Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Presentation of my book in Amsterdam

A photo of the presentation of my book in Amsterdam. Thanks to all the people who attended and a special thanks to the Dante Alighieri association of Amsterdam as well as the School of Italian “Studio Lingua” who actively helped in arranging this beautiful event.
If interested in the book, don’t forget to have a look at the best online bookstores!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Presentation of my book in Den Haag

A big thanks to all the people who attended the presentation of my book "Discovering the Colosseum" at Dante Alighieri's association in Den Haag, The Netherlands. It's been a great evening and plenty of copies got sold! The Dante Alighieri association is the most prestigious cultural association for the diffusion of the Italian culture around the world.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

"Discovering the Colosseum" is now available!

My book "Discovering the Colosseum" has been published and it is now available on the best online bookstores like Amazon, Google Playstore, Barnes&Noble etc). If you want to discover the secrets of this wonderful monument as well as the stories about the spectacles and many other curiosities click on the below link and there you can have a better idea of my work. Happy reading!


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Another exceptional finding

Another exceptional finding: the second arch of Titus. The first one, still in place is at the beginning of the Sacred Way (at one of the entrances to the Roman Forum). This second one has been just discovered close to the Circus Maximus. It was the second one dedicated after the death of the emperor Titus in 81 AD.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Hadrian villa and Villa d'Este seen by a drone

A wonderful video of Hadrian's villa and Villa d'Este in Tivoli seen by a drone. The Majestic ruins of Hadrian's villa and the splendid Villa d'Este seen under a different perspective.


Monday, 27 April 2015

An ancient pyramid brought to life

The only pyramid of Rome has been recently brought to a new life thanks to a Japanese tycoon who sponsored its restoration. The colour you can see today has now the same splendour of 2,000 years ago...


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Ancient Ostia from the sky

Seeing the ruins of Ostia antica from the sky is incredible. A perspective totally different which will let you appreciate this beautiful archeological site even more. Wonderful video!


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Happy birthday Rome!

Today Rome celebrates 2768 years! According to the tradition, it was founded on top of the Palatine Hill on April 21, 753 BC. That year became the year 0 of ancient times: from that date ancient people reckoned historical events exactly as we do today using the year of birth of Christ. Happy Birthday Rome!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The ancient harbour of Trajan

The ancient harbour of Trajan was a masterpiece of the roman engineers. Built as a perfect hexagon, it could host a huge number of container ships. It is a private property but from April 25th is visitable. Shuttle buses can be taken from Fiumicino airport.


Monday, 6 April 2015

Archeological bus 118

For the people who don't want to miss a wonderful part of Rome normally neglected by tourists yet extremely fascinating take bus 118. From Via dei Fori Imperiali till Villa dei Quintili (the biggest of the villas in the immediate surroundings of Rome) passing through the marvellous Appian Way. The price is just the one of a normal ticket: 1.50 euros.


Monday, 30 March 2015

Exceptional finding

In Rome they have been working since 15 years to the construction of the third line of the metro (metro C). Aside from some corruption and various delays, the line isn't completed yet. And while they dig they keep finding exceptional things...like the one described in this article (it is in italian). It is saying that during the construction of the metro they found 80 metres (roughly 250 ft) of the original walls built at the end of III century AD. These walls were built to protect Rome from possible invasions of enemies. What they discovered is exceptional because for centuries they thought that part of the walls weren't existing anymore...but they was just buried underground very close to the Basilica of St. John in the Lateran. This part of the walls still preserves also some traces of frescoes.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Vatican Museums for homeless

A wonderful initiative: the pope gives the opportunity to a large group of homeless people to have a free guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. At the end of the tour dinner is offered to everybody. I enjoy reading these things: the powerful people who try to help the less fortunate.


Monday, 23 March 2015

Street food festival in Rome

Street food, well...let's spell it properly: streeat food! Many times this means good food at a reasonable price. In few days in Rome there will be a street food festival:


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Reception inside an horse belly!

The horseback statue of Vittorio Emanuele II at the Vittoriano is 12 meters high and stands out with its mass at the center of the monument itself. To realise it 50 tons of bronze were used. To celebrate the visit of the king Vittorio Emanuele III it was decided to organise a reception inside the immense belly of the horse: twenty people were accommodated inside! It was a memorable reception as the old pictures still display.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Vittoriano

Dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of Italy, is one of the most photographed monuments in Rome. Its gigantic white mass dominates Piazza Venezia fascinating all the ones who take pictures of it. Many romans instead don't like this monument being built with too white marbles compared to what there is around and because of its size: exactly two of the reasons why it is so loved by the tourists!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The deer of Sant'Eustachio church

Very close to the Pantheon, in a square called Piazza Sant'Eustachio, there is a church where on top of the facade there is a deer instead of the usual cross! According to the legend Saint'Eustace, whose name was Placido before his conversion, was a roman soldier. One day when he was hunting he saw a deer which was looking much nicer and bigger than all the other ones. When he was about to kill him he noticed that he had a cross between his antlers. The following night Placido's wife dreamt what happened to his husband and the whole family decided to be baptized. After the baptism Placido changed his name in Eustace and after a while he and his family were killed for his christian faith. It was the year 130 A.D. and the emperor was Hadrian. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The origin of the word “money”

On the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome visible today in the way Michelangelo arranged it, it was built the temple of Juno Moneta (from the latin verb monere meaning "to warn" - the warning Juno). This temple was built in the IV century BC and later on close to it the romans built the mint of Rome (where the coins were made). Since the mint was constructed near the temple of Juno Moneta, what the mint was producing (the coins) was started to be called moneta. Still today the coins keep this name in many languages aside from italian. For example: money in english, monnaie in french, moneda in spanish and romanian, moeda in portuguese etc.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius
Not all the italian cities can boast a pyramid...but Rome does! Close to San Paolo's gate there is the Pyramid of Cestius, which takes its name from Caio Cestio who commissioned its construction in the I century B.C. He was a very wealthy politician who decided when he would pass away to not have just a simple grave but...a real pyramid! Imitating the style of the ancient pharaohs, before dying he asked to his heirs to build a pyramid. But he underlined one important and curious detail: being a wealthy man and being obliged to leave everything to his heirs, he wanted the pyramid to be completed within 330 days! It seems that just to be sure his heirs, attracted by so much money, carried out the construction of the pyramid few days early! The curiosity concerning the construction can be still read in an inscription on the facade of the pyramid itself.

The inscription on the pyramid

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Palatine hill

The Palatine hill is the richest hills of Rome in terms of history. The Palatine stands on one side of the Roman forum and looks upon the Circus Maximus on the other side. On top of it, recent excavations have discovered remainings of huts of XII century BC which witness the very old origins of Rome (but traditionally Rome is born "just" in 753 BC!). After the I century AD the Palatine became the residence of many roman emperors who started to build a huge complex of buildings to be used as their private residences. Many emperors contributed in enriching this complex so that the Palatine became an enormous building and for ancient romans the name of the hill was synonymous with "palace". In fact the word palace (in italian palazzo, in french palais etc.) derives from the Palatine which in latin was called Palatium.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Appian Way

The Appian Way
  The Appian Way from Rome to Brindisi               

The Appian Way was called by the ancient romans regina viarum, the queen of the roads. It is certainly the most important ancient road whose ruins survived till today and it connected Rome with Brindisi in the south of Italy, a strategic harbour linking Italy to Greece and the Middle East. The construction of the Appian Way was started by the censor Appio Claudio Cieco (who gave the name to the road) in 312 B.C. The road, differently to all the previous ones realised, was entirely paved and polished. This way the road could be used with no issues also under the rain. It was 4,1 meters wide, which allowed to cross it both ways at the same time. At the sides of it there were sidewalks, exactly like we see today at the sides of the modern roads or streets. During the middle age the road has been used by the crusaders to reach Palestine to free Jerusalem from the arabs. A curiosity is about Spartacus: he was a slave who, together with other 6,000 slaves, started a revolt against Rome. After he was killed all his companions were crucified along the Appian Way from Rome to Pompei. He must have been a quite shocking view!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Pizzeria "Da Baffetto"

To enjoy the tipical atmosphere of a roman pizzeria together with the voices of loud locals and with their excellent pizzas, once you are in Rome it is a "must" go eating at Baffetto (litterally "cute mustaches"). It is in via del Governo Vecchio 114, very close to Piazza Navona. Baffetto makes thin and crunchy pizzas, done in a tipical wood oven. Be ready to wait a little while before entering and as soon as you are done to be hurried on your way. The experience of eating a pizza at Baffetto is definitely a good one. Don't miss the fried starters before the pizza!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Basilica of Maxentius (and Costantine)

 The Basilica of Maxentius is one of the greatest buildings of ancient Rome that we can admire today. It was built at the beginning of the IV century A.D. by Maxentius who has been emperor for few years before being defeated by Costantine. It was occupying quite a large area and what we can see today from Via dei Fori Imperiali is just a small aisle of the whole complex. Inside there was a huge statue of Costantine (modelled from a previous one of Maxentius) and few parts of it survived. Just the head of this statue is 2.6 meters of height! Going towards the Colosseum, just at the end at the right of the monument, you can see the immense vaults of nearly 25 meters. These vaults, because of their greatness and harmony, have inspired many Renaissance artists. All the rest of the construction was lost during an earthquake occurred in the IX century and the materials have been used for the decoration of the old St. Peter.

                       Basilica of Maxentius, internal part

Basilica of Maxentius, external part

Friday, 25 February 2011

Some curiosities about the Pantheon

The Pantheon was first built in the I century B.C. by Agrippa, (as it is written on the facade) son in law of Augustus. After two fires it was rebuilt by Hadrian in the II century A.D. The Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all the roman gods (Pan = all; Theon = gods) is the best preserved roman monument and this is because it became a church in VII century. Being a church the popes couldn't steal any marble or stone, differently from what happened to the Colosseum or to the Forums. The Pantheon is a sphere inserted inside a cylinder: in fact the height of the monument (from the pavement till the top of the dome) is 43.3 meters as well as the diameter of the base of the dome. Another curiosity: the dome of St.Peter is the biggest one in Rome (and in Italy) and it was designed by Michelangelo. But Michelangelo loved and admired the Pantheon so much that, when he realised the dome of St. Peter he wanted to make the diameter of the base few centimeters smaller than the one in the Pantheon: this was his personal tribute to the greatness of the latter. So, dimension wise, St. Peter has the biggest dome of Rome but the one with the largest diameter at the base is the Pantheon's one.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Fountain of the Four Rivers

The Fountain of the Four Rivers is in the center of Piazza Navona. It was realised according to a project of Bernini in 1651 and it is an imaginative baroque representation of the main rivers of the four continents known at those times: Rio de la Plata (South America), Nile (Africa), Gange (Asia) and the Danube (Europe). Australia will be discovered only many years later and this is why the statues are four and not five. Worth to notice is the statue of the Nile: he covers his face with a veil because at those times its source wasn't known yet. The obelisk on top of the fountain belongs to the roman period and it was found on the Appian Way. The dove at the top of the obelisk is the symbol of the family of the pope (Innocenzo X) who commissioned this fountain but also of the Holy Spirit which is spread through the four continents represented by the below statues. Recently during the last restoration, since the fountain is threatened by the dungs of the pigeons, they have put a mechanism (invisible from outside) which releases small electric shocks to prevent the birds from approaching the fountain.

The fountain of the Four Rivers
The statue of the Nile

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Fountain of the Old Boat

Why there is a fountain with the shape of an old boat in front of the Spanish steps? The fountain was built in 1627, a century before the Spanish steps, by Pietro Bernini (father of the more known Gian Lorenzo) with the help of his son. It was commissioned by the pope Urbano VIII who seems to have been impressed by a boat who was found exactly where today we see the fountain after a big flood of the Tiber. To remember this particular episode, the pope decided to commission this fountain which is now called by the romans Barcaccia, old ugly boat.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Where do all the coins thrown in Trevi's Fountain end up?

According to the tradition, who throws a coin from the back inside Trevi's Fountain, one day will come back to Rome. Thousands of people every day throw a coin hoping one day to see Rome again. But where all these coins end up? Every day early in the morning, few cops surround the fountain and draw all the coins in with some pumps. They gather all the coins in bags and then they hand them over to some employees of the Caritas, one the biggest charity organizations in Rome. The tourists who throw the coins in the fountain hoping one day to come back to Rome, don't know that they are helping the poor and the homeless people of the city. The coins are eventually counted, separated and invested in charity by the Caritas. The coins of foreign currencies are periodically sent with some trucks in Germany and England where there are special organizations which can change them in euro. But how much money Trevi's Fountain can "produce"? A huge amount: roughly 700,000 euros per year, on average a bit less than 2,000 euros per day. This fountain doesn't only delight who looks at it but also helps plenty of needful people.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The church of St. Clemente and the "comics"

San Clemente, very close by the Colosseum, is a church built on three levels: the upper and lower basilica and a roman house (II century A.D.). In the lower basilica it has been represented the legend of Sisinnio. He was the prefect of Rome and he married a woman called Teodora who has been convinced by Clemente, the saint to whom the church is dedicated, to remain virgin. Sisinnio, angry at his wife, decided one day to follow her with his soldiers and he found her in a catacomb attending a mess by Clemente. He then ordered to his soldiers to tie Clemente up and take him away but, according to the legend, he became istantaneously a marble column and because of his weight he couldn't be brought anywhere. The expressions readable from the fresco, which they make looking the story as a "comics", are from 1100 ca and they are the oldest known artistic utilization of the so called "vulgar" (a language between latin and italian). The most famous expression is "fili de la pute traite" meaning: son of a bitch pull him up! One of the first expressions in "vulgar" is an insult!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Protestant Cemetery

The Protestant Cemetery was built to bury all those people for whom the burial in a catholic cemetery was forbidden either because they were worshippers of other religions or not religious at all. Its construction dates back to 1738, the same date of its most ancient tomb. It is situated at the back of the Cestia Pyramid, of which it incorporates the back part. Many illustrious people have been buried here: poets, writers, intellectuals etc. The place is extremely suggestive also because of the antiquity of some of the monumental tombs. Among the famous people buried here: the english poets Shelley and Keats, Goethe's son, Gramsci, famous italian intellectual who died during the fascism period, Carlo Emilio Gadda, italian writer. The shrine of Gramsci reports a curious mistake: it is written in latin Cinera Antonii Gramscii but it should be Cineres Antonii Gramscii.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Pizzeria La Montecarlo

As you can see from the picture, the pizzeria La Montecarlo looks anonymous from outside but it is a real true-roman pizzeria. It is full of charm and ideal for the visitors of the centre of Rome for its location. Expect to see not only tourists but also plenty of romans who go to eat a thin and delicious pizza cooked in a wooden oven. Paper tablecloths, photos of celebrities who visited this pizzeria and a tipical rushing atmosphere are the main charateristics of this lovely place. The prices of the pizzas range from 5 to 9 euros. The address is Vicolo Savelli 11-13, close to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Enjoy!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Capitoline Wolf

The Capitoline Wolf is a bronze statue realised by the Etruscans in the V century B.C. During the XV century the twins, made by Pollaiolo, have been added. This wolf is the symbol of the city of Rome and of its birth because, according to the legend, the vestal virgin Rea Silvia was raped by Mars, the god of war, and gave birth to two twins. Few days later, the grandfather of the twins, Numitore was dismissed by his brother Amulio as king of Alba Longa, a city not far from where Rome would be eventually born. So Amulio, who wanted to avoid the two nephews of Numitore, once grown up, could have taken a revenge, he decided to put them in a basket and throw them in the Tiber. The basket stopped at the beginning of a small hill and it was found by a wolf who suckled them. Eventually the twins were found by a shepherd called Faustolo. Traditionally the twins, Romolo and Remo, are the founders of Rome and thanks to the wolf they survived. This is why the wolf is the symbol of Rome.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mondo Arancina

Who loves sicilian specialities and wants to taste exceptional recepes even in Rome, shouldn't miss a visit to Mondo Arancina (Arancina world). The name comes from the "arancine", balls of rice (like the ones in the photo) wrapped in a very delicate fried layer and available in 15 different flavours. They are exceptional! It worths a try also other sicilian specialities like "pane e panelle" (bread and few layers of chickpea flower), the sardins, the cassata and the delicious sicilian cannolo (a great sweet speciality). Mondo Arancina in the last few years had an unbelievable success and so they could open several shops in Rome and one even in Notting Hill, elegant residential area in London. In Rome the first shop opened in 2002 and it is in Via  Marcantonio Colonna 38, few meters from the metro A station Lepanto. A dip into a kind of culinary world totally different from the traditional roman one but surely not less good!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Campo dei Fiori

The square of Campo dei Fiori, close to Palazzo Farnese, is particularly famous because of what happened to the philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was believing to the existence of many worlds like the earth in the universe and to the theory of the heliocentrism (according to which the sun is in the centre of the universe); he was accused of being heretic and burned alive from the Inquisition in this square the 17th of February 1600. This execution is recalled by the statue at the centre of the square which was planned by the poet Pietro Cossa and realised by Ettore Ferrari in 1889. Today this place, which is generally not included in the usual turistic tours of Rome, represents one of the few places where Rome shows his most charateristic and intimate nature, starting very early in the morning with the open market of vegetables, fruits and fish, till late in the night with the entertainment offered by pubs, wine bars and restaurants in the area. It definitely worths a visit...and possibily two visits, one in the morning and one in the evening!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The perspective gallery of Borromini

One of the masterpieces of Borromini can be admired in Palazzo Spada, in Piazza Capo di Ferro, close to Campo de' Fiori. The palace which hosts the Council of State, was changed by Borromini who created in the space in front of the access to the courtyard an extraordinary perspective effect. The gallery is long just 9 meters but thanks to the row of columns built at a slight decreasing height and the pavement slowly going up, it seems to be illusionistically 37 meters long. The statue at the end of the gallery representing Mars seems to be as high as a man but it is just 60 centimeters.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The "big noses"

The "big noses" are the small fountains which distribute water for free, 24/7, throughout the whole city of Rome. They are called big noses for the shape of the small circular tube from which the water gushes out. There are approximately 2500 in the whole city, 280 of which just within the historic walls of the center. The water which comes out is drinkable and always fresh. The idea of building such small fointains came to the first mayor of the city, Luigi Pianciani, to supply with water the city after its reunification to the italian state in 1870. These small fountains are relatively new. In the centre there are many "historical" ones and from some of them drinking was forbidden to animals such as donkeys, horses or goats. To drink water from these fountains like a real roman does, just block the gush of water with a finger, and it will come out from a small hole in the circular tube.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The church of Holy Cross in Jerusalem

The church of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, founded in IV century A.D. by St. Helen, mother of the roman emperor Costantine, takes its name from the relics of the holy cross brought here by Helen herself. The church preserves as well many other relics (nobody knows of course whether they are true or not). They are: three pieces from the holy cross, one nail, the inscription placed on top of the cross (I.N.R.I., Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum - Jesus from Nazareth, king of the Jewish people), two nails from the crown of thorns, the finger of St. Thomas who touched the chest of Jesus, fragments of the column of the flagellation, one of the thirty coins used by Judas to betray Jesus, the sponge soaked with vinegar to quench Jesus's thirst and the rock where he was sitting when he was forgiving Mary Magdalene. There is as well a part of the cross of the thief crucified beside Jesus. All these relics have been preserved for 1610 years in a chapel below the actual church and today they are shown in another chapel built in 1930.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Saint Charles at the Four Fountains

San Carlo alle Quattro fontane is a tiny church not far from Via Nazionale. It is one of the masterpieces of the roman baroque. It was realised by Borromini from 1634 to 1644, but the facade has been completed several years later. The romans call this church with the name of San Carlino (small San Carlo) because of its small dimensions: it is so small that the entire church could be fit inside one of the fours pillars which sustain the dome of Saint Peter. The dome is wonderful and imaginative: there are geometric shape like hexagons and octagons alternated with crosses. Have a look at the small intersection in front of the church: this is the only point in Rome where you can see three obelisks at the same time. They are: the obelisk of Piazza del Quirinale, the one in Trinità dei Monti and the one at the back of the church of Saint Mary Major.

                      The dome of St. Charles at the Four Fountains

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Costantine was a roman emperor from 306 till 337 A.D. He was one of the most important characters of the roman empire and his reign represented, especially for the christians, a fundamental moment. In fact, in 313 he issued the Edict of Milan with which he granted freedom of worship to the so far persecuted christians helping this way the spread of Christianism throughout the whole empire. Undoubtedly he was the first one to understand the importance of the new christian religion to strenghten the political and cultural cohesion of the empire. The Edict of Milan and his conversion were probably due because of political reasons but they had a great importance for the subsequent european history. Thanks to Costantine, many churches were built in Rome. Among them: S. Peter in Vatican, S. John in Lateran and S. Paul outside the Walls. Moreover, in 326, he founded the city of Costantinople (today Istanbul) that till 1453  remained the capital of the Bizantine Empire.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Raphael and his grave

Raffaello Sanzio is one of the most important artists of the Renaissance period. Born in Urbino, in the Marche region, in 1483, he was painter and architect and he was among the most requested and famous ones of his time. He came to Rome in 1508, at the age of just 25, the same year when Michelangelo started painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As first commission he had to paint the private rooms of the pope Julius II in the Vatican. Since then his activity in Rome never stopped and he realised plenty of masterpieces. He died very young at the age of 37, allegedly, according to Vasari, because of "love excesses". He was buried in the Pantheon and his shrine reports a very nice sentence in latin: "Ille hic est Raphael timuit quo sospite vinci rerum magna parens et moriente mori" : here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The School of Athens by Raphael

The School of Athens is one of the frescos which decorates the Room of the Signatura, one of the four rooms depicted by Raphael in the Vatican. Pope Julius II commissioned this fresco which was realised between 1508 and 1511. This work represents the most brilliant ancient philosophers and mathematicians talking one another inside an imaginary classic building. The perspective of the building is magnificently painted and the vanishing point is in the center of the fresco between the heads of the two most prominent philosophers of the ancient Greece, Plato (the one on the left, maybe his face is a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci) and Aristotle (on the right). Plato points to the sky, gesture which recalls his doctrine according to which our world is just a copy of an ideal and superior world up in the sky; Aristotle, with his arm stretched in front of him, wants to remind us that the only possible reality is the one where we live. The superb building recalls the project of the new Saint Peter whose construction started just few years before. Numerous are the people whose faces have been identified although there cannot be certainty on all of them. The figure inside the red circle is Raphael who wanted to portray himself among the greatest minds of the antiquity.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

St. Peter from the keyhole

On the Aventine hill, at the end of via di Santa Sabina, there is the Villa del Priorato di Malta, home to the Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This is a catholic secular order and his birth can be traced back from the ancient Order of Hospitallers, born in 1050 in Palestine. It became a military order when the necessity of defending their own hospitals from various attacks suggested to their followers to start using the violence. Eventually it became an armed order and obtained territories, slowly constituting itself as a real state. It controlled the island of Malta for several centuries until Napoleon's time. Today it is based in this villa on the Aventine and looking at the keyhole of the main entrance you would notice in a perfect perspective the dome of St. Peter, at the end of a very elegant garden. A real and nice surprise which is always delightful.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The supplì

The supplì is a tipical roman (and more generally from Lazio) speciality. They are rice balls, with pieces of melted mozzarella inside, wrapped up with a delicate and golden fried layer. In Rome they are also known as "supplì on the phone": dividing the supplì in two parts, these two halves remain jointed together by a piece of melted mozzarella like two people can stay connected by the wires of a telephone. Basically nearly all the pizzerias in Rome make supplì and it is difficult to eat bad ones. But if you want to taste excellent ones visit Franchi, via Cola di Rienzo 200-204, Metro A, station Lepanto o Ottaviano San Pietro. This place started his activity as a salami and meat seller in 1925 and today, among great other specialities, they sell the supplì which definitely worths a stop.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Caravaggio in Rome

Caravaggio was one of the greatest painters of all times. Despite his short life (he was 39 when he died) revolutionized the way of painting during his time for the peculiar way of using the light (theatrical and spiritual) and for the realism of his works. Many painters imitated his style creating the artistic movement of "caravaggism". In Rome there are 23 paintings of Caravaggio, more than in any other city of the world. Six of these can be admired for free in the following four churches: Church of St. Louis of the French (3 paintings, the sublime triptic about the life of St. Matthew), St. Augustine (la Madonna dei Pellegrini) and Santa Maria del Popolo (Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the way to Damascus). The rest of the paintings is shared among variuos museums, of which the Borghese Gallery has six of them. Caravaggio lived and worked in Rome between 1595 and 1606. Then he had to leave the city because he was condemned to death after killing a man. He escaped in the south of Italy, arrived till Malta, he came back in Italy close to Naples where he misteriously died in 1610.

                           The Crucifixion of St.Peter,
                           church of Santa Maria del Popolo

Vocation of St. Matthew,
church of San Luigi dei Francesi

Monday, 12 July 2010

The cardinal Scipione Borghese

The Young Sick Bacchus, Caravaggio
Scipione Borghese was the nephew of Paulus V, pope between 1605 and 1621. He is famous mostly because he built his palace Villa Borghese, and for having accumulated many art works. He was cardinal, maecenas and an art lover and he didn't only commission art works but sometimes he got them using also...other methods. So it was for the Young Sick Bacchus from Caravaggio. This was belonging to Cavalier d'Arpino, a painter who was one of his first masters. Since Scipione wanted to have that painting, he ordered his house to be searched and found some illegal weapons. So he arrested him and condemned to death. To get freedom the price to pay was just that Caravaggio's painting. Also for another painting, the Deposition of Raphael, the cardinal convinced the pope (his uncle) to help him in stealing it! The painting was inside the church of St. Francis in Perugia. It was taken away from the window of the church and brought to Rome. The people from Perugia started claiming that artwork back but the cardinal asked the pope to tell them that that painting was necessary to pray better in his private chapel. He then sent another version of the subject while the one from Raphael remained in his family possession.
The Deposition, Raphael

Saturday, 3 July 2010

The "grattachecca"

The "grattachecca" is a must for anybody who visits Rome, especially during the summer months. The word is tipically roman and comes from "checca" which, in the old roman dialect, meant ice and "gratta" meaning to scratch. Basically the ingredients are crushed ice with aromatic syrups or fruit juice. It shouldn't be confused with the sicilian granita which is done first combining the water with the syrups and then leaving everything freezing. In Rome there are several stands selling the grattachecca but maybe the best one (also in terms of waiting time for the long queues!) is the one situated in the Prati area (metro A - Ottaviano S.Pietro station) in Via Trionfale, at the corner with Via Telesio. The grattachecca here is sold since 1933 and the prices seem to be reasonably fair compared to the ones of other places in the center. Don't miss the specialities with pieces of fresh fruits.

Monday, 28 June 2010

The Giolitti ice parlour

The Giolitti ice parlour is in via Uffici del Vicario, 40, few meters from the Montecitorio palace. It is probably the best ice parlour in Rome. Everything starts in 1890 when Giuseppe e Bernardina Giolitti opened in the center of Rome a small shop selling dairy products. The quality of their products was so high that just few years later, this shop was chosen as supplier of dairy products for the royal family. Year after year the business became bigger and bigger and they bought the place where it is today. They are specialised in the production of ice cream according to old recipes. The flavours are written only in italian but the all the attendants speak english.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The opera house of Rome

The opera house of Rome was inaugurated in 1880. Several operas were performed here for the first time: the Cavalleria Rusticana and Iris by Mascagni, the Tosca and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. Basically all the most important characters of the opera world sang here: from Enrico Caruso to Beniamino Gigli, from Maria Callas to Monserrat Caballè, from Carreras to Domingo and Pavarotti. At the center of the theatre a huge and precious chandelier hangs. It was made of Murano crystal and it seems to be the biggest one in the world.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The cenotaph of Michelangelo

Inside the Palace of Santi Apostoli, very close by Piazza Venezia, there is the cenotaph of Michelangelo. A cenotaph is a monument which recalls a person buried in another place. It seems that when Michelangelo died, his body was supposed to be buried in one of the cloisters of this palace. But since the great artist made very clear that he wanted to be buried in Florence, the city who loved the most and where he grew up, his nephew, Leonardo Buonarroti, took the corpse of his uncle and sent him to Florence as if he was a bag! The body arrived in Florence the 11th of March 1564. Michelangelo, after his last very adventurous trip, was finally buried in the basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, where he still is today.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sant'Angelo in the "fish market"

Inside the ghetto there is a church built inside the ruins of what is called the Portico d'Ottavia. This church is actually known with the name of "in Pescheria" (pescheria is a fish market) because of its proximity to the ancient fish market of that area, which today doesn't existing anymore. It seems that every saturday the Jesuits, who were the responsible people for that church, obliged the jewish people living in that area to go and listen to the sermon in the attempt to convert them to catholicism. The jewish people though, to avoid any temptation to be converted, were used to cover their ears with a tampon!