The Villa Farnesina in Trastevere, Rome

Trastevere is a lovely residential neighborhood of Rome just across the Tiber from the centrale storico (historic city center)… a taxi or bus ride away or a rather lengthy but enjoyable walk on a sunny spring or autumn day. 

It is a must see for an authentic side of the city with wonderful local restaurants and little shops and cafes and bars and a piazza which boasts one of the oldest and most beautiful (and Byzantine!) churches in the city. 

It is my favorite place in the Eternal city to people watch and to get out of the crowded tourist spots. The Almost Corner Bookshop is there and sells books in English, too, and Trastevere has an ancient portico and a sumptuous small villa museum built in the sixteenth century, the Villa Farnese, owned by a Sienese banker named Agostino Chigi, who commissioned the architect Baldassarre Peruzzi to build him a splendid little palazzo. 

The interior of the Villa Farnese is decorated with frescoes by Raphäel Sanzio, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giovanni Bazzi (known as il Sodoma), Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni, and Baldassarre Peruzzi himself… among their studio artisans and apprentices, as well. 

At the end of the sixteenth century this Villa was purchased by the famous Cardinal Alessandro Farnese from whom it takes its name “Farnesina” to distinguish it from the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber (which I will be writing about in detail soon). 

The Villa was also used by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and is used for other important Roman events and groups today.

It is a “boutique museum” so its intimate setting is a perfect place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of what it was like to live in a Renaissance villa, and to imagine the Farneses wandering the halls or Raphäel painting the walls… 


The garden is small and lovely to view, with architectural details and lush trees and other hidden gardens among the grounds you can peek at through gates. It’s one of Roma’s many green spaces and respites from the crowds.

From the official website:

OPENING HOURS

Villa Farnesina is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm, closed on Sunday and holiday.

Visitors who present their admission ticket to the Vatican Museums (within 7 days from the date of visit to the Vatican Museum) will be entitled to a reduced entrance fee to the Villa Farnesina
GUIDED TOURS

On Saturday at 10 am (english), at 12.30 (italian)

Audio guides are available to visitors (italian, english and french)

SPECIAL OPENINGS

The Villa will be open the second sunday of each month. Info: +39 06 68027268; farnesina@lincei.it

The website is villafarnesina.it

All photographs are by me, Rebecca Butler, shot on analog film in spring 2008, for alovelettertorome.com
I have some interesting stories I picked up about the Villa Farnesina I will post next time. This will be included in my FARNESE family chapter in my book. There is a fascinating Borgia and Medici connection to the Farnese and I’ve spent a lot of time in their amazing Roman and Neapolitan villas (now museums). Alessandro Farnese eventually became pope. 

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Rome in October


I caught a ridiculously photogenic couple in Rome taking a selfie together on the pincian hill at sunset, with cupolas and Saint Peter’s behind them. Oh, to be young and beautiful and in love in Roma, what many in this world wouldn’t give for it. If only, I think to myself…
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Persimmon trees bearing fruit with a view.

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A little ruin and a little Renaissance (and rococo).

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Dance of the tourists on the Villa Borghese’s Pincio overlooking the Piazza del Popolo.

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A kissing dove and pigeon. White doves always strike me as a symbol of Ancient Rome, much like olive trees.

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I like watching the beauty of Rome unfold before other people.

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Down the Pincio, on the way to the Spanish Steps, there are views everywhere of cupolas up close and far away.

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The endless flow of Roman water over stone and newly fallen leaves.

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There’s always a sense of play and humor in the Villa Borghese park, especially in the Pincian hill section.

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Walking along the Appian Way one is reminded why Rome will always be the eternal city, winter, spring, summer or autumn.

Italy and England 

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There’s old Winston Churchill watching Big Ben, in Westminster, London, in March 2014.

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An anglophile’s dream: the omnipresent iconic red telephone box.

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Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.

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The street art / grafitti is like The Sex Pistols and the Bbc all rolled into one.

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Tea at Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s house was quite amusing.

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Enjoyed searching for british china tea cups and white darjeeling on a half deserted faire.

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After wandering the many lovely garden parks of london wound up at  Buckingham’s Gate.tumblr_n2din7vCpZ1qznevxo4_1280

Making the pilgrimage to John Keats house at Hampstead Heath, London, after years of visiting the flat he died in, and laying flowers at his grave, in Rome.

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A room with a view…over the Thames, I was always excited to wake up to (and to raise my glass to) Big Ben.

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Saw the beautiful La Boheme set in 1940s Paris at the Royal Albert Hall.

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From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London

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From the beautiful garden of John Keats home, where he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and wrote some of his greatest poems.

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From the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. I do love a cloister.

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You have no idea how deep my anglophilia goes because I am always going on about Italy but these signs gave me a profound joy.

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This sign is so British it hurts.

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One of those moments in London an American or most foreigners savor.

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Always, a pilgrimage, a  beauty, a joy. John Keats forever. English Romanticism forever. B3-yzpZIAAIuVOk.jpg-large

Down the cloistered hall… like a dream of English classics, literary characters dancing in my head, London, a city looming in my brain of larger than life characters and eccentric, wonderful stories and frightful tales.

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The heartbreakingly beautiful dream of Italy view from my dreamy Sorrento hotel room terrazzo.

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Walking along the Appian Way on a quiet, car-free Sunday in Rome or along the Renaissance Via Guilia, I am forever excited and in awe over the small beauties and signs of the ancient world in this magical, mysterious city open-armed to the world.

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The architecture and cafes are familiar but I feel and live Rome anew each visit. There’s always something new to discover or a passion to stumble onto. Life is in the moment. It is heavy with the past, it is so alive it smacks of the future, but it is so wildly, lightly felt in the now, in the moment, Rome is like dreaming awake, feeling everything. Everything!

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Finding new off the beaten path cafes was a big favorite of mine in Italy this year. Always in search of the quiet moments and the hidden corners of Rome. This cafe was in Trastevere where you can sit and sip espresso and gaze at a Baroque Madonna painted onto a church exterior wall.

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I love the Eternal City because it has so many layers of history and love and unknown stories and marks of time and beauty in decay and new life bursting forth in a macabre, colored, brilliant celebration in Roman life today.

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Took a boat around my favorite island and swam in the Tyrrhenian sea on Capri, a place which invokes everything beautiful, lush and ancient about Southern Italy. There’s nothing quite like it.

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Returned to a lot of the same pleasures of the past, freshly squeezed oranges and lemons, under the Italian sun, by a Neapolitan woman who sings all day as she flitters around her Kiosk on the gorgeous Via Tragara.

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A return to Pompeii, the fascinating buried city with Vesuvius watchful in the distance.

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Meeting new friends abroad 🙂

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Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.

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Architectural details in half-obscured gardens of small villa art museums (full of amazing Renaissance, ancient and baroque Italian art)!

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Being the foreigner in a city you fall into like a comfortable affair.

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The moments you can’t anticipate but happen upon in the most beautiful of happenstances.

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My favorite spot on earth for the golden hour, on the Pincian Hill in Rome. This is before the view of the Popolo.

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A typical Roman street, wrapped into the mystery of fragments and pieces of history.

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The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.

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Cafe life in Italy, a class of wine or a coffee, a little treat, there is nothing like it. Another layered moment captured, to be savored and remembered palpably.

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On every wall there is a reminder of death and a reminder of love, the eternal kind, of love that lasts, and of life in the hand too.

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Rome, a city to return to, one that keeps its shutters open to the world, long enough for an unforgettable peek.

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Since that first moment I arrived there, now, and always, for Roma.

For traveling, for seeing the world, for meeting new people, and for being at home in the world.

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Here’s to 2014… and here is a cheers to 2015 and a new year of adventure and experience and chasing beauty!

throw out your guidebooks

Throw your guidebooks to the side (after you’ve seen the major sights) and get a little lost for an afternoon in Rome.

Side step vespas and taxis and pilgrims and other tourists behind maps, and get lost for a while. 

Do as the Romans do.

Bow in and out of the slants of sunlight and vespas, use sounds of water fountains and laughter as your navigation. 

An off the beaten path is not merely a passage but a rite and a full circle. 

When walking in Rome you are witness to the many passions of people in a cacophony of color and sound and motion. 

Roma begins to makes sense to you as you feel follow its rhythm; it is foreign and antique and familiar all at once. 

Rome is history in the bones of the city stirring the blood.

Roma changes you.

What could I suggest to you but to drink in the sublime here? 

See the city for the thousands of layers rather than one wild jumble.

Beauty is on display, oh yes, —but so is reflection of the human and the divine in every corner. 

The celebration of the individual is found even in the smallest of details in Rome. 

Art is a living thing. 

The story of mankind is in a treasured relic, and in a sip of espresso, and in a stolen kiss. 

Life is found in another language where the words are less important than the feelings they conjur in us all in the moment.

Rome is the tug of a heartbeat in a pulse before the veil falls over you.

Rome is a reminder of death that is very much a reminder to live! To live now!!

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tiny beautiful things

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

Cheryl Strayed, from “Tiny Beautiful Things”

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naples scenes in a few steps

napi4I love walking down the little market walk ways under Renaissance awnings. There’s nothing on earth quite like the streets of Naples. I’ve heard it said certain spots in Napoli hearken back to the ancient world, only a few other spots in the world like Calcutta can recall another time so long ago.

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In the connecting pedestrian streets of the picaresque Spaccanapoli, Naples boasts one charming cafe after cafe another. I love the coffee of Napoli; the rich, strong demitasses of espressos, the sweet nuttiness of a nocciola (espresso, sugar and ground roasted hazelnuts), or a frothy and properly hot cappuccino.

napi5The children of Naples play in the grotty, wonderful streets against the backdrop of statues, paintings and colored walls peeling for centuries. In between the tiny fiats and citroens and three to a vespa. They find their games anywhere and everywhere, cheerfully kicking their “footballs” under the feet of passersby, in front of store windows, around fountains and niches of ruins. There is such a sense of play underneath it all.

napi2From the moment I first walked these streets a few years ago I became enchanted with the market trinkets hanging from stalls, the smell of cheese and bread, tomatoes and fish wafting out of trattorias. I loved the cobblestones, the gorgeous archways, the warm colors. I am enchanted with the best people watching in Italy.

napi1Old world art, architecture and pop culture kitsch mix in any given corner of the historic center of Napoli. There before me is amazing street art graffiti, a sticker of a carefree Einstein placed prominently over a cafe and a quiet tea shop tucked up in the most unlikely of places. There is an empty neighborhood chair left leaning against a wall amid an array of inexplicable traffic signs – there’s even a post-modern Madonna under the auspices of a revolver.

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Near to the beautiful garden Cloisters of Santa Chiara, is a street art Eve with Eden’s snake, underneath an old Campania tree. The hand painted Spanish tile, fountains and arched windows of the cloisters are a near silent oasis in the heart of the city. Lemon and orange trees and flowers line the green, manicured gardens of the inner courtyard. It is a private, clean and calm spot to pop in for a little bit, for a lovely walk or a sit on a bench with a book or a friend.

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.

a walk in trastevere

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Trastevere is a charming neighborhood across the Tiber from the historic center of Rome. It’s a great spot to have lunch and spend an afternoon walking around, admiring the warm, faded colors of the buildings. They bake wonderful breads and cookies at La Renella and sell handmade chocolates at Valzoni to locals and tourists. My favorite book shop in Rome is The Almost Corner Bookshop, an all English language store filled with fiction and non-fiction dedicated to Rome and Italy, lots of great classic literature and the latest publications in English. I always pick up something perfect to set the tone of my visit to Rome – in March it was Geothe’s near perfect Italian Journey, which colored my walk on the Appian Way and walking through the Porta San Sebastiano. In October it was my favorite Odes of John Keats in a neat little volume, with a little Shelley and Byron, who all accompanied me on my visits to The Keats Shelley (Byron) House and for a prosecco at Caffe Greco and even to Keats tombstone in Testaccio.

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Trastevere is not usually overrun with tourists and has a little bit of an off the beaten path feel to it. One can walk to Tiber Island for curious sights or the Giancolo (Janiculum Hill) for an alternate view of Rome or even to the residential neighborhood of Monteverde which boasts the lovely Villa Sciarra parks and is truly off the beaten path.  I love the beautiful curves and colors of the architecture.

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Trastevere has the chicest farmacia I’ve ever seen. Each little shop and boutique is delightful and covered with crawling greenery. The curb appeal and doorstep gardens of Italy are an obsession of mine.

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The gorgeous overhanging vines and ivy of your typical Trastevere pedestrian street next to little cafes and restaurants.

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The layers of stone and paint and greenery are lush all year long. I adore this section so much.

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A charming respite to duck in when caught in the rain (as I was that afternoon)!

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The main piazza of Trastevere with the cannot be missed church. A great people watching locale.

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They even have the ambulatories in Rome to bounce one over cobblestoned paths. The green grows thick and spreads over garden walls.

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Miniature terraces with majestic potted plants which grow as long as Rapunzel’s hair!

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The place to see and be seen.

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The exceptionally old exterior. “The Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere (Italian: Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere) is a titular minor basilica, one of the oldest Churches of Rome, perhaps the first in which Mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Calixtus I and later completed by Pope Julius. -Wikipedia 

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A close up of the pretty detail, with Occidental features like Egyptian palm trees and the gold leafed saints mosaics.

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Man walking dog past a cafe – “Isn’t it a lovely scene?” 

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Coolest cafe sign ever. It’s always closed when I find myself in Trastevere unfortunately!

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Yes, it IS a terribly romantic place to get lost in. 

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The requisite laundry shot because I never, ever, ever tire of those. 

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And a light blue vespa! It is Italy after all! It’s a requirement for any tour.

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Rome – where the masterpieces are both outdoors and indoors for your viewing pleasure and contemplation. This is why I love the eternal city. It is made up of a thousand moments of aesthetic joy.

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These were all shot on my 35 mm film camera on a dull, grey, rainy afternoon and still the color and hues shine through the haze! 

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Just sequester me here to this flat with the garden-y window for a season or two… I will be happy. I’ll walk the streets in the morning, pop into churches and museums in the afternoon and sit Juliet style by this window at night. 

I miss the village green,
And all the simple people.
I miss the village green,
The church, the clock, the steeple.
I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school.

And now all the houses
Are rare antiquities.
American tourists flock to see the village green.
They snap their photographs and say “Gawd darn it,
Isn’t it a pretty scene?”

-The Kinks

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.

In relation to my choosing the very British provincial music quotes is a 10 year old video featuring the song and the very amazing Lord Whimsy.