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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Monte Gennaro - "Rome's mountain" and a favorite hike

The view (away from Rome) from Monte Gennaro's decorated peak
(that's the base of the mountain-top cross at left).

Maybe not so much the season, as dreams of the season - one of our favorite hikes - and this is a real one, not a cushy one. Up "Rome's mountain" (though bearing the name of Naples's patron saint), the tallest mountain one can see from the city, Monte Gennaro, in the Lucretili range to the northeast of Rome. Yes, you can see it from the Gianicolo, and many other high spots in Rome.

There are marked trails up to the peak from many different directions, and we've tried them all. One of our favorites is one filled with "tornanti" or switchbacks (a switchback is also called "lo zigzag"), 25 in fact - they are even numbered. 

The starting point for parking - roads beyond
this are impassible with our vehicle. The
twin hilltop towns of Palombara Sabina 
(it would be quite a hike if one started from the town)
and Montecelio (far left) are in the background. The scooter
is our latest--a 2019 Honda Forza 300. 

The trail starts under a defunct funicular. Trail guides say its start is the town of Palombara Sabina (don't try to find a place to stay overnight there; we did, with no luck), but the trail's real start is up a rural road (yeah, we ran into farm dogs biting at our scooter heels on these roads) a few miles from the town itself. 

The defunct funicular (and its path up the first shoulder of the mountain.

Left, a close-up of the funicular "basket." 
Can you imagine stepping into 
one of these (they don't stop) 
and riding up that way? 
We have been on one like it,
in Gubbio, Umbria.

Shortly after the beginning of the trail one encounters a diorama set-up in the woods (photo below). We had seen it before, though it changes from time to time, and we took a closer look this day. 

Below the sign that includes "shame on you," is a turquoise globe,
wrapped like a baby (or patient), hooked up to a heart monitor.

We're not sure what the large underwear on Ken and Barbie mean, but the larger diorama is a critique of inaction over climate change. The lettered signs in the diorama read:

"It was the most beautiful planet of the universe; shame on you" and "Suicide" and, on the far left, with figurines of a creche, "Hope."

From a saddle (yes, the Italians use the word too, "sella"), one can see the path to a tower (right) - we've never bothered to go there, because it's private and the 'path' is a road. The trail marker has estimated hours to the destination, not the distance.

There are some "ruins"  where the funicular ended and a hotel was located. There are also way too many cell towers:

One can take a small loop starting at this point (and get lost, but not very lost, except if it's foggy at the top - believe me, we've done it all). 

Here's AllTrails view of the mostly up-and-back trail, with its great switchbacks:

We often run into a few people at the top. This day it was 2 trail runners (!!). They asked to have their photo taken with us, shocked at finding Americans on the peak, and then ran their merry way down the rocky summit.

The smaller peak with the tower is visible in the distance.
The two trail runners had an intense discussion below us about
their favorite power bars.

And the gorgeous woods the switchbacks wind through, as we finish the journey:


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Caput Mundi Mall: You'll have it all to Yourself--If you can Get There


We first learned about Caput Mundi, the new, luxury Rome shopping center that's a stone's throw from Saint Peter's, about a month ago, when it opened. The location seemed curious--elevated in an older building off via della Conciliazione--and we were eager to see how the developers had managed to squeeze a shopper's paradise into a crowded neighborhood of historic buildings. 

The best access, as we later learned, is down via Padre Pfeiffer Pancrazio--there's a less-than-spectacular sign for Caput Mundi at the end of that street. 

And beyond the sign, and closer to the front entrance, a less-than-inviting enclosure for the Carbinieri, taking something away from the welcoming Easter Egg. A typical hallway, ahead. 

But we missed what is intended to be the main entrance and found another, the "back door" entrance if you will, accessed off an underpass at Largo di Porta Cavalleggeri, almost directly south of the Vatican Obelisk. [It could be the "main" entrance is inside the "Gianicolo" bus parking garage - in an attempt to appeal to the thousands of tourists who "enter" the Vatican via tourist bus.]

On our back-door excursion: we found ourselves in a lengthy (estimate: 1/4 mile) passageway, gradually elevating as we trudged along, virtually alone, an occasional moving walkway assisting in the ascent. We thought maybe the architects had modeled this entrance after the Metro walkways we love so much. On the way we stopped at the restrooms--one marked WOMAN, the other MAN.

Heading on up to Caput Mundi. 

At the end of the trek, an elevator brought us to the 5th floor, the door opening onto: CAPUT MUNDI: THE MALL!

All on one floor, Caput Mundi has some of the feel of the most sophisticated of airport shopping areas: gleaming goods, perfectly arranged and presented: a bookstore, a candy shop, an upscale wine store, clothing of all kinds, several inviting places to eat, a pharmacy, a SONY pavilion where one can scratch the chin of an affectionate, responsive techno-dog, impressive art installations here and there (even a small exhibit of the work of Andy Warhol). A giraffe holding a lamp, or cage, or something, in its mouth. 

This says it all. In the foreground, a thinker-type art work. In the background, 
two workers taking advantage of the lack of customers to replace light bulbs.

Oops! A shopper!

Quite a place. Except....except there were no shoppers. Well, maybe a half dozen (high-end estimate). Maybe. A helpful clerk Dianne chatted up told us the lack of shoppers was par for the course, except on the weekend, which implies most shoppers are not tourists but Romans. Every shop has a clerk, every coffee shop or lunch space is complete with cooks and servers. But nobody to serve, nobody to cook for, nobody to buy anything. Well, not quite. Dianne made a stop at the para-pharmacy (all goods OTC).



Coochie Coochie

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

New Visions of the Evangelists at the Hungarian Academy in Rome - til May 13

The 4 apostles, a subject that does not always hold fascination for us, open the current exhibit at the Hungarian Academy in Rome (the exhibit is scheduled to close May 13).  A glance at the poster seems to indicate a somewhat traditional portrait of one of the saints - in this case, Saint Matthew. We wandered into the exhibit nonetheless (being underwhelmed by the Wunderkammern group show across the street), informed by prior excellent shows at that Academy on via Giulia in Borromini's Palazzo Falconieri.

And our wandering was rewarded. The portrait of St. Matthew, by artist Erik Mátrai, on closer look was composed of money, acknowledging Matthew's role as a tax collector ("publican") - photo at right. The other 4 apostles similarly were composed of materials reflecting their status. Below is St. Mark, whose name is tied to the blessing of the crops, made out of seeds of grain.

Sts. Luke and John are at the end of the post.

The exhibit featured another spectacle of a work, very different from the 4 apostles, again by Mátrai, this one using light and reflection (from a lamp source and from a curtained window in the Palazzo), as well as from one's own shadow.

Here one can see more clearly the use of mirrors and shadows:

Works by 16 other artists play on the theme of the evangelists. Among those, we particularly liked Lajos Csontó's 12 disciples, wo are in essence real, ordinary, living people. His black and white photographs, accompanied by brief texts, have some of the feel of Bill Viola's videos and stills.

Below is Ilona Lovas's part installation/part painting/part sculpture on the washing of the feet:

Rome is home to great contemporary religious art. The "furnishings" at Piero Sartogo's Santo Volto church, about which we've written, are among them.  

And so too is this exhibit, "Vangelo 21" (21st Gospel), at the Hungarian Academy in Rome, via Giulia 1 (directly across from Wunderkammern Gallery), posted hours Monday through Friday 9:30-19:30.


Here's St. Luke, reportedly a painter and a patron of the arts. Mátrai composed this painting - of the artist/saint painting an icon - of pieces of paintings he did not complete.

  Close-up of St. Luke

And below, St. John, a writer and patron saint of writers. Mátrai uses the letters A, B, and C, and overlaps them to create the texture of the painting.

St John, close-up