Valentine’s Day in Rome in the Villa Borghese and at the Spanish Steps!

 

One of my favorite and most romantic things to do in Rome is to stroll through the Villa Borghese parks and gardens to one of the most elegant and sensual villa art museums on earth: The Galleria Borghese.

The Renaissance and Baroque gardens of umbrella pines, cypresses, palm trees, flowers, hedges, and exquisite lemon, orange, and magnolia trees surround the gorgeous villa, bringing one back into the past glories of Roman country estates, free and open to the public for generations.

The parks were private gardens for the aristocrats of Roman society until they were opened for the 19th century Grand Tourists. In 1820 English Romantic poet John Keats himself strolled through these same hallowed grounds before he succumbed to tuberculosis in his rooms at the Piazza di Spagna. Goethe mused through the art collection of the Borghese’s a generation before that, recording his impressions of the palazzo and of the art in his grand book, Italian Journey.

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Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn is a painting by Raphael.

The beautiful Galleria Borghese is home to part of the Borghese art collection curated by the Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V (reign 1605-1621).

The Villa was commissioned to be designed and built by the architect Flaminio Ponzi, partly based on sketches by Scipione, as a “villa suburbana” on the country edge of Rome. Scipione was one of the first patrons of Bernini and collected many pieces by Caravaggio, including The Sick Bacchus, Boy With a Basket of Fruit, and the poignant Saint Jerome Writing.

The Borghese collection also includes the breathtaking Bernini sculptures of David, Rape of Proserpine, and Apollo and Daphne, – and the Tiziano masterpiece, Sacred and Profane Love.

Other maestros are Raffaello “Lady With A Unicorn” (purported to be the Lady Giulia Farnese, commissioned by Pope Alexander aka Rodrigo Borgia), alongside countless pieces by Rubens, Barocci, Antonio Canova, Coreggio, Dosso Dossi, Domenichino, Veronese, Lorenzo Lotto, and Parmigianino.

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Sacred and Profane Love by Titian. c. 1514

 

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I love the gorgeous architectural details in stone and in fountains and statues lining the entrance of the Galleria Borghese.lala34

Remnants of the past play out as well in “ancienne” statue fragments and the fountains outside the museum’s grand entrance.

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The walk to the Galleria Borghese always has that lazy Sunday feeling, surrounded by Roman families and visitors enjoying the greenery and fresh air. Young and old lovers can be spied kissing under a tree or lying on a picnic blanket enjoying the sunshine and the sounds of songbirds above them.

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There are homages to temples, gods and goddesses, Greek Tragedies and Comedies, and to Rome’s storied past in the “Romantic era ruins” among the pleasure walks and dreamy Umbrella pines. As you approach the museum you feel you are in for something really special… and are not disappointed in the great architectural reveal.

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More architectural details by Flaminio Ponzi and Scipione Borghese create a feast for the eyes, before entering the villa with a ticket… for the Roman antiquities and Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, … in room after sumptuously decorated room.

Tickets are recommended bought IN ADVANCE, online or at the ticket office down the stairs. To enter the museum, proceed up the stone stairs to the stunning Classical Antiquity portico where they will take your ticket.

You don’t want to miss this experience!

After an afternoon stroll and a few hours in the museum, head to the Pincio at the Golden Hour (an hour before dusk) and watch the sun set over the cupolas and ruins and houses behind the glittering Piazza del Popolo.

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The golden and orange light eventually turns a deep violet, and there is an enchanting glow about Rome at its most magnificent! It is a heady, Romantic vision, and every one seems to be under a collective spell of beauty and the feeling of immortality in Éros in the Eternal City.

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This is one of the best, most beautiful, and unforgettable days you could spend in Rome. It could be the most romantic Valentine’s Day of your lives. Rome seen and felt like this is truly writ on the heart for an eternity.

You can eat at the romantic nearby Casina Valadier for sweeping sunset views and aperitivos or an early dinner – they have a Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu for lovebirds.

Looking for something quicker? Walk a short distance to the late Renaissance church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, (French: La Trinité-des-Monts).

Pop into the sanctity and quiet beauty of the French Roman Catholic church and you may luck out with a choir of nuns singing en français classical songs of devotion while you peer at lush murals, sculptures, paintings, and the altar.

Light a candle together and head down the famed Spanish Steps just outside and whisper a snippet of a Keats ode into your beloved’s ear outside of the Keats Shelley (Byron) House Museum (worth a visit if you’re there earlier when it is open!).

Stop for a late tea at Babington’s and try their Rome in Love Tea inspired by the Paolina Borghese sculpture and Female Beauty at the Borghese, or enjoy some cocktails or champagne and light fare – offered in the luxurious comfort of their 125 year old tea room. It’s a cute British afternoon tea room with Italian flare.

Looking for something sexier? Cross the avenue and stop in at the nearby Romantics’ saucy hangout, the Antico Caffè Greco, decorated in 18th century red satin and marble decor, for drinks and desserts.

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The Santissima Trinità dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps from the Via Condotti.

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Gregory Peck’s apartment in Roman Holiday where he brings Audrey Hepburn in the film.

 

If you’re still in the mood for a short early evening walk hand in hand past the glamorous shops and passersby, head to the most romantic street in Rome, the charmingly low-lit, ivy covered boutiques and artisan art shops, boutique hotels, and restaurants, Via Margutta (made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday!) I love the vegetarian restaurant created by film director Federico Fellini, Il Margutta! They have many vegetable creations, handmade pasta and smoked cheeses, and a vegan and gluten free menu, with exceptional organic wines, mocktails, and delicious desserts, including house made gelato.

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Casino Valadier’s LOVE ELIXIR
€25 per person.

La Grande Cucina S.p.A.
Piazza Bucarest, Villa Borghese
00187 Roma
P. I.V.A. 05901701002

Tel (+39) 06 69922090
Fax (+39) 06 6791280
info@casinavaladier.it

Il Margutta’s San Valentino 2018

 

GALLERIA BORGHESE (english site)

Via del Collegio
Romano, 27
00186 Roma, Italia
tel. 39 06 67231
www.beniculturali.it

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map by Guilbert Gates

 

Antico Caffè Greco

Via dei Condotti, 86, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

 

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Babington’s Tea Room 

Piazza di Spagna, 23, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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And Happy Valentine’s Day from A Love Letter To Rome… to everyone lucky enough to be in the sexiest and most romantic (and Romantic) city in the world, Roma, Italia! May Cupid’s arrows always find you when you least expect (but need) amore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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a valentine “aphrodite / venus” book

I’ve designed, printed, and hand wrapped an amazing Romantic Valentine’s Bundle deal that lasts a lifetime for your beloved. 

A sleek soft bedside or coffee table book, each book contains 38 pages printed edge-to-edge on 100% recycled photo-paper, perfectly bound in a soft matte cover.

I’ve filled with the A LOVE LETTER TO ROME aesthetic of classical and Renaissance art details, paintings of Aphrodite and Venus, photographs of art, Roman ruins, the Pantheon, sculptures, columns, the Tyrrhenian Sea on Capri where the Roman Emperors lived and holidayed, images of cupolas among the ancients, images of beauty, sensuality, and Eros. It’s an elegant gift for a lover or Classical Antiquity or Italy or ART enthusiast. It’s gorgeous and romantic! BUY HERE only $50. See the site for deals as low as $5

  • 38 pages of full-bleed photos.
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A Love Letter To Rome … Italy photo & book shop is online now! I ship worldwide! Beautiful images of Italia in handmade packaging & surprise gifts.

My labor of love has come to fruition. Off the beaten path and iconic fine art film and hi res digital images of Italy are available at my online shop.

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Ten dollars off (12) mini Prints ($10) or (9) Postcards ($20)! Special includes hand made packaging with special surprise gifts and souvenirs of Italy inside until Jan 31!

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Thanks, Rebecca ❤️🏛

Rome laid out before you from far far above the rooftops

Take an elevator ride on the “wedding cake” and see the Roman gods’ view of the Eternal City. 

The ruins are laid out before you betwixt cupolas and Renaissance rooftops of villas and apartments like dollhouses.

Hints of the past stir some ancient feeling in you you never knew you possessed until you saw Rome from a mount.

The sign of greatness and the sign of a fall and all around you the beautiful noise of life that will not stop long enough to extinguish itself into the remains of dust it lives among.Rome lives among the shadows and the bones and the blood and the ghosts and the stone and the picked away marble because it is the heart and the remnants of the past are the nervous system which still courses with life from that heart center of a slowly dying immortal, entombed in the blessing and the curse of a memory which feels like a dream.

Church bells ring and ring through the city when the golden hour colors everything and there’s time for one last sun-glow walk and one last smile exchanged like kisses on the mouth, not the cheeks.

I will remember you even if the imprint of my self is swallowed up in the city of too many stories and too many lights and too many songs to find a memento mori for me in some nook or cranny when I’m gone.

And so I have Rome written on my soul should I be able to take it with me.

Bury me not in the earth of the place I love but burn my ashes to the sky so I may float like some augur of another time, a shadow to pass over a new face with her own love flashing on her face as she falls in love with the Roman sky at sunset, as she dreams to be remembered somewhere somehow in the eternal city, to leave her mark somewhere and to be known and felt by some future stranger intoxicated by the same love for the same city and the same ringing of bells and the orange becoming purple and the golden lamps flickering on and the smiles becoming kisses, not on the cheeks, but on the mouth. 

you’re my piazza navona

When I think of the Piazza Navona in Rome I think of you now.

Last time I was there I was walking around, and every coffee I had, or wine I sipped, or smile I gave to a passing man, or Bernini fountains I stopped and stood at for the hundredth time pondering with fresh eyes, or place I wandered into… gazing at everything in Saint Agnese, or in the museums near by; I thought about you there in the piazza before me, and after me, off in your own reverie, not thinking of me except when I asked for an image of you once, standing before a marble goddess. You sent it to your part-time Aphrodite on Hérmes’ winged feet, and I treasured it, and buried it, like Crassus’ riches.

You have captured my imagination against my will, and that’s kind of lovely.

This strange, exciting, impossible idea of you sprung from the wells of imagination.

My eyes shine at you; the color of dreams and the sea.

Your eyes burn at me; the color of will and life and earth.

And time itself is a secret nod between us.

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. 

the renaissance Boboli Gardens of Florence Italy  

The Palazzo Pitti is a large villa museum built in 1458 for a Florentine banker near the river Arno, in the heart of Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and is sumptuously laid out with antique furnishings and priceless works of Italian paintings and sculptures. It contains nearly 500 Renaissance  and baroque frescoes and masterpieces by Artemisia Gentileschi, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Fillipo Lippi, Perugino, Correggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Bartolomeo, il Rosso, Canova, Verrochio, and Pietro da Cortona, among many many others. I am writing a piece about these incredible collections, accompanied by photographs, and the background of some of the most important and beautiful works to see if you can visit. It’s highly recommended for serious art or palazzo fans.Surveying the grand grounds and estate from a distance as visitors have admired the beauty and harmony of the Boboli Gardens for centuries. The house and land were bought by the de’Medici’s in 1549 and they filled it with their incomparable art collection, second only to their nearby famed Uffizi Gallery and residence. Napoléon even used this as his main living headquarters in Italy in the late 18th century. The exterior courtyard where horses and carriages would draw up. Paris and Helen of Troy.Themes of alchemy and the occult mingled with myths of classical antiquity in the natural caverns decorated to enhance an atmosphere of enchantment.Far away seashells and coral encrusted on water formed stalactites. Sea nymphs and faeries and aristocratic crests.The prisoners in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.The fascinatingly carved and decorators part natural, part artificial cavern the Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens is a fascinating place, is encrusted with seashells and stalactites, housing mythical, fantastic, and allegorical elements, as well as symbols referring to esoteric subjects. The Grotta di Buontalenti (also known as Grotta Grande or the Big Grotto) was built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, and commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici.

Winding labyrinthine hedge walkways to get lost in or sneak into for a stolen kiss.A brilliant blue heron rests in an artificial lake. Naked trees promise a boast of riches at the first bloom.Wild iris and flowers of delicate violet and pale lavender dotted among tall wild grasses of rolling meadows.Oranges a reminder of the beautiful year round climate of most of Italy.I was there on an overcast early spring day before the beauty of the garden really bloomed but shall return their in autumn to take photographs of the richer, fuller gardens. The little wildflower meadows and orange trees and statutes were lovely against the grey sky and ornate fountains (turned off in the cold) but I long to see this place teeming with color and fullness after the long hot summer, as autumn turns the leaves Amber and gold. I get that chance this early October.
Watch this highly interesting and gorgeous historical and visual tour of the Boboli Gardens by Brit and garden expert, Monty Don. Boboli Garden — Tour of Italy – Florence

snapshots of architecture, art, and antiquities of beautiful Berlin

Berlin, Germany is a living, well kept up ode to Grecian architecture, Roman and other ancient world antiquities, classical treasures in sumptuous museums, 19th century design and art, classical music, coffeehouses, bookshops, culture, beauty, ideals, dark history, fresh hopes, and a detached but genial air keeping time with efficiency. The architecture and the antiquities in the museums are seductive and worth the visit! What a charming and fascinating city!!!