Galleria Borghese


Breakfast from a nearby bakery eaten on our terrace got our 1st full day in Rome off to a delicious start, then it was in the taxi for a quick trip to the Galleria Borghese.  I choose Sunday to visit the Borghese because many of the other sites are closed, and I reserved our tickets well in advance.  (Note, the ticket reservation process was somewhat complicated, to me at least, but well worth it & probably essential.)  After numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach the reservations line via phone, I reserved the tickets through the Borghese website, which meant I had to forgo the Roma Pass discount (at least I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish that online).  Even with the tickets pre-ordered you should  arrive  30 minutes early to pick up your tickets, and at that time you can also purchase a tour with an English (or other language) guide.  We waited in the beautiful (and enormous) garden area for the tour to start.  We purchased the guided tour, which was helpful to give us a good understanding of what we were seeing, and it turned out that the other two who had purchased a place in our tour hadn’t realized they had to separately purchase tickets to the museum itself, so they were not able to go, leaving us with a private family tour for a relatively inexpensive price.

I don’t have any photos to share, but there are plenty you can find online.  I have never been a fan of Baroque but I have to tell you, a few hours in the Borghese and I changed my mind.  At least, I fell in love with Bernini’s sculptures and Caravaggio’s paintings.  And the story of Bernini’s patron, the owner of the Borghese at that time, was intriguing to say the least.  The Borghese owner and Bernini patron, Scipione, was passionate about art and felt free to make up his own rules as to which, if any, laws applied to him as he went along.  According to our guide, if there was a piece of art he desired, he took it, by whatever means necessary, legal or not.   At least, that’s the story we were told.  His ability to do as he pleased came in part from his money and in part from his connection to his uncle, Pope Paul V.  It must have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall of his home and watch first hand as he went about his business, gathering and celebrating art, unveiling Bernini’s masterpieces, acting like the king of the world.  I would hesitate to be his friend — I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything to upset or make an enemy of him; on the other hand, however, to befriend him and  have access to his villa, grounds, art, and relationships with artists like  Bernini and Caravaggio, both of whom had to be intense, passionate, fascinating people, may have made it work the risk.

Bernini’s sculptures, of Apollo & Daphne, David, and Pluto & Proserpina, are nothing short of amazing.  He somehow made the static block of marble seem to come alive and actually tell the story of Apollo & Daphne.  As you walk around the statute each movement speaks of another part of Apollo’s heartbreaking story of longing, but not attaining, Daphne, and you see Apollo reaching for Daphne as she begins to turn into a laurel tree, the leaves growing and covering her body as viewed from one side.  Bernini’s David is just as amazing.  There stands David,  preparing to launch his stone from his sling and kill Goliath — you can feel his movement, as Bernini draws you into the scene.  Once you drag yourself away from those two statutes you’re treated to the story of Pluto and Proserpina — created so realistically that  you can virtually feel Pluto’s fingers digging into Proserpina’s flesh, and her anguish as she tries to escape his grip.  I do not know how anyone can make a piece of marble with such vitality and sense of life, and to think he sculpted most if not all of those  pieces when he was still in his 20s!

The Caravaggio paintings were amazing as well, and you can get a good look at them and the other artwork because the museum strictly limits the number of people touring at any one time.  It’s a wonderful way to spend 1/2 a day especially a Sunday.  A friend who went a few years ago said that his afternoon at the Galleria Borghese was his favorite time in Rome.  My love of history meant it wasn’t my favorite, but it definitely was a not-to-be-missed event.

After our tour of the museum we ventured through the park to have lunch, and were tempted by the bike-drawn carriages but passed them up to spend an hour at another nearby museum at the other end of the park, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.  We were a little tired of walking by the time we arrived at the restaurant, but it wasn’t really that far.  After a week with the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Borghese the modern art museum was not as impressive as it might otherwise have been, but my 17-year-old son completely enjoyed it and spent at least an hour wandering the first floor while the rest of us choose a comfy bench in front of a large painting and decided resting our feet while focusing on one masterpiece was the best way to go!

Next it was back to our apartment for an Orientation Chat with a ContextRome representative.  We’d used ContextParis for the museum tours there, and found them to be very professional and informative, and the orientation was no exception.  Our guide was knowledgable, helpful and friendly, and gave us a good overview of the neighborhood as well as the broader region.  Nonetheless, you can probably learn most of it on your own if you do your research beforehand, and save your money to spend on the museum/site tours instead.  (Note that my husband might differ, as he enjoyed her walking with us to point out the best coffee shop, and a shop where he could purchase glasses, and other speciality stores he might not have found through the guidebooks.)

That evening we ate at La Sagrestia, on Via del Seminario 89, 06 6797581.  Our pizza was excellent (especially the white/4 cheese one) as were the artichokes.  This is a small restaurant near the Pantheon.  It’s cozy, not too touristy, fairly inexpensive, and recommended for kids or couples. Here we are, giving it the official “thumb’s up.”

After dinner, a walk through the streets and then back to the apartment. Tomorrow, a day I’ve been long awaiting — my first visit to the Forum, and a close encounter with Caesar!

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Comments

  1. man, i want to go back and stay there!

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