A particularly lovely day. Could it be because I got to sleep before midnight for the first time in a week? Nah.
Off at 9 with a hand-drawn map to a coffee bar (the word Cafeteria affixed to a bar I’ve decided is a good indicator). They made me an excellent cappuccino, gave no hipster ‘tude, and I walked away with gorgeous fresh pastry.
Looked for the Post Office but it was not where Google said it would be. Ah well. Just before I turned into the gates of the Barberini museum complex, I saw what looked like a woodland on the rooftop of the building across the street, including a row of cedar trees. Bought my ticket and then inquired about the once a month, Saturday morning tour of the Principessa’s apartments.
She seemed concerned that it was in Italian, I shrugged, concerned only with viewing the art and said, “I’m an artist. I can just use my eyes.” She reprinted my ticket for the sum for a tour and general admission and told me this ticket was good for ten days admission. A lagniappe of generosity for a good-hearted Italian lady. Picked up the audio guide in return for $ and my drivers license. A driver’s license has worked for ransom in every situation where I’ve been asked to leave my passport, FYI.
Bounded back outside and up the marble stairs to la Fornarina’s room. I was in front of the painting by 9am.
Then time stopped. I made one start on a sketch that I quickly abandoned. The next went better. I kept trying to get the curve of her cheek and the length of her nose and the shape of her lips exactly right. I worked as much with the eraser as the pencil,
but lord, I was happy. She’s my Love, Actually, in person. In my imagination, she redeemed Raphael, that womanizing, ambitious, good-looking, wildly successful climber from Urbino, with his polished manners and an eye to his own advancement. A man jealous of his position at court and competitive and manipulative enough to try to get Michelangelo fired. This is not the guy you fall for, hoping for happy ever after.
She isn’t a classic, cool beauty, or a sweet, vapid virgin, or a petulant, spoiled heiress. Raphael doesn’t just paint her likeness, he paints what she is to him, and such is his skill that he makes us, the viewers, see it too. She is mischief and charm and lush, tender flesh and dark, limpid eyes. She is his heart walking around outside his body.
I decided I should check the time so I’d know how much longer before I should put my pencil away for the 11 tour, and it was 10:57. Two hours gone, just like that.
I galloped back down to the entry. It was just me, and an older Italian couple. There was much unlocking of doors and walking down corridors. The family rooms weren’t large, nor the ceilings high, but every inch was painted in a loose way, reminiscent of painted frescos from excavated villas.This room had a repeating motif of painted mirrors, which seemed odd. Each room that led into the next had it’s own decorative scheme. The blue room was a favoriteWhat I’ll remember best was the room paneled in paintings of American Indians in canoes on the river and camping alongside the banks, naked except for feather adornments of a plume-like nature. These marvelous images were based on the drawings of daily life in North Carolina more than four hundred years ago by colonist and artist John White, “In 1585 White had been commissioned to “draw to life” the inhabitants of the New World and their surroundings…They represent the sole-surviving visual record of the native inhabitants of America encountered by England’s first settlers.” As faded and damaged as these murals are, they are a unique record, and the only one of its kind in Rome.
Three more glimpses for you: a sofa mirror combo that’s weirdly fabulous, a room lined with paintings of Colonna’s military exploits. In case you forgot the pedigree and bloodlines of your host, and this wee carriage; Hitch up the goat honey, junior’s going for a ride.
I’d had no breakfast, and now it was 1:50 and I was starving. I had listened to exactly one item on the audio guide. Next visit I am going to save la Fornarina for last. I started walking towards La Matriciana, but I had the presence of mind to check the hours and it was closed for lunch on Saturday’s. Dang.
Went to Valentino’s and indulged a hankering for vegetables with a Caprese salad, grilled finocchio with Parmesan, and bresaola. More than I could finish, so they kindly wrapped up the bresaola to go for me. Stopped to buy apples, dried fruit, nuts and a box of After Eight mints. The staff of hotel life, baby.
Listening to The Lost Continent – no one is better company than Terry Pratchett.
Weather forecasts thunderstorms on Sunday, when I wanted to go to the big flea market. I may stay with Barberini. But, whups, the first Sunday was free entrance to museums day. That plus rain = massive crowds.
Sunday, April 2. Rained Out
I nipped out in the rain for a cappuccino and cornetto and spent the rest of the day lounging around, catching up on this blog, and reading. Time well spent.
Tomorrow, RomeWalks audio tour.