Saturday, 7 April 2012

Walking in Rome

For the many years we lived in Rome we often took part in the organized walks with a friend who is an historian, archeologist who has lived and worked in Rome of over 40 years. We became good friends with her.
So on my most recent visit to Rome I consulted her calendar to see what she was offering in terms of walks. I always enjoy those ''By special permission'' entry to sites never open to the public. Many Palaces or convents are still private and fully functioning and the public is not invite to enter. Per example Prince Colonna still lives with his family in his 900 room palace in the centre of Rome just off Piazza Venezia and only opens the State Rooms on Saturday morning for 2 hours.

So I was very happy to see 2 walks on the 26 and 27 March. On the first walk we met in front of the Church of San Pietro in Montorio at the top of the Jianiculum hill or Jianicolo, this hill is across the Tiber opposite Rome itself and next to the smaller Vatican Hill, it is not part of the 7 hills of Rome. The ancient Romans thought that the war like god Janus, keeper of doors, of going and comings lived on this hill, thus the name. The Jianiculum Hill is were the family of Prince Doria Pamphilij had their summer residence, it is also the site of the most bloody battles between the French and Papal armies against the Italian army commanded by Garibaldi in the fight for the liberation of Rome and Papal theocracy 150 years ago. From the Jianicolo you have a commanding view of the whole city. So we met at this little church of San Pietro in Montorio, built and owned by the Spanish Crown, the inscription makes it clearly a Spanish Royal Church and next to it is the Spanish Academy in Rome and across it the Residence of the Ambassador of His Most Catholic Majesty the King of Spain.  Next to the church is the Tempietto del Bramante, the story goes that Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castille wanted a male child and promised to build a little temple or Tempietto, their wish was granted by God but the child did not live beyond childhood. The Tempietto is rarely open to the public it is a small building in its own courtyard, quite beautiful to look at.
San Pietro in Montorio, Jianicolo
Scourging of Christ by Del Piombo
Balustrade with cherubs

Tempietto del Bramante

There is also a story that the Tempietto is the site where Saint Peter was crucified thus the name San Pietro in Montorio, the word Montorio is a distortion of Monte d'Oro or golden mountain because the soil has a lot of yellow stones and sand mixed in. Though it was established a long time ago that Saint Peter was actually crucified in the Circus of Nero next to where St-Peter's basilica stands today, for the crime of murder and preaching heresy, he apparently had killed a magician.

The church itself of San Pietro in Montorio is richly decorated with many side chapels, the first chapel on the right has the painting of the Scourging of Christ by Sebastiano del Piombo, a friend of Michelangelo.
The next chapel has the Madonna and Child by Niccolo Pomarancio, this painting is said to be miraculous. The beautiful balustrade with putti or cherubs is by Bartolomeo Ammannati and it is said that Michelangelo had a hand in the design. The painting over the altar of the Baptism of Jesus is by Daniele da Volterra. The chapel dedicated to St-Francis was done by Bernini. This Royal church is well worth a visit.  If you want to see the paintings in a better light ask the keeper of the Church and for a small donation he will turn the lights on.

As we exited the Church, she asked me if I would stay for lunch, usually on her promenade we go for lunch afterwards around 1pm. I said yes, thinking we would go to a nice little restaurant in the area, nothing more was said, I was in for a surprise, but more on this later.

As we walked out of the church admiring the panorama of the City, we turn right and across the street is a Fascist era monument C. 1941, in a large park, a tomb to the fallen of 1849, 1860 and 1870. It is said that the ashes of the fallen soldiers are interred in this monument.  Continuing upward you will see the famous Fontanone or big fountain, built by Pope Paul V, Borghese, he completed the construction of the new St-Peter's Basilica as we see it today. This fountain is the end of a great Roman Aquaduct originally built by Emperor Trajan at the end of the first century, known then as Aqua Traiana today it is called Aqua Paolina. Trastevere in antiquity was outside Rome and populated by slaves and immigrants, only Roman citizens could live in Rome. Thus Cleopatra Queen of Egypt came to visit Julius Cesar but was not allowed to enter the City of Rome because she was a foreigner and lived in a palace on the Tiber across from Rome. Trastevere did not have like Rome an abundance of clean water and the Fontanone was the sole provider of clean fresh and abundant water. The Fontanone we see today was built by Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Fontana the son of Domenico Fontana who built the great Moses Fountain in Piazza Santa Susanna. The four central columns come from the old St-Peter's basilica and all the marble of the fountain was taken from the Temple of Mars the Avenger in the Forum of Augustus. Look for the Borghese family animals the dragons and eagles on the fountain.
The Fontanone of Pope Paul V

We continued to walk up and passing by Villa Spada and the American Academy in Rome and then by the Gate of San Pancrazio into the park where the Monument of Garibaldi and numerous statues of all the heroes of the war of Italian liberation stand and the equestrian monument and tomb of Anita Garibaldi who died at 28 years of age fighting alongside her husband. This park is truly a lesson in more recent Italian history and politics. In the distance you can see the dome of St-Peter and below you the entire city. If you are in the park at noon time watch for the noon day canon under the statue of Garibaldi.
Monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi on the Jianicolo
Noon Day gun on the Jianicolo hill.
Monument to Anita Garibaldi, clutching her baby and shooting her pistol.

After our walk we returned to Villa Spada for lunch, little did I know that today this very historic villa where Garibaldi and Luciano Manara, Commandant of the Bersaglieri stayed for 10 days while fighting the French and Papal armies just a few streets away is the Residence of the Irish Ambassador to the Italian Republic. Manara died on 30 June 1849 at the age of 24 while fighting the French, the Villa Spada itself was very badly damaged by cannon fire and savage fighting took place in the very garden where we had lunch. We were greeted by the Ambassador and his wife Pauline. She had made a lovely Irish stew and a wonderful salad and a Charlotte for dessert. Under the beautiful orange trees on a sunny afternoon it was difficult to imagine the fierce hand to hand combat which had taken part on this spot as paintings of the time shows.

Lunch served on porcelain bearing the crest of Ireland.

After lunch I walked back down the steep hill to the Tiber river, on the way down I passed a little park with ruins, Via Dandolo 45, the Syrian Sanctuary, known from early antiquity as a Sacred Woods, the area was dedicated to the Furies avenging deities who torment criminals. it is here that the first defender of poor Romans, Caius Gracchus committed suicide in 121 BC. His Conservative opponents in the Senate said that the Furies had called him to his death in their Sanctuary. It is a strange place or has a strange spooky look, I was happy the Furies were not after me.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic outing. Makes me want to go see it for myself.