It’s day two in Rome and we’re still jet lagged but we got up early and headed 2 miles across town so as to make our reserved entry time for the Borghese Gallery. It’s a zoo if you come later in the day, so we had chosen first thing in the morning. We got our tickets at 8:30am and were the first two in the door when it opened at 9am.
It was worth it! We had some of the defining works of the Baroque era, from one of the greatest private art collections in the world, now public, all to ourselves, and came away with a new appreciation for the style that so often is just over the top with too much. That’s too much emotion, too much sentiment, too much agony, too much color, gold, movement and action and just too much stuff. In the masterpieces we saw today it was just the right amount. The artists wanted us to feel things, and we did. Some were so powerful it was hard to look at them.
In the late 16th Century, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, began collecting paintings and sculpture from the greatest artists he could find, championing many young artists, including Gian Lorenzo Bernini who’s magnificent David, a self portrait at age 25, rocked the world and began the Baroque era.
Where Michaelangelo’s David is a study in contemplation, he’s thinking of slinging that stone at Goliath, Bernini’s is in the full out, body twisted in motion, act of hurling the stone. And he’s going to take that Giant down! You can feel the whole of the action and David’s determination, all in stone, more flesh than most of us.
The next room housed the figures of Apollo and Daphne at the moment Apollo catches her in his crazed lust, only to watch her transform into a tree, Zeus’s way of saving her.
It is one piece of marble that is flesh and bone, root, branch and leaf. Recent restorers said each leaf is carved so finely that they rang like crystal when tapped.
And in a third room was Bernini’s Rape of Proserpine. Hades has just captured her and is about to drag her to the Underworld accompanied by the three headed dog Cerberus, and she is terrified, fighting wildly in his arms. This one was hard to look at, the power of the action and the terror of the victim being so great.
After two hours, all that you’re allowed in this gem of a museum, and countless more masterpieces, we headed out into the huge forested park that surrounds it for lunch. We nearly froze to death in the chill wind, however, and made our way quickly into the sunny warmth at an overlook of the city above the Piazza del Popolo.
When we made it to the Trevi Fountain, we got our dose of thousands! People were jammed everywhere in front of a fountain so huge it uses a palace as a background. Designed by Bernini, but completed by Nicola Salvi, it was a highlight of a day of Baroque and Bernini.
We left the fountain and just as we rounded a corner in front of tbe Italian Parliament building, I heard someone call out, “Scott?” and coming g straight toward me was Suki, a lovely woman we had shared miles with on our Camino de Santiago walk in Spain last spring. Suki is a scientist from Bombay India who had lived for years in the U.S. but had returned to India more recently. What are the chances? Although, we had already shared several unplanned meetings in Spain, this was wild. So goes trail magic. It seems to happen regularly. So nice to see her again and maybe next time it will be in California or Bombay.
It was back to our apartment and a quick nap and then an exquisite Italian meal and we were down for the count. Rome is a lot!