La Vida Borghese

Rome, day 3, Sunday. Everyone (not us!) spent the morning in church so pizza for breakfast was not an option. Fortunately, we found the one open cafe in our hood, La Rosanna. They had a bunch of vintage keyboards/radios/TVs stacked in the window inside

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Being a pianist, these types of toys fascinate me. Waiting for my cappuccino and cornetto, I also noticed this old photo on the wall:

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The young lady making the whole “I can’t believe you’re taking my picture right now” face on the left? Her vibe was very familiar, reminded me of me. Quick double take, and she’s right behind the counter. Don’t want to be rude so I won’t speculate how many years later. She really looks quite similar!

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Once we’d achieved the base level of caffeine mandatory for walking these streets, we’re off to the piazza di Spagna, at the base of the Spanish steps. Like the Trevi Fountain, this site is mobbed with tourists practically 24/7, like so:

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It actually reminded me quite a bit of Union Square. We busted past most of them, climbed to the church at the top, and took in the incredible view of the city. This pattern is pretty common – the church up high and elevated, the necessity of climbing or looking up before you arrive at some religious space or artifact. Inside churches, your eye is drawn up, and in this case it was a literal climb up to the church that makes the experience of arriving at mass literally elevated. For me, the view was religious.

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This photo doesn’t do it justice! Since we (well, me…) are making comparisons to New York City, our next stop was what some Romans refer to as their Central Park: Villa Borghese. To get there from the Spanish steps, you have to walk down Villa del Corso, which leaves you at the piazza del Popolo. Guess what’s in the center of the piazza? An obelisk.

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We walked up basically the side of a mountain (yeah there were marble steps but it was steeeeep!)  to the Villa Borghese – again, this is Rome’s Central Park. Here’s the same obelisk in the piazza from the top of the park:

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We ended up walking around inside a museum, the Galleria Borghese, two levels of insane sculptures and paintings designed to completely overwhelm your eye and make you feel like you’ve never experienced craftsmanship ever, ever. Two examples of this in particular were sculptures by our main man Bernini: the Rape of Proserpina and Apollo and Daphne. You can’t take photos inside the Galleria, which I actually admire about the place. Despite Proserpina’s compromised position in this sculpture, the anatomy and detail is absolutely breathtaking. When marble looks like flesh, soft and squishy and veiny, hairs all delicate and robes blowing in the breeze, you’re really looking at the work of genius. Just another fingerprint left by Bernini on the city of Rome’s art collection. My favorite piece in the Galleria, however, was this painting by Raffaello, who came just before Bernini in the art history chain:

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The unicorn represents virginity, purity, and the young woman not knowing much about the world….but, that stare! Not unlike the coffee shop owner’s picture this morning (and my own glare in many a photo), she seems to be saying – “I’m not looking at you, I’m looking past you” (and yes, I’m quoting Jay-Z there as well). I dig it/her.

We had a spectacular dinner at a restaurant called Flavio al Velavevodetto. Yapped for a few hours like a couple of old Italian ladies.

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Did I mention Rome is glorious?

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