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Bernini marble sculpture Pluto and Persephone

Rome: Art, Tourism and Restaurants 2002 Update

Salve! Don't trash your guide Michelin . These notes are simply a quick update on what's currently amusing in a great city.--Jake Biddington

Museums and Art Galleries

After a restoration period from 1983-1999, the glorious inlaid and painted decorations of the Galleria Borghese (in the Borghese gardens have been returned to all their technicolor splendor. Frankly, given the quality of the art housed at the Galleria Borghese, the walls could be Sherwin Williams flat white and it still would be a superb spot. The best of the best of Bernini's marble sculpture is there: David, Apollo & Daphne, Rape of Persephone, and Truth Unveiled by Time. In 2001-2, many of the Caravaggio capo lavori from all over Italy are traveling to a major Japanese exhibition--a fine excuse for a return trip.

Bernini marble "Pluto and Persephone"
in the Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is managed by the Italian government at its most officious--one senses a nostalgia for the era when trains ran on time. Viewers must reserve a time slot to enter the galleries; this means getting tickets and returning later (to an inconvenient location). All bags must be checked--even the smallest handbag.

Also in the Borghese Gardens is the National Gallery of Modern Art (Viale delle Belle Arti 131). Rome being Rome, "modern" means 19th and 20th century. The museum is largely devoted to 19th century Italian genre & landscape painting--an area as famous as it deserves to be. Recently, however, six new rooms have been rehung with post-World War II paintings and show some very good work in the style that Europeans refer to as "Informalism" and "post-Informalism". Painters such as Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Enrico Baj and Mario Schifano effectively show the various Italian painting trends in the last half of the century. Gallery cards (in four languages) are useful in describing trends such as arte povera and conceptualism.

The Gallery of Modern Art also has a congenial indoor/outdoor cafe suitable for a leisurely lunch.

Between the Piazza Barberini and the Spanish Steps, the Galleria Comunale d'Arte Modern e Contemporanea houses Italian painting and sculpture from the first half of the 20th century. The galleries include a few "names" like Morandi and Balla and many less known--but solid--painters. Note especially the trio of paintings by Toto where he illustrates the intellectual transition from realism into abstraction. (Clearly, the guy was tired of verbally explaining the concept to his friends.)

Trastevere Neighborhood & Dining

For that all-important pre-prandial glass of prosecco or birra meet at Campo di Fiori. Pretty people (beautiful women!) spill out of the taverna on the corner and other bars around the campo--a real meeting and greeting locale.

When the dinner bells rings--around 8:30--consider traveling west across the Tiber on the Argentina tram to Trastevere. Trastevere is Rome's Brooklyn combining the older neighborhood folk with a generous salting of international artists. The mix makes for lively restaurants plus late evening shopping, pastry nibbling and general milling around. If you need a break from straight Italian menus, Surya Mahal at Via Ponte Sisto at Piazza Trilussa offers quality Indian cuisine in an raised garden. Across the street, also in the Piazza Trilussa (named for a poet who has somehow missed my radar screen), try the high-design, stainless-steel Art Bar--complete with stream--for a midnight drink.

One restaurant in Trastevere offers an off-the-run dining experience: Spirito di Vino (Vicolo dell'Atleta, 13). Run by a retired executive & his family, this restaurant is housed in an ancient building on what may have been the site of one of the first Etruscan settlements in Italy. In the 1850's, the Apoxymenos (a Greek athelete), one of the most famous sculptures of antiquity was re-discovered in the basement of this building. (The street was named for this discovery.) The sculpture--a Roman copy of the Hellenistic Greek original by Lysippus--is now in the Vatican Museum. Customers get to tour this extraordinary building--also the home of the first synagogue in Rome--between superb food courses ranging from prunes wrapped in grilled prosciutto to cacio e pepe (a typical Roman peppery pasta) to beef in fennel sauce to truffle-laced cheese. The prices are moderate and the experience is delightful.Italian marble sculpture by Serena Tallarigo

Restaurants in Vecchia Roma

Starved for superb grilled meat & a wine list with offerings more intriguing than a pinot grigio? Taverna Flavia is your spot. This restaurant, on via Flavia, is in a nowhere location near the Stazione and behind the Treasury, so have your cocktails elsewhere. It's a power scene attracting show biz types and local politicos and gets moving somewhat later than standard Roman dining time.

Rome is known for the quality of its fish; try the offerings at these new restaurants:

Furore is a lovely, small white-tablecloth restaurant located just off Via Giulia. The owner is on hand to greet, and both he and the maitre d' know the menu intimately. Relax and let them do the work by expertly asking your preferences and guiding your selections . Reservations are a good idea. Address: Vicolo Orbitelli 13a (at Via Giulia)--phone 0668809050. Closed Sunday, open for lunch and dinner.

Just up the street from the French Embassy, Hosteria del Pesce is a recently opened fish restaurant with an emphasis on your personal relationship with your particular selection. The fish are displayed prominently on entering. The staff will make suggestions or you may simply point to what looks interesting. This place is trendy & pulsating--reservations are a must. Address: Via Di Monserrato 32--phone 066865617. Closed Sunday, no lunch.

Italian marble sculpture Crossing Light
by Serena Tallarigo

Reef Ristorante has been cannily designed in the sleek maniera Italiana. The food reflects this same interest in design with creative dishes presented in inventive ways. Address: Piazza Augusto Imperatore 47--phone 0668301430. Open daily, but no lunch Monday or Tuesday.

For more modest dining delights:

Osteria and enoteca Al Ciobot is a new, small neighborhood restaurant specializing in home made pasta and breads. The wine bottles, used as lighting, and the hand-painted chargers add a festive note. Address: Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 129-131--phone 0668809595. Dinner only, closed Monday.

Osteria "le streghe" is a small family run restaurant. This is what Roman cooking is all about--simple foods which become delicious in the preparation. Address: Vicolo del Curato 13 (which leads into Via Coronari)--phone 066878182. Closed Sunday, open for lunch and dinner.

For views accompanied by food:

Capitoline Museum--great view and lunch from the terrace restaurant on top of the museum.

Castel Sant'Angelo--lunch/tea/drinks and great views (360 degrees) from the bar (restaurant open in season) at the top of Castel Sant'Angelo--also a venue for special art exhibitions. For an even better view climb to the Angel Terrace. (View Bernini's angels when crossing Pont Sant'Angelo on the way to the Castel.) Area sacra di Largo Argentina

Amusing Turistica Activities

Temples at Area Sacra di Largo Argentina --free, 2-hour tour of Largo Argentina, the Republican temples and their conservation at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Temple from the Roman Republic
Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Passeto di Borgo-- Tour this passageway (the papal escape route) between Castel Sant'Angelo and the Vatican on Saturdays at 3 p.m. The tour lasts about an hour and cost of tour is in addition to museum entry fee. Meet at the museum shop.

Palazzo del Quirinale--Changing of the Guard at the President's Palace happens weekdays at 3 p.m and on Sundays at 4 p.m., when it is followed by a military band concert. The Palazzo Quirnale itself with works by Lorenzo Lotto, Guido Reni and Botticelli reflects its original use as summer home to the popes. The interior of the Palazzo del Quirinale is open Sundays only from 9-12.

Palazzo Madama--This building which houses the Italian Senate was begun in the 1600's and altered at intervals over the next 300 years. The Senate is open to the public during the day on the first Saturday of every month. The fresco decorations by Cesare Maccari in the Sala d'Onore date from the late 19th century.

Palazzo di Montecitorio --This structure, begun by Bernini, now houses the Chamber of Deputies. It is open to the public during the day on the first Sunday of every month.
Buon divertimento!

Purchase Roma'cé, (in Italian, but decipherable for English speakers) for weekly events listings of art, movies, music, special exhibitions and restaurants.
Bernini's house and workshop were at 11 Via della Mercede which now houses a law firm.
View trompe l'oeil windows in the alleyway (Vicolo Sugarelli) at the corner of Via Giulia.

A one-week public transportation pass lets you hop the array of buses, metro and trams which go nearly everywhere in Rome. It's a savior on a rainy night when taxis go missing.

See more works in marble by contemporary Italian sculptor SERENA TALLARIGO

More Art & Antiques Destinations:
Art Museums, Neighborhoods & Dining in Buenos Aires
Art Museums & Restaurants in Amsterdam
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Art Touring in Lisbon
Art Touring in Milan
Art Touring in Antwerp
Art Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City Art & Antiques
Art Tourism New York City 2003 Update
Art Tourism New York City 2002
Art & Antiques in Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Art & Restauarants in Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey


Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art & antiques online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums all over the world.

In this article, Jake Biddington offers suggestions and descriptions of interesting art tourism, dining & antique hunting destinations. Some of these venues are always in open; others revolve around special or seasonal events. These are art travel excursions we at BIDDINGTON'S--upmarket, online Contemporary Art Gallery--have enjoyed making. We hope you'll like them, too.

Contact Jake Biddington about His Travels

COPYRIGHT: Images and information within are Copyright Biddington's, Inc. 1997-2005--except where superceded by individual copyrights of the artists.
Downloading or printing for online or print reproduction of any materials without specific written permission from Biddington's, Inc. is prohibited.

PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE--art words & terms defined. CREATIVE PROCESS--artists' studio visits.
JAKE BIDDINGTON'S INVESTING--financial advice on art & antiques collecting. MY ART--art for kids.