Day 58 – Rome

Today I decide to visit the Villa Medici, which served as the home to Cardinal Fernando de’ Medici. I have a ticket for Noon so I take the Metro to save time. Unfortunately, I head down the wrong path in the Metro and end up way far away from the Villa into the Borghese Gardens. The cars swirl by as I try to find a shortcut down to the Villa Medici, but ahead I see what looks to be a tunnel and decide to turn back and descend the long tunnel in the Metro.

I finally arrive at the Villa with its decorative horse ties along the front of the building. I’m about 35 minutes late at 12:35pm, but the gatekeepers take pity on me and, saying they are making a BIG exception, let me in on the 3pm tour.

Given the heat and the height of the Pincio Hill, I decide to hang out at the Villa. It belongs to the French Academy in Rome. Napoleon relocated the French Academy in Rome to the villa in 1803. The French Academy offers residencies to several artists each year. (You must speak French well.) I’m happy to find the exhibition of this year’s residents, one of whom, Hélène Bertin, created this large wall of fiber from the fields, with natural dyed fabric ties woven in.

I am interested in the combination of plants and their placement. The work is accompanied by audio of individuals talking about their childhoods in the fields and woods.

Finally the tour starts, and we are taken to the Villa Medici gardens.

The guide describes the facade covered with stone carvings from ancient Roman monuments and sarcophagi.

The Medici coat of arms with its balls is perched above the facade.

The stones come from various ancient ruins and sarcophagi, and the guide tells us that plaster was added to make it look like a continuous frieze from the same era and materials. This segment is a slab from the altar to Pax Augusta, an altar created in 13 BC in honor of the peace brought by Augustus in Spain and Gaul.

The garden is carved into 16 squares. On the outskirts are several buildings with interesting decor. The Ferdinando de’ Medici Pavilion is a small building built in the 16th century. It consists of two rooms, this first called “The Bird Room.” The ceiling painting was only found in 1985 under other layers. Restoration has revived the original to show a portrayal of flora and fauna of the times.

The second room, the Room of Dawn, is decorated with an allegorical ceiling with grotesques and views of Villa Medici and its surroundings.

Another building is devoted to the plaster casts of works copied by scholarship holders.

The Cardinal Medici’s bedroom. When the Medici family did not produce a male heir, the female descendant, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, wrote a will stipulating that all the artworks of the family must belong to Florence. She saved the collection from being taken by the Habsburgs. Now most of it is shown in the Uffizi Galleries.

The circular staircase from below. Oddly this narrow staircase was the only way to the floors above. There was no grand staircase. When I question, the guide says that the Cardinal was probably carried. On the way down, I see a horse hoof print in the stone.

Another exhibit at the Villa is works of Louise Bourgeois. She created Sainte Sebastienne in 1997, a tapestry woven by the Manufacture des Gobelins, based on a print she made in 1992. She declared it a self-portrait.

The views of Rome from the Villa. I am happy that I spent the day at Villa Medici. I’ve tried to stay away from tourist spots, and oddly, the most interesting are the least trafficked.

I find a new soft drink, Cedrata, made from what appears to be citrus rind. Since 1793, it has had some tenure. If only the bottles were bigger.

Heading back home, I pass once again the vendors selling their clothing and other objects. Although they may feel differently, I’m glad for the wind which brings some relief from the heat.

Tomorrow I will tour the Quirinale, the official residence of the Presidente della Repubblica.

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