To visit Rome off the beaten tracks, we warmly recommend choosing the right season – and following the insider tips of Dorotheum Rome’s director.
By Maria Cristina Paoluzzi
Underground Rome is nothing less than extraordinary. For first-timers to the subterranean experience, I would recommend as a starting-point the Roman Catholic parish of San Lorenzo in Lucina, where I grew up. Examples of “insule Romane” – traditional apartment buildings of ancient Rome – have been immaculately preserved: frescoed Roman houses underneath the Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio church and the recently re-opened Baths of Caracalla are highlights for those with a keen interest in history.
At 66 Piazza SS. Apostoli – on the private premises of the Palazzo Colonna, which has belonged to the Colonna family since the 12th century – is the Roman branch of the Dorotheum, which offers unique glimpses of old Rome’s high-society culture. Issued with a special permit, guests to the Dorotheum can visit Princess Isabelle Colonna’s private residence. The princess’s extravagant apartment occupies the ground floor of the palazzo, which was built upon the ancient Temple of Serapis. Virtually untouched since she lived there, it is home to an exquisite and unforgettable collection of art.
As an exciting addition to the museum scene, I would highly recommend the Palazzo Barberini. Following major restoration work, its 17th- and 18th-century collections have recently re-opened to the public. Other features of note at the Palazzo Barberini arte the magnificent ceiling frescoes by Pietro da Cortona in the grand salon, its significant 16th-century Raphael collection and the impressive rococo-style appartamenti.
If you’re a passionate jogger, then two of the must-go spots for you are the Baths of Caracalla with their long and pleasant running path around the park, and the beautiful gardens of the Villa Borghese. In the north of Rome, recreational runners should visit the stadio Paolo Rosi all’Acquacetosa or the Villa Glori. Many Romans devote their Sundays to outdoor leisure – whether you air your running shoes at Colosseo, Circo Massimo or Caracalla, if you are out and about after 8 a.m. you will have plenty of company! If you are in Rome towards the end of January, you shouldn’t miss the annual Corsa di Miguel event. In February, the Roma-Ostia race is the big attraction, and in March it’s the legendary Rome City Marathon.
Among many other things, Italy is famous for its ice cream. There are many celebrated ice cream parlors in Rome, but for me the one at 272 Vie Dei Gracchi is simply unbeatable.
Summer swimming in the city: hidden behind sand dunes on the coast between Rome city center and the suburb of Torvaianica, the public bathing beach of Mediterranea-Capocotta is still unspoiled and clean. Well worth a visit on a warm summer’s day. Excursions outside Rome: a stroll through the Villa Adriana a Tivoli with The Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar tucked under your arm makes for a truly memorable experience.
My special tip would be the slightly shady district of Celio. Among a range of fascinating features are the imposing Basilica of San Clemente and its underground chambers, medieval frescos and the astonishingly well-preserved Mithras Temple. From Celio you can continue on foot to the Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati, which houses a still partially isolated monastery well worth seeing.
For true aficionados of contemporary and modern art, the MAXXI National Museum should be the first and most important stop in Rome. Also of great interest is the MACRO Museum in Rome’s Testaccio district.
As far as Roman gardens and parks are concerned, nothing beats Villa Medici, the open-air highlight of any visit to Rome. Don’t miss it!
Maria Cristina Paoluzzi is manager of the Dorotheum Rome, art historian and an expert on the Old Masters. She has taken many eminent guests around Rome, including the Belgian royal family, American president Bush and Russian president Gorbachev. She also arranges exclusive special tours of private palazzi and art collections.
(myART MAGAZINE Nr. 01/2013)