If you have been to Rome multiple times, I’m sure you have seen the main sites: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and the like. Admittedly, rattling them off like this does no justice to their majesty, but it does tell me that you need to start scratching below the surface of this city.
How to start venturing off the main tourist path:
A high renaissance marvel that boasts Sangallo and Michelangelo as its architects, Palazzo Farnese is now the French Embassy. Indeed as soon as you cross the threshold you are greeted in French and subjected to scripulous security checks. It is a majestic creature that people often admire from the outside, but please take the time to book a tour.
What will you see? Only some of the most seductive frescoes you will see in your life called “The Loves of the Gods” (1597-1608) by Annibale Carracci. Living in Rome, you see a lot of, put rather simply, painted walls and ceilings – I’m sure most of you instantly think of the “Sistine Chapel” famously frescoed by Michelangelo. I’ll be honest, religous art does not allure me into deprave fantasy. It can be by a master, but it takes a lot for it to stand out in a sea of Last Suppers and Sacra Famiglia competitors. Carracci’s masterpiece, however, somehow plunges me into an erotic world of fancy in the vein of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: imagine (or view the photo above) sumptuous scenes of Gods and Godesses. The centrepiece on the ceiling is the “Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne” a myth in which the God of Wine, Bacchus, allures a damsel-in-distress princess Ariadne.
The true seduction of this Palazzo is the fact that she is not as well known to tourists. Yes, if you take that cliched snap at Campo de Fiori, you will see her swanning in the background and are drawn to her, but few find a way to her heart. She also has a past littered with famous names: Alessandro Farnese, a chashed up young cardinal, commissioned the building, enlisting none other than Sangallo who had worked with his master Bramante on St Peter’s (AKA the Pope’s pad); then of course, when the aforementioned cashed up cardinal became Pope Paul III, he roped in Michelangelo to continue working on the building. Big names and egos abound in the history of this hidden masterpiece. For the cultured buffs of opera, the name Puccini should also rattle the bell in your brain. His humble opera “Tosca” also has scenes set in this building.
This was clearly a highlight for me, but there is one more:
Do you want views overlooking the city as dusk? Book the last available timeslot on a Friday as it is the only time that this is possible. I discovered this by chance, but I wanted to share this happy coincidence with you.
Un bacio x