Borghese Gallery and view on Rome from the air balloon at the Galoppatoio of Villa Borghese
Catacombs and walk along the Appian Way.
The Borghese Gallery
Located amidst the greenery of the favourite public park of the Romans, the Borghese Gallery is an authentic artistic treasure chest, the result of the passion for art of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who in the early 1600s had the villa built on the suburban property donated to him by his uncle, Pope Paul V, with the specific purpose of housing his art collection. In order to enjoy it fully, it is important to enter the villa with a perception of the surrounding park and open air in a wonderful blend of art and nature, that we now recognize as typical of Rome. Do not miss the series of sculptures made for the cardinal by young Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Eneas, the Rape of Proserpine, Apollo and Daphne, and David), that seem to invite us to participate in what is happening to them, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, Caravaggio’s masterpieces and the lovely Princess Paolina Borghese, Napoleon’s favourite sister, portrayed by Canova as Venus. The Borghese Cardinal was famous above all for his capacity to discover new talents and for his methods in acquiring the works of art he wished to own, which on some occasions were not exactly lawful. He did not hesitate to have the Deposition by Raphael stolen from a church in Perugia and he had painter Domenichino imprisoned because he did not want to give him a painting commissioned to him by another cardinal.
A visit to the Catacombs on the Appian Way allows us to trace the origins of the Christian presence in Rome and to explore one of the fundamental aspects of its identity. The Catacombs are in fact the underground cemeteries of the early Christians, located outside the city walls in accordance with the ancient custom that forbade the burying of the dead in the inhabited area.
They consist of a series of levels with passageways dug out of the tufa, a soft volcanic rock that hardens when it comes into contact with oxygen contained in the air. The dead used to be wrapped in a shroud and placed in loculi and crypts carved out of the walls of the passageways themselves, and sealed with marble slabs or terracotta slabs, according to financial possibilities.
The Appian Way
A walk along the original slab stones of the ancient Appian Way is an ideal conclusion to a stay in Rome and a last occasion to evoke historical memories in a natural context of incredible beauty. The most ancient (4th century BC) consular road is an outstanding example of the practical genius of the Romans who conceived their road system as a way of taking possession of the world and dominating it. The great straight stretches allowed to move troops rapidly and efficiently and favoured commerce. In building them the Romans were not conditioned by the layout of the territory but actually modified it by reclaiming marshy areas, building bridges and cutting hills. The Regina Viarum (Queen of Roads), built by censor Appius Claudius the Blind, after whom it was named, headed south and over time was extended to reach Brindisi, the gate to the East.
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