Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Roman Holiday

More Rome! Alright, so our second full day in Rome, we started out by braving the metro during rush hour to get to the Borghese Gallery. But it's not that simple: the metro leaves you outside the Borghese Gardens which you have to walk through to get to the Gallery. While the gardens are beautiful, I was kinda shell-shocked by the mile walk we had that morning to even get to the Gallery.

The Borgheses were a powerful family that rose to prominence in Rome during the sixteenth century. The Gallery is housed in the Borghese' villa and holds their art collection, including some incredible pieces by the Baroque artist Bernini (more about him when we talk about St. Peter's Basilica).

All throughout the Borghese gardens are fountains, small squares, and temples.

After walking the entire length of the gardens, we turned a corner and walked down the lane that leads right up to the Gallery.

After emerging from the trees, you see the Gallery in front of you. The Gallery, formerly the Villa, dates from the mid-1600s. Photography is not allowed, but I've put pictures of my favorite sculptures that we saw below.

Apollo and Daphne: this sculpture is so delicate there are areas (particularly around Daphne's fingers) where the marble is so thin you can see right through it. Bernini's scuptures are also amazing because they are entirely three dimensional. Meaning that they tell a story when viewed from every angle, and aren't just supposed to face one way.

Here is the wiki info on the sculpture: along with the subsequent sculpture of David it represents the introduction of a new sculptural aesthetic. It depicts the most dramatic and dynamic moment in one of Ovid'ss stories in his Metamorphoses. In the story, Apollo, the god of light, scolded Eros, the god of love, for playing with adult weapons. In retribution, Eros wounded Apollo with a golden arrow that induced him to fall madly in love at the sight of Daphne, a water nymph sworn to perpetual virginity, who, in addition, had been struck by Eros with a lead arrow which immunized her from Apollo's advances. The sculpture depicts the moment when Apollo finally captures Daphne, yet she has implored her father, the river god, to destroy her beauty and repel Apollo's advances by mutating her into a laurel tree. This statue succeeds at various levels: it depicts the event and also represents an elaborate conceit of sculpture. This sculpture tracks the metamorphoses of the representation in stone of a person changing into lifeless vegetation; in other words, while a sculptor's art is to change inanimate stone into animated narrative, this sculpture narrates the opposite, the moment a woman becomes a tree.

The other most impressive sculpture to me was also by Bernini. The Rape of Propserpina (or Persephone as the Greeks called her). Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (the goddess of the earth and harvest) and Pluto/Hades, the god of the underworld, fell in love with her. He kidnapped her and took her to the underworld. While in the underworld she ate several seeds from a pomegranate and although Jupiter/Zeus ordered that Propserpina be retunred to her mother, since she had tasted the food of the underworld she would have to return. So a few months out of the year, Propserpina spends with Pluto/Hades. During that time, Demeter grieves and the world is plunged into winter.

From wiki: the statue recalls Giambologna's Mannerist Rape of the Sabine Women, and displays a masterful attention to detail, including the abductor "dimpling" the woman's marble skin.

Me again: This sculpture is so amazing, you can actually see where Pluto's fingers are digging into Propserpina's skin. I had always heard people describe seeing marble statues that looked like they could start moving at any moment, but this was my first real-life experience with that. It's kind of freaky, actually. And also wicked cool.

After leaving the Borghese Gardens, we found right smack in front of us part of the ancient wall of Rome. That's one of the cool things about Europe--you'll just be walking along and stumble across some remnant of an ancient civilization. It really makes you think about how young our country actually is.

After the Borghese Gardens and Gallery, we decided to check out the Spanish Steps. Here's a shot of a Roman street as we walked to the Steps. This area of Rome is known for it's great shopping, and all along these streets were shops filled with designer items, jewelry, and clothing.

From the top of the Spanish Steps, you look down on the Piazza de Spagna.

Descending the Spanish Steps. Quick story: while walking down the steps, one of the many hawkers came up to Kent and starting tying a bracelet around his wrist. Kent protested saying he wasn't carrying any money, but the guy persisted and knotted the bracelet. Then he asked for some money. Kent kept repeating that he didn't have any. Chris and I spied a suspicious guy coming up behind Kent that we thought might be a pick-pocketer, but since Kent actually had no money and no wallet, clearly he didn't get anything. Kent eventually just walked away with a free bracelet! And the maybe-scam artists got nothing.

And here are the Steps in all their glory. This is a famous area of Rome where people meet to just hang-out, shop in designer shops, or grab some food. It's very romantic at night (as you'll see later), but since it is such a tourist area, there are people trying to sell stuff to you EVERYWHERE. I wouldn't say it ruins the experience, but it's really annoying.

Ok, here is the wiki entry:

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are a set of steps in Rome climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by Trinità dei Monti, the church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, above. The Scalinata is "without a doubt the longest and widest staircase in all Europe."

The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudia, linking the Spanish Bourbon Embassy to the Holy See, today still located in Palazzo Monaldeschi in the piazza below, with the Trinità dei Monti above.

Here is Kent modelling his free bracelet I told you about.

To get back to the hostel we took the Metro to Termini, Rome's train station and main metro hub. To exit, you have to walk through an underground mall (think L'Enfant Plaza in DC). Randomly walking in front of us were some nuns, so I snapped a pic on the sly. There are actually nuns and priests running all over Rome, not that it's much of a surprise. You can even find shops selling Hot Priest 2009 calendars. I came this close to getting one, but in the end was too embaressed. Kent's response to my picture taking was, "you are so going to hell." I'll see you there, my friend.

Tomorrow: still in Rome (I know, it's taking forever), but we'll be talking about Vatican City and the Vatican Gardens!


Monkey Sri said...

You didn't get the calendar?!? I'm so disappointed in you.

Arista said...

I bought two of those calendars when I was there and gave them as gifts-- and as soon as I walked up to pay for them, the clerk switched from Italian to English. I guess not a lot of locals lust after their clergy.

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