Palazzo Doria Pamphilj and the Baroque in Rome

The first thing I did in the morning (around 10am for those of you not on Italian time) was go for a run along the Tiber. There are some stairs you can take down closer to the level of the river with a paved walking and cycling path. The Tiber river is most certainly not a beautiful river but it is a nice place to run with a breeze and away from lots of people and traffic. I ran for about 45 minutes then came back to my apartment to read for a while. Then I made a lunch of chicken and pasta, took tram 8 to Piazza Venezia in the center of Rome, and entered my first museum of the summer.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj appealed to me because the collection is housed in the family palace which was constructed throughout the 16th to 18th centuries. The Doria Pamphilj family was extremely powerful in Rome during the 16th century and they continue to be wealthy and powerful to this day. In fact, the audio guide in English is narrated by Jonathan Doria Pamphilj, a descendant who still lives in the Palazzo. The Palazzo is huge with a large central courtyard. Only a small section is open to the public for the museum.

You should visit this museum if you would like to see the interior of one of the most beautiful palaces in Rome which is open to the public. You should not visit this museum if you are looking for big name famous painters, as the collection only houses a few works by Guercino, Reni, Caravaggio, Caracci, and the likes. Larger, higher quality collections of art can be found in other museums without the impressive palace as a backdrop. It is forbidden to take photos in the palazzo without buying a photo pass, but I snapped just a couple to show you the very impressive Sala de Poussin, which is covered in landscapes by the artist Claude Lorraine.

Sala del Poussin
Sala del Poussin
Sala del Poussin
Sala del Poussin

At that time, landscape art was not as popular as it is today, and the prince used this type of art to cover most of the wall space, almost like wallpaper. It is certain he was trying to make a pronounced first impression on his guests. This is the type of palace where you want to make sure to remember to look up, because some of the most beautiful treasures are the frescoes on the ceilings. I entered the museum with my sunglasses perched atop my head but quickly removed them and put them into my purse so that I would be free to look up. I have walked past the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj on many other visits to Rome but never stopped in, the place is certainly worth a short stop as it is right in the city center near to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.

ceiling at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
ceiling at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

I continued walking down Via del Corso until I saw a sign outside of the Fondazione Roma Museo at the Palazzo Cipolla which caught my eye. The sign advertised for “Barocco a Roma”, an exhibit taking place all over the city until July 26. The location at Via del Corso featured an exhibit which explained the cultural significance and value of the exhibition. I decided to visit the exhibit with the help of an English audio guide. One thing that I really love about smaller, more temporary art exhibits is that they always seem to be more educational than larger, more overwhelming permanent collections. The exhibition curators narrated their choices and decisions behind each work of art to display, the history of the artists, how the paintings were interpreted at the time. I left having learned a lot about Baroque art which I did not know before. The Baroque style was largely begun and cultivated in Rome, so what better city to learn about the significance and importance of the Baroque artists to the history of art?

After exiting the museum, I crossed the Via del Corso and went to see the Trevi Fountain. Much to my shock, there was no water in the fountain, instead a pedestrian bridge traversed the center of the fountain and construction work was everywhere. The fountain is currently undergoing restoration, and has been for the past 2 years. They say it will reopen in September, but most Romans are skeptical, saying they think it might open in 2016. The only positive side to the construction was being able to get really close to the sculptures of the fountain and see the workers focused on the restoration of this timeless monument.

pedestrian walkway over the fountain
pedestrian walkway over the fountain
construction at the Trevi Fountain
construction at the Trevi Fountain

I took tram 8 back from Piazza Venezia to the stop near my apartment and made another grocery store trip. When you live up a hill and a flight of stairs, you can only carry a small amount of groceries at a time. Also, Italians typically buy fresh produce and meats, they do not store large amounts of processed foods. Thus, I will visit the grocery 3 to 4 times per week all summer. I also stopped at a neighborhood cafe and tried a marocchino, a small espresso cup lined with chocolate (think Nutella), milk froth, and a shot of expresso. Talk about an afternoon pick me up! I think I was shaking for about 30 minutes, but it was so delicious.

I went back to the apartment for a short time to relax and recompose before taking tram 8 back towards the center. I got off at the Jewish Ghetto stop and strolled through the Jewish Ghetto, stopping to take in the sights and smells coming from the many kosher restaurants lining the streets. I also lingered in the square of the Fountain of the Turtles (Tortuga), before following some small alleyways towards the Campo de Fiori. The ambience of the Campo de Fiori in the evenings is lovely, with live bands entertaining diners in front of the restaurants which spill over into the square. I explored some of the areas around the Campo, and then headed back to the church steps near Torre Argentina to meet my new friend, Antonio, for a pizza.

Campo de Fiori near dusk
Campo de Fiori near dusk

Antonio suggested we go to the Pizza Florida, which is right in front of the Torre Argentina. This place is the kind where you point to what kind of pizza you want and how much you want, then they heat it up for you. I selected a pizza with cheese, onions, and pancetta while Antonio opted for mushrooms and sausage. We also split a half bottle of red wine, served chilled in true Italian summertime fashion. The whole thing cost about 6 Euros. I was skeptical that the pizza from this place so close to the tourist area could be any good, but much to my delight the dough was light and fluffy while the toppings were full of flavor. Later, I looked up Pizza Florida on Trip Advisor and it is ranked #65 out of 8,617 restaurants in Rome!

my friend Antonio
my friend Antonio

After our pizza, Antonio and I walked up the steps of the Santa Maria in Aracoeli church near the Campidoglio. There we practiced more Italian and watched the crowds below. Around 9, I walked over to Piazza Venezia and took tram 8 all the way to the Trastevere train station, then walked to Nicole’s house to hang out with her and Franziska. Nicole leaves this Friday for a summer in the States, but Franziska will stay here and has promised to take me to all of the best gelato spots in Rome. Luckily I am walking miles upon miles every day, so indulging in a little pizza, pasta, and gelato will not be too much of a problem. Tomorrow I plan to spend some time walking in Trastevere and exploring more of the neighborhood around my apartment.

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