After visiting the Sistine Chapel, I spent the rest of the afternoon drawing in the Museo Chiaramonti, the Greek and Roman antiquities wing of the Vatican Museum. It was a long vaulted corridor with hundreds of portrait busts and statues of emperors, gods, goddesses, philosophers and plebeians.
I am fascinated by their eternally blank stares.
(sidenote) Everything in the Vatican Museum is obsessively numbers and cataloged. All the portraits were labeled with both a cardinal number and a Roman numeral.
Galleria Borghese, considered one of the finest private art collections in the world.
The Galleria Borghese is the former villa of the powerful aristocratic Borghese family. The house was built in the early part of the 17th Century and the gardens were renovated in the English style in late 18th Century.
The Borghese Family were patrons of Bernini and avid collectors of Caravaggio. You can soak up the masters as you walk through the gilded rooms-- not only works by Caravaggio and Bernini, but also Raphael, Titian, and Rubens.
The gardens are spectacular with hedge mazes and lemon and orange trees in fruit. The Galleria Borghese is located in the Villa Borghese, an elegant emerald oasis about the size of Central Park. You could hardly tell that you were still in Rome. It was splendid.
Castel Sant'Angelo is an imposing fortress on the banks of the Tiber. It was originally Hadrian's mausoleum, but was converted into a Papal fortress in the 6th Century and used through the sack of Rome in 1527. There is a secret passageway that leads to the Vatican Palaces.
Ponte Sant'Angelo with the Basilica of St. Peter's in the distance.
Ponte Sant'Angelo is a footbridge across the Tiber in front of the fortress. The original arches of the bridge were built by Hadrian in 136 CE, and later expanded upon as the banks of the Tiber were widened. Bernini added splendid pairs of angels across the bridge in the 17th Century.
Piazza Navona boasts a church by Boromini and a fountain by Bernini. (click to enlarge)
Piazza Navona was built on the remains of an ancient Roman Arena and boasts not one but three fountains.
The Chiesa di Sant'Agnese Agone was designed by Boromini and is asymmetrical. The ornate fountain in the middle of the piazza is the Fontana dei Quattro Fumeri, or the Fountain of the Four Rivers. The fountain was designed by Bernini, an archrival of Boromini. One of the figures on the fountain is shielding his eyes from the sight of the church-- Bernini is literally telling off Boromini for all eternity.
(detail) The piazza is bordered by cafes.
The asymmetrical Chiesa di Sant'Agnese Agone (click to enlarge)
The piazza was lively and had surprisingly few tourists. I spent the afternoon sitting on a bench being serenaded by street musicians and drawing. An old couple sat next to me for a while doing their crossword puzzles, and I got a cluck of approval as they were leaving.
St. Peter's square is magnificent. I stayed near the Vatican City and my first afternoon in Rome I got a gelato and sat in the square in awe. The square encircles you in its arms.
The line to get inside often wrapped around the square in the morning. You have to pass through airport level security before you are allowed into the Papal State. The Basilica is overwhelming. Nothing prepared me for the splendor of the interior (or the vastness). As soon as I walked in my whole being felt different. It was very humbling to be inside one of the most sacred spaces of the Roman Catholic faith.
The square was full of life from dawn until dark and I returned there many times over the week to draw or to just sit with the sun on my face.
Art has been my life for as long as I can remember. I feel unconditionally at home in museums and galleries. They are one of the only places I can truly breathe. If I ever need to calm down or clear my head or escape for a while, an hour at a museum does wonders. It is both humbling and inspiring-- museums are my cathedrals.