It was pouring rain at 6:30 a.m. when I awoke. It started getting light shortly thereafter and the seagulls started honking or whatever the appropriate word is for the noise they make which sometimes sounds remarkably human. Despite being so central and near some night club, this hotel is reasonably quiet. I could hear the club Friday night or rather Saturday morning, but it wasn’t enough to keep me awake.
By 10, it was raining again so we weren’t in a hurry to go outside. For breakfast, you get to tick off what items you want for beverage and bread. Last night, Allie picked whole meal bread for us. It sounded healthy. It turned out to be pumpernickel. Eating it was a chore. Allie couldn’t get past one bite. On rather empty stomachs, we went to Il Gesu which was finally open. The ceiling fresco by Il Baciccia is an illusionist feat spilling out of the centre into the coffered vaulting. A mirror is provided so you can view it without straining your neck.
From there, after tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, we walked past Piazza del Quirinale to look at Sant’Andrea del Quirinale but it was closed until 3:30 so we moved on to look at Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, nicknamed San Carlino because it is so little. It is a very tiny church with an unusual oval dome squeezed onto an intersection with fountains on each corner.
The church was for a poor order and lacks the elaborate decor of so many Baroque churches. Instead the ornamentation is almost entirely architectural. To me, it’s incredibly elegant.
Our tickets for the Caravaggio exhibition were for 2:00 so we decided we needed a bite to eat before. We wandered past the exhibition building, the Scuderie del Quirinale, which used to papal stables, i.e. scuderie. We could see a queue outside for those who needed to buy tickets but no queue for people with reserved tickets. After a panino for me and lasagna for Allie, we returned to go to the door for those with tickets. We were let in early. The exhibit order was partly chronological but mainly organized by themes with fairly lengthy explanations in Italian and English of the reasons that two to four paintings were shown together. For example, one group had the same models, another depictions of sleep or death, another St John the Baptist. There were a number of works which were discussed but not shown because they are in churches in Rome so the viewer can see them later. One of the highlights was finally seeing the Taking of Christ from the National Gallery in Dublin. It is the subject of Jonathan Harr’s book, Lost Painting, which describes the discovery that the painting was a Caravaggio. After reading the book, we went to Dublin in 2004 where I was expecting to see the painting but it was on loan. I’ve been wanting to see it ever since. The only disappointment was that the Burial of St Lucy which is in Sicily won’t be arriving for this exhibition until April 15. Maybe I need to return.
After we decided to go to see the interior of Sant’Andrea. We had a bit of time to kill. I found a shop to buy water. Allie bought gelato. We saw a bit of what appeared to be the changing of the guards in front of the presidential palace, complete with marching music and guys with big weapons.
Sant’Andrea was designed by Bernini and is an amazing contrast to San Carlino. It’s also an oval dome but the decor is a riot of colour, gold and generally opulent detail.
Since we had no other plans, we also walked two blocks further to go to Santa Maria della Vittoria where Bernini’s design for the Cornaro Chapel has his theatrical The Ecstacy of St Teresa.
As we were leaving Allie spotted a big fountain so we walked down there and found ourselves in Piazza Republicca which is near the main train station.
Also near by is Santa Maria degli Angeli which uses part of the ruins of the Bath of Diocletian and partly designed by Michelangelo.
We managed to walk back to our hotel without getting lost as we’ve now walked a lot of central Rome.