My trouble in Rome is that I am always finding things by accident but never, ever finding what I want to, when I’m actually looking for it.
Things I have found by accident:
(And when I say this, I mean, these are things I thought I’d look for later or had sort of intended to search out, but wasn’t looking for at that moment):
Ara Pacis – this museum housing an enormous – and I mean enormous – sacrificial altar was something about which I was curious and open to. It’s quite controversial in some circles, and in fact the current mayor of Rome, I think, has threatened to tear it down – it’s quite modern.
Well, I saw it, and it’s interesting. And it’s a big glass building, through which you can see the altar from the road without paying a dime. Well, I’m sure that seeing it up close and getting a good sense of its size and understanding the context would be worth the cost. But when you’ve only got a few days and it’s sort of out of the way, and you turn on a road you’re wandering, and there it is, you say, “Oh. There it is. Awesome. I saw it.”
Via Cisterna – the great historical significance of this street in Trastevere is that my dad and Hilary stayed there on their visit to Rome 3 years ago. He’d told me if I had time to check it out. On my way to Vespers at S. Maria di Testavere, once again, I turned a corner, and there it was.
Same with the churches on the Quirinale. They were on the list, but not at that moment, and there they were. Closed, but there nonetheless.
Things I cannot or had a very hard time finding:
My map told me it was in one place. Right across from the FSSP church. I walked. I couldn’t find it. I mean, there was a Palazzo Spada, but it was a government office, there were government type people standing in front of it, but I could see no gallery.I walked around the block, within sight of Campo de Fiori, back to the FSSP church.Okay, it must be here. Back in front of the Palazzo Spada. I turned a corner and saw a sign explaining what the Galleria was and with an arrow pointing to the entrance, which looked like it was on the other side of the building. I went there. No entrance. Back up to the FSSP church. Ask some guy leaning on a car. “Galleria Spada?” He had no idea what I was talking about.One. More. Time. Back to the front of the Palazzo Spada. Government people still standing around smoking, probably wondering what it God’s name I was doing.Finally – finally I slowed down when I walked by the government people, turned back a little, and Saw A Sign, posted sideways, away from the direction I’d been walking. “Galleria Spada.” Arrow.
But it was still not clear to me where it was. One of the government fellows saw me studying the sign and looking stup – er, puzzled, and pointed me in the right direction. It is through the courtyard, hanging a left, then in the back of the building (but not on the street), behind a rather nondescript door. A cat (of course) was guarding the door (a cat was actually in the bookstore of the Baths of Diocletian bookstore when I was there), a woman was at the ticket register chatting with three young girls, pretty much oblivious to me, but gratefully, not openly annoyed that I wanted to buy a ticket.
Oh, as long as I’m on it, might as well finish. The Galleria Spada, in the Palazzo Spada (I think we all know that by now), which was the home of the Spada family, most notably for our purposes, a cardinal (of course), a great collector of art.As well as his great-grandson, also a Cardinal. Well, this is Rome.
The Galleria is composed of four rooms, each with art arranged in that old-fashioned gallery way, with paintings lined up three or four levels high on each wall, making it rather difficult to see the top row at times.It’s pretty delightful to wander the salons of the Cardinal, looking at what is, to a great extent, his collection.Two borderline bored hipster art guys were sitting in the first room to take my ticket and point me to the photocopied guides for each room.There were some intriguing pieces, none of which were reproduced in postcard form, unfortunately. There was a David with Goliath’s head, and Goliath’s head is simply enormous. One big giant.17th century globes.An antique Roman statue of a boy in a cloak, laughing. A couple of Roman sleeping babies.A fascinating Massacre of the Innocents.
Other things I couldn’t find? Sad to say, almost every little shop or restaurant people recommend to me. I’ve batted .000 so far. Can’t find a one. Thanks, but sorry, folks.
But I do discover some other interesting things in the process.
(Oh, and please don’t say, Oh, but that’s half the fun! Wandering the charming winding Roman cobblestoned streets! Seeing the unexpected! Okay. Whatever.But that’s really only true the first couple of times it happens. The next few times, you really just want to find what the heck you’re looking for because it might be closing soon or you just didn’t want to spend an hour of the 90 minutes of the time you allotted to this place LOOKING FOR IT.)