Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Monday, September 29, 2014

MODERN ROME - A Gold Medal Winner

We were delighted to open our mail the other day and find the certificate above, informing us that Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler had won the top place in the eLit Awards for travel guidebooks.

Of course, we think Modern Rome is equally useful in print and eBook versions, and we very much support small independent bookstores, like Almost Corner Bookshop and Anglo American in Rome.  At the same time, it's wonderful to have independent confirmation of Modern Rome's excellence, in either version.

Try one of our 4 great walks, in Garbatella, EUR, Flaminio, and Trastevere.  92 pages, 62 color photos, maps and directions, commentary.   

Information on our latest alternative guidebook to Rome, in both versions, is at right.

Dianne and Bill

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Popemania in Rome

Pope Francis, who has been Pope for over a year now, is a crowd-pleaser.  He has shown up in graffiti around Rome in various guises, including as superman.
We liked this one, in the Spagna Metro, showing him with a thumb's up. By graffiti artist C215, who works only with stencils, this artwork was one of 14 put up by 6 well-known artists in two nights work in May, and authorized by the Metro service (ATAC).

If you're looking for this picture, it's just as you go into the (very long) station entrance, near a rare info booth.  I had to ask some people in line there to move aside a bit to get the photo.

Another indication of the Pope's popularity are the pilgrims in Rome.  One of our Roman friend's mothers complains about this "Popemania," that brings in millions of people who don't spend money in the city--as the mother tells the story.

Pilgrims at the Vatican

The sight of dozens of people wearing the same t-shirts that have a religious slogan on them is now common around the Vatican.  There's no doubt the Vatican is more crowded than ever.  How much is due to Pope Francis, we're not sure.  But he's definitely beloved, in contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.


Nun photographing Francis as Superman

Tourists lining up for the Vatican museums

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Borromini Monastery in Trastevere - hidden treasure or just for the wealthy?

We were intrigued to read recently - on Mary Jane Cryan's 50 Years In Italy blog - about Cryan's students' experiences living in what most Romans refer to as the Borromini monastery in Trastevere.  We've written about her books on Etruria, and it's fun to read about her impressions of Rome.

We used to slip into the monastery to show the distinctive building to visitors.  But then it was taken over by a luxury hotel operator, and now is simply that - a luxury hotel.  You can peek your head inside, but you can't go as far in, or see as much, as in the "good old days."  We knew guests could stay in the monastery before it became a hotel, but we hadn't realized it was used for students staying for longer terms. Cryan's - and her students' - experiences, photos, and documents show us what used to be there - a real treat.

Cryan begins with the ad for what the monastery is now - the deluxe hotel, and the rest of this post is from her blog posting which we print here with her permission:

Designed by Baroque architect Borromini, the Donna Camilla Savelli is a former monastery in Rome's popular Trastevere area. It offers a garden, elegant and sober rooms, and free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

This is the website description of  a 4 star hotel located at the foot of  the Janiculum hill in Rome’s Trastevere area . 

For many lucky American students studying in Rome during the 1980s   it was  home  during their semester  study  abroad program.  
Borromini designed the facade of the monastery 
The female students were “cloistered” on the first floor while the men were relegated to the second floor corridor. There were communal bathrooms back then and the  ancient heating system was seldom  lukewarm. To survive the chill, the students bundled up with thick sweaters or  sat in the sunshine of the courtyard garden where roses bloomed  even in December.

The  atmosphere at the convent was often similar to  a Fellini film set : Gina, the  grumpy portinaia,  elderly nuns gliding  silently along white and black marble hallways,  meals served in the frescoed  refectory, cavernous kitchens hung with bright copper pots  and  sitting rooms furnished  with antiques including  Pope Pius IX’s  armchair.
copper pots in the  convent kitchen 

marble fountain
near the refectory 

The sisters of the religious order were grateful for the money which arrived from America and used it to  repair  parts of the roof. 

the convent today - an expensive  4 star hotel
Here are some  of the original  letters with the price list  for bed and breakfast....a far cry from what today's clients pay to stay in the luxurious modern rooms of the former monastery. 

How times have changed!  Notice that IVA tax  was only 9 or 10%. 
What could you buy for the equivalent of   26 or 28,000 lire today? (approximately  14-16 euro) 

The convent  was founded  by Donna Camilla  Savelli (related to the Ruspoli-Marescottifamily)  and  has had an interesting history culminating in its new use as a luxury hotel

During World War II many  Roman Jewish families found refuge here and the sisters distributed  bread  and food to the local population from the monastery kitchens.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shopping in Rome: Eyeglasses this time

For non-shoppers, we do get around.  And we must admit to being entranced by "Rosaria's," as the eyeglass store we're touting here is known among friends in Rome.

The personable - and knowledgeable - Rosaria
in her shop [and love those glasses].
Rosaria is Rosaria Riccioli, and her small, beautifully-stocked store in the center of Rome is Mondelliani. 

We were admiring the glasses of a friend, and she told us where she annually gets a new pair, and it turns out, so does everyone else we know.  And friends visiting friends stop by Rosaria's shop for new glasses.  As Rosaria's slogan says: "Personalita' in vista" - "personality in sight."

"Something more than an eyeglass store."
At the shop, your prescription can be "read" off your current glasses, and you can get a new pair in a couple days.  From what we can tell, the prices are competitive with U.S. prices, and the selection fantastic.  Ah, yes, English spoken by all the employees.

Mondelliani is just off Piazza Colonna, which is next to via del Corso, smack dab in the center.  And the shop is open "non-stop" - almost -  10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.  Closed on Monday.  Via dei Bergamaschi, 49. tel. info@ The bi-lingual Web site is fun too.

The sign across the shop window in the Web site photo says "Something more than an eyeglass store." So it is.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rome's most "used" Fountains

Among Rome's great pleasures are its fountains--about 1,000 of them, according to one authority--and not just because they're beautiful or stylish, or because they testify to Rome's abundant supply of fresh water. As any thirsty traveler will tell you, most of them are also useful, even essential, especially in the summer months, when the city swelters in the heat.

RST has identified two fountains that are especially busy, crowded with tourists, locals, and the faithful slaking a thirst.  Each, predictably, is located in the heart of a tourist area, and each has a certain style--even if that style is sometimes mediated by a plastic bottle or the crush of the needy.

The first, below, can be found in Piazza San Marco, that little rectangle of semi-sanity adjacent to Piazza Venezia and across the street from the Altare della Patria.

The second is just to the north of Piazza San Pietro [the right side, as one faces the basilica] - note the fountain's shape - Pope's hats and St. Peter's keys to the church.

Drink up, Rome.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MACRO's playground

Okay, we whine about MACRO and this city contemporary art gallery always seems about to fold, treats patrons shabbily, and costs too much.  But then it entrances us.  The latest artwork in the central part of the main MACRO (on via Nizza, not far from via Nomentana in one direction, and Piazza Fiume in another - a few blocks from the city walls) is a huge textile work.  The artist, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, was born in Japan and lives in Nova Scotia.  She is known for her large-scale textiles that work as children's playgrounds, and this certainly is one of them.  Titled "Harmonic Motion" in English and "Rete dei draghi" - or "Dragons' net" in Italian, it's both harmonious and a little scary in the way it envelopes and "captures" you.
Those dark slacks in the center?  me trying to get up and in; the kids
definitely were better at this.

We saw children enjoying themselves climbing in and around the sculpture and, so, I had to try it myself.  A bit claustrophobic and not too easy for an adult, but a kick nonetheless.  And, it appears it's free.  You can go into this part of the museum without needing a ticket.  The sculpture will be up until the end of this year.  So go for it!

via Nizza 138, open 11-7 Tuesday through Sunday, except major holidays, and who knows what kind of government shut-downs.  Fairly bad Web site, appears to be only in Italian, "Menu" - at the bottom, print tiny.  But give it a try.

Made it - that's my face through all that fibre.