entrance of the beautiful "Auditorium" built by Renzo Piano but also participating to meetings whith the public. This week end, for example, with Jude Law and with Accademy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino. They can also discover the places where so many films were shot, the most famous Fellini's setting, the "Fontana di Trevi" (la Dolce Vita) but also many others. And, in the area of the Auditorium, organised as a sort of little village with restaurants cafés and a few shops, they can taste roman specialities at the "Trattoria del Cinema", the Rome Film Fest restaurant where the best "chefs" are going to surpass themselves.
For theatre lovers there are other opportunities in this "ottobrata" with the "Roma Europa Festival". It is an extraordinary shop window of the contemporary performing arts. Not theatre only but also music, dance, circus...from the whole world. Created 30 years ago, with so many locations in theatres and museums (like the MAXXI, museum of contemporary art, a few minutes walking from the Auditorium) the festival invades Rome.
In October, it seems to be again "Roma caput Mundi"!
One of the most magic places in Rome, especially when it is marvellously illuminated in the evening, is certainly the “Ponte Sant’ Angelo”, the bridge constructed by the emperor Hadrian in the second century, in front of his mausoleum, and the mausoleum called today the “Castel Sant Angelo.”
The bridge was transformed, fifteen centuries later, by the great sculptor Bernini who sculpted (he and his school) the angels. Castel Sant Angelo has always been a sort of work in progress and contains, in fact, all the history of Rome.
The best way to discover Castel Sant Angelo is crossing the bridge on the Tiber that has the same name and then, visit the Castel inside, not only walking around just on the road to St Peter. That visit is an unforgettable experience.
Especially now, because the Castle is, since the half of June, for the first time, completely opened to the visitors and the visits are organized in a much better way than before. It is finally possible to understand the significance of that monument that, at the contrary of so many others of the ancient Rome, is not just a ruin because during centuries it never stopped to be transformed and used.
At the beginning, in the 2nd century, it was a Mausoleum that contained the ashes, first of Hadrian and than of other emperors. Later, the popes transformed the Mausoleum in a fortress where they could protect themselves from the assaults of their enemies and that they could reach through an elevated long (800m) corridor that connect the Vatican with the Castel Sant'Angelo, the famous “Passetto di Borgo”.
The name of “Castel Sant Angelo” was given to the monument in the 590, during the plague. The pope Gregorio Magno had a vision of the archangel Michel putting his sword in the sheath to announce the end of the epidemic. A sculpture of the archangel was erected on the fortress. Te other angels, those of the bridge, came some centuries later…
The fortress was also a prison. In the 18th century Cagliostro was held in one of the cells of the Castle and the last act of the Puccini’s opera, La Tosca, takes place on the terrace of the Castel Sant Angelo where la Tosca, desperate after Mario has been shot, jumps into the river Tiber.
During the Renaissance, the refuge of Popes had very luxury apartments, decorated with splendid murals. But some of the paintings that we can admire now, for the first time, are much more recent: beginning of the 20th century, pure Liberty style, with military topics, because the Castel Sant'Angelo became also a military garrison after the unification of Italy.
All the rooms and the stairs of the Castel are now open to the public. All the visitors can also walk through Giovanni Sallustio Peruzzi's (16th century architect) Gate that leads to the gardens.
Another important new opportunity is the very sophisticated technology that is offered to the visitors thanks to some brand new Apps for smartphones with explanations in 7 languages.
Opened from 9h - 19h30h every day.
From 24 June to 17 September, from Thursday to Sunday special summer timetable until midnight.
The studios of Cinecittà were inaugurated 80 years ago, on the 28th of April, by Benito Mussolini.
To celebrate this anniversary, the studios are more opened than ever to the public with different exhibitions (opened every day, except Tuesday, from 9.30 to 19.30) , sets (ancient Rome, Jerusalem, Florence in the 1400) and didactic activities for children. Especially on Sunday where it is also possible to have a picnic on the lawns around “Il Caffé, with the Federico Fellini’s “Venusia” that is there since he shot his “Casanova” in the 1976.
Federico Fellini used to take the Via Appia Antica, the Appian Way, to get to his work when he was making a film in the studios of Cinecitta. It is not really the shorter and quicker way. With the underground (metropolitana) that leaves you in the front of the legendary address, 1055 via Tuscolana ("Cinecittà" station), it is much easier. But a walk across the most beautiful consular road of the ancient Rome, shadowed by maritime pines and antique ruins, as the "maestro" used to do, is an unforgettable, magic experience. Perhaps the best way to be prepared to enter in the "Fabbrica dei Sogni", the "Factory of Dreams" as he called Cinecittà, also known as the "Hollywood on Tiber", the place where all the mythic movies of the Italian cinema, but also a lot of American peplum (Quo Vadis, Cleopatra, Ben Hur etc.....) and other big international productions were shot.
Only a few years ago, if you were not working on a film in the studios of Cinecittà, you couldn't enter in that fabulous world. Now it is changed: you can visit every day, from the morning to the evening (at the exception of Tuesday), at least a part of the studios that Mussolini, aware of the importance of cinema (there was no TV or Internet at that time) for the propaganda, built in 1937.
A part of the studios were in fact transformed, these last years, in a museum where, if you like cinema, you feel in paradise. Surrounded by screens showing old movies in black and white, by fabulous costumes of the passed centuries (Cleopatra's dresses, Fellini's Casanova costumes...), stars photos, objects used in different movies, manuscripts of some screenplays... and even the saloon of a spaghetti -western.
Federico Fellini, who almost lived there when he was working, has a place of honour. The exhibition starts with "The Fellini Room", just near the entrance of the famous studio 5, the biggest one were he directed all his movies. Even the famous via Veneto was reconstructed in Cinecittà for the "Dolce Vita" because, explained Fellini, "in a studio, I can make the light exactly as I want".
You can see and hear him in a documentary projected on one of the walls. The others are full of his drawings, all dreams and nightmares that where the real inspiration for his extraordinary movies.
At the end of a peregrination in a sort of labyrinth full of images and sounds that makes you a bit dizzy, you can enter in a submarine. Exactly the same one that you see on a little screen at the entrance where you can watch a scene from an American war movie, "U571", that was shot in Cinecittà in the 2000...
If you choose a guided visit, you can also walk all around Cinecittà, going through centuries and continents, with houses and streets constructed in wood, polystyrene and resin, as everything that is made by the extraordinary artisans of Cinecittà. The illusion is perfect, you are really transported elsewhere, in another time. Exactly like you are watching a movie.
From the Etruscan to the Contemporary Art, Rome is very rich in museums. But, one of them, called “ The Museum of Rome“, in the splendid Palazzo Braschi, looking out on the jewel of baroque, the Piazza Navona, is a very special one that helps, perhaps more that any other, to understand the real soul of Rome. It is the right moment to visit it: a few weeks ago, the museum reopened all his 3 floors after a long restoring and restyling work.
Palazzo Braschi, with his entrance on the small Piazza di San Pantaleo and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is a magnificent example of the neo-classical style. It was constructed between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. First, by the Pope Pius VI, for his nephew, Luigi Braschi. And that was the last construction of a Pope for his family, interrupted by the French Occupation of Napoleon. After a few years and the exile of the Pope in France, the construction went on. The monumental stairs and the chapel on the first floor are attributed to the famous neo-classical architect Giuseppe Valadier (that was Italian in spite of his French name!)
In 1871, when Rome became the capital of Italy, the Braschi family sold the palace to the State and the palace housed the ministry of Interior. During the Fascism, it was used for some exhibitions and other events by the Mussolini’s regime and the first “Museum of Rome” was opened (in an another place, rating the “Boccca della Verità”) in 1930 to underline the link between the ancient Rome and the Fascism.
After the war, 300 homeless families used to live in Palazzo Brachi until 1949, damaging unfortunately a part of the beautiful mural and ceiling fresco. In 1952, the “Museum of Rome” was transferred in the palazzo Braschi . It closed on 1987 to be restored, opened again in the 2002 and had a new restyling, floor by floor, these last years.
The museum is made by a suite of huge rooms, beautifully decorated by gracious neo-classical grotesque and other mural paintings, with a rich collection of sculptures, paintings, old photographs, furniture etc…on a thematic base: Portraits of the governors (almost of the eighteenth century), landscapes (almost seventeenth but also twentieth century), celebrations and games, photographs of destructions (of the narrow streets of medieval Rome) and constructions (of a modern city).
The paintings, even those of the end of the nineteenth century, show us how Rome was a small town with extraordinary monuments, churches and palaces, in the middle of the countryside. And this, not such a long time ago!
We discover how the Romans always loved “circenses” and celebrations. And also, that already at the beginning of the 19th century, Rome attracted many visitors from abroad. And so, beside Canova’s sculptors and Ipolitto Caffi’s landscapes, there is a delicious portrait of a little girl, miss Catherine Bishop, of Joshua Reynolds.
And that is not all you can find at the Palazzo Braschi in these days. On the first floor, there is an exhibition opened until the 7 of May: “Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo”, “Artemisia and her time”, that of the great Caravaggio to whom Artemisia, a woman painter (a rarity in that time!), is often compared.
Piazza di San Pantaleo
Opened every day except Monday from 10h to 19h.
Who doesn’t know “ The Colosseum “, the most famous monument of ancient Rome? Visit Rome without having a look to that emblem of Roman eternity is almost unthinkable. Especially now that an exhibition, called “The Colosseum: An Icon”, was opened a few days ago on the middle floor of the “Flavian Amphitheatre (that was the originally name) and will least until next January.
The exhibition where are exposed, for the first time, a lot of remnants that are the testimony of a long and almost unknown story of the Colosseum, during the middle Age and later, opened a few months after the end of the restorations works that costed some 25 millions of Euro to Diego Della Valle (Tod’s) and that gave back their originally light colour to the Colosseum stones (travertine) that became grey for the polluted air coming from the cars and bus that used, for more than a century, to pass very near, all around the antique amphitheatre.
The biggest amphitheatre of the ancient Rome (with a capacity of 80.000 spectators) was constructed at the time of Vespasien, of the Flavian Dynasty (also famous because he introduced the first public toilets!), between 70 A.D. and 76 A.D. But it was completed only in 80 A.D. under Titus.
The inaugural festival lasted 100 days and more than 500 beast and who knows how many gladiators were killed during this grand opening period.
During lunch- time, these very violent games where replaced by something even more cruel: the execution of death sentences.
In the third century, even if there is no historical base to be sure of that, it seems that a lot of Christians were martyred there. Not certainly in the time of Nero as we could see in the famous American film “Quo Vadis” for the simple reason that it didn’t exist yet.
The only link with Nero is that the name Colosseum comes probably from the Nero’s colossal statue erected just near the Flavian Amphitheatre that was constructed on the side of the lake in the gardens of Nero’s Domus Aurea.
Another explanation for the name Colosseum is that, in the Middle Age, the amphitheatre was surrounded by small houses and looked enormous.
In fact, the monument remained still very important for the Romans, even after the fall of the Roman Empire, despite a lot of pillages (St Peter and different palaces where built with the travertine stones stolen to the Colosseum) and 2 or 3 earthquake (in 407, in 1231 and in 1349).
During all the Middle age, there were slaughterhouses, stables and many craftsman shops inside the monument. In the time of the wars betweens two families, the Frangipane and the Annibaldi , in the 12th century, the Frangipane constructed a tower and a timber walkway used by their soldiers, on the top of the south flank of the amphitheatre. Later, somebody opened a hospital. And, thanks to a particularly good microclimate, in the 17th century, the Colosseum had a fantastic botanical garden with more than 400 different plants.
All this unknown history of almost 2000 years is told by the remnants, paintings, drawings, models etc… exposed. Without forgetting the myth of the Colosseum that is kept alive by so many “peplum” films that are part of the program of this exceptional exhibition opened until the 8 January 2018.
"Carnival", today, means Rio or Venice, certainly not Rome. Though this celebration was born in the ancient Rome and the Roman Carnival was, until almost the end of the 19th century, one of the most spectacular events in the world.
Using the word "event" is probably not the best way to talk about the Roman Carnival because, until the 17th century, it lasted for a long period that was extended, more or less, to the whole winter. Yes, during centuries of pope's reign, Carnival started already on the famous "twelfth night", the 6 of January, and ended on the night of the Fat Tuesday, just before the beginning of Lent, the period of 40 days of fasting and rigors before Easter.
The Carnival, which the name comes probably from Latin "carrum navalis" that means "float shaped like a ship", as they were used for this festival or, according to other opinions, from "carnem levare" ("take away the meat" that happens at the end of the festival), is the Christian version of a very old tradition, from an immemorial time: the humans were afraid to see the sun disappear a bit more every day until the winter's solstice and than, the frightening phenomena was inverted and the hope could come back.
That fear was also the origin of the old roman festival "Saturnalia" that was celebrated from the 17th to the 23d of December, the last month of the roman year, in honor of Saturn (Cronus for the Greeks). He was not only the terrifying pagan divinity who devoured his own children, but he was also the god of sowing, and the king of a mythic "golden age". The "Saturnalia" was a festival of light, in the middle of the winter. Exactly like, a few centuries later, when the "Carnevale" was celebrated all along the via del Corso, the urban stretch of the old roman Flaminia that ends in the hearth of Rome and that remains even now "the" central street of Rome. Via del Corso (called before "via Lata") was the theatre of battles between the "moccoletti ", the candles that everybody handled trying to blow out the other candles and maintain their owns lighted and battles of "confetti", little candies at the origin and, later, tiny chalk balls. Invaded by horse races and masquerade balls, with many masks from the Commedia dell'Arte, as Pulcinella or the more roman Meo Patacca or Rugantino. During the festival, the roles were reversed (like during the Saturnalia, where the slaves were served by their masters) and the rules didn’t exist, in a sort of copy of the old Roman's "libertas dicembri ".
These lasts years the old tradition is coming back. For the Roman Carnival 2017, via del Corso will be again, with the whole “centro storico” , from the Piazza del Popolo to Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona an opened air theater with clowns, float parade, music and confetti (no more chalk but paper!) during the whole month of February. And, as the majority of Romans live now in the suburbs and no more in the center of Rome, the biggest parades, on Sunday 26 February and on “Fat Tuesday” (28 February), will take place via Tiburtina, between Portanaccio and Casal Bruciato, in front of the famous cinema studios “De Paolis”. So, an old tradition that seemed forgotten, like nature, is reborn.
Don’t believe those who say that the magic Rome that princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) discovered during her unforgettable “Roman Holidays” with the irresistible journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) doesn’t exist any more. It is not true, even if that beautiful romance has almost 65 years!
Not far from the noisy and crowded via del Corso, between the sumptuous Piazza del Popolo and the famous Spanish Steps, there is a little street that seems protect by an enchantment. An unexpected oasis of peace and beauty, with small houses surrounding courtyards and gardens that look like little villages lost in the middle of a big town.
Once, there were almost all luminous painter’s and sculptor ’s studios. One of them or, more exactly, two of them (at the number 51 and the number 33), where the sculptor Alcide Tico lived and worked, were chosen by William Wyler to shot his film “Roman Holidays” in the 1952. Today, if you enter in the courtyard of the number 51 where you can find different little shops of design and interior architecture, go the the porter, Fabrizio Falcone. He has transformed his lodge in a little museum with the walls covered by posters and photographs of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and he will, if you are lucky and he is not to busy, show you the famous steps leading to Joe’s apartment and the terrace where the panorama has not change at all from the fifties: the old “centro storico” of Rome that you can admire from the via Margutta terraces, on the slope of the hill Pincio and the park of Villa Borghese, with his roof gardens, churches and cupolas, is exactly the same that princess Ann marvelled. The only new things in via Margutta are some luxury shops, some antiques, and a good vegetarian restaurant…
If you like cinema, there is another important address in via Margutta, at the opposite side of the famous number 51 of the tiny street . Going towards piazza del Popolo, at the number 110, you’ll see a little memorial plaque dedicated to Federico Fellini and his wife, the marvellous actress Giulietta Masina. The couple used to live there, on the first floor, in a huge apartment, full of books, for decades, until they died, in the nineties.
It was not unusual to see Fellini drinking a cafe in the “Canova bar”, a few meter from there, on the Piazza del Popolo, in the morning, before he went to work, or in his office in Corso d’Italia, just at the other side of the villa Borghese, or in his beloved “teatro 5” at the Cinecittà film studios.
After years of restoration and excavations, Circus Maximus, the largest Roman monument is opened to the public (since the 17th of November), even if the restoration is not completed (only the North East part is done).
This huge ancient roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue, in the Murcia valley, between the Aventine and the Palatine hills, existed probably at the very beginning of Rome, almost 2.8OO years ago (the foundation of Rome is dated 21 April 753 BC). According to tradition, the founder of Rome, the legendary Romulus, constructed it and vowed it to the god Consus. The famous "rape of the Sabine women" happened there.
Circus Maximus was destructed by fire many times and reconstructed by several kings, beginning with Tarquinio Prisco, at the end of the VI° century BC and, later, by emperors. The first constructions were in wood and than in bricks and stones. There were two obelisks inside the Circus. One is now on the Piazza del Popolo, the other one Piazza San Giovanni.
With his 621m long and 118m large and the capacity to receive hundreds of thousands people (150.000 according some sources, much more according others) the Circus Maximus became the biggest venue for "ludi", the games, that the antique Romans liked so much. Not only for the chariot racing that we can see in the famous peplum film Ben Hur (that was not shut there, though but in another of the 12 Circus of the ancient Rome!) but also "naumachie" (vessel battles), gladiator's fights, beast (leopard, bears, elephant...) hunts and fights, plays, recitals, athletics, triumphal processions ("pompa circensis")...And public executions!
The excavations discovered in the ground level a lot of workshops, shops, taverna, brothels, betting shops and "latrina," lavatories. Centuries ago, the Roman's already used to bet on a horse. And they also had already lavatories, with current water that came from the aqueduct. It is now possible to visit one of these "avant-garde" latrina entering in a stretch of tunnels of 100 m in the "ground level", beneath the last tier of spectator's seating.
The Circus Maximus was still in function in the sixth century (549) under Totila, one of the last kings of the Ostrogoths. Later, the circus was vandalised for centuries and the valley became an agriculture soil, property of the roman family Frangipane who built a tower, la Toretta della Moletta, with defensive walls in the 12th century. This medieval tower was also restored and can be visited, offering a marvellous panorama on the whole archaeological site that, these last years, became a sort of public park with, some times, big concerts (as the one of the Rolling Stones in 2014).
The entrance for the visitors is on the Piazza di Porta Capena. Opened every day except Monday, from 10h to 16h. After the 12th of December only during the weekends (10h 16h) and the other days by request (tel. n°: 00 39 06 0608) from 9h to 21h.
Thanks to Rome Municipality for the photos of the Circo Massimo.
We are a group of young curious people! We have the desire of discovering the world and its inhabitants, finding out the simplicity of small gesture, the beauty beyond appearance and authenticity of places and cultures. We want to give the opportunity to everybody to discover our beloved countries, Italy and Croatia