Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, November 8, 2010

RST Top 40: #14, Villa Medici

From the Villa Medici gardens, St. Peter's dome at right in distance

The Villa Medici sits just to the north of the top of the Spanish Steps (which probably should be called the French Steps.) It is so close to the heart of tourism in Rome and yet for many people, so far. They just don’t get here, and they should – that’s why we’ve put the Villa #14 on our Rome the Second Time’s must-see list.


In trying to figure out how to succinctly capture this extraordinary property, with its layers of Roman history, archeology, art, water-works, etc., I found I couldn’t do better than what we say in Chapter Six of Rome the Second Time when we guide people to the French Academy the villa houses – so here it is in one paragraph:

Exhibit on the ancient aqueducts IN the Villa Medici's cistern

“This magnificent 16th century palazzo, with interventions by Michelangelo and extensive gardens, is near the top of the Spanish Steps, on the Pincio. The art exhibits are high quality and sometimes occupy unusual spaces, including the villa’s 6th-century cistern, constructed to store rainwater should the barbarians cut the aqueducts [which they did]. Musical performances range from jazz to classical. To get there, walk up the Spanish Steps, then left about 300 feet, via Trinita’ dei Monti, 1.”

Everything about the Villa Medici used to be free – you could walk in the villa, the gardens, the art exhibits, the music. Now everything seems to have a cost, e.g. from Euro 8 for a show to Euro 11 for show + guided tour of the gardens.

the "snail shell" stairs in the Villa Medici

Through December 16 there are special Thursday evening visits to the current art exhibit with some special features like tours with the artists. For me, it’s another run, don’t walk; definitely worth trying. The website, with lots of good information, is only in French and Italian. Here’s the Italian link, and you can try translating it with Google or another program:

We highly recommend going to an exhibit or music offering and walking through the villa (see., e.g., "snail shell" stairs in right photo) and garden on your own. The art spaces in the outbuildings are modern and interesting. The Roman statuary all around is stunning. The expansive view all the way to St. Peter’s dome from IN the garden is magical (photo at top).   And, for a pausa (literally a “pause,” but we would say a break), there’s a small café inside as well. Being in the Villa Medici makes you feel like you are on the Spanish Steps without being mobbed by tourists, hustlers and buskers (or people who are all 3).


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