Italy, Rome – Day 3 – Catacombs, Theatre of Marcellus, Borghese Gallery and oodles of brilliant Bernini and captivating Caravaggio. Not to mention pistachio flavour gelato – all bliss.

I was in luck today as met another traveller at my hotel who had booked a private full day Rome tour and who asked if I wanted to join him – I certainly did as it included two spots I had wanted to see but hadn’t managed to confirm. En route we stopped at the Theater of Marcellus which shows really clearly how layered Rome is with Republic era Rome, Empire era Rome, Medeival Rome and then sometimes more modern Rome usually one on top of one another – it gives  the concept of going underground a whole new meaning and they were certainly master recyclers. Note below that above these Roman arches are apartments – which are still being lived in and are worth a fortune. What an amazing view they have.

Theatre of Marcellus

These are the catacombs of St Sebastian (we preceded this with the underground tour of St Clemente church but no pics allowed) which you access via the Appian Way (the “bees knees” of Roman Roads). They run for something like 9 kilometres which is why you need a guide to show you around or you might never come out! There are simple tombs for the plebs (Roman reference not mine) and then there are also three necropolis (necropoli?)- these are family tombs for the wealthy and are well decorated as you can see – and remember they are from around 300AD.

Catacombs of St Sebastian

Was very excited to visit the Borghese Gallery for the two geniuses (genii?) artists – Caravaggio and Bernini. 

Starting with Caravaggio – he was a bit of a rebel and changed the way light was painted away from the tradional approaches of the time. He liked a black background and most importantly he employed realism. The first pic (top left) is his own self portrait; the one of the Madonna was very controversial as the child was too old and naked and had no halo, the angel looks like a witch and the face used for the Madonna was that of a local prostitute. No-one quite knows why but my view is that he wanted to select a person who might also not know for sure who the father of her child was. Anyway Caravaggio got into a lot of scrapes and fights and was always being rescued by his patrons but then died under mysterious circumstances. 

Caravaggio at the Borghese

Finally my favourite of the day – Bernini. The sculpture of the reclining lady was Napoleon’s sister – considered somewhat racy as you might imagine. The image of David about to defeat Goliath with his sling is supposed to be his head (but probably not his body!). But the star of these sculptures for me are the cushions that Napoleon’s sister is reclining on as you feel you could squish them if you wanted to. Even more amazing is the hand of Pluto on Persephone’s Thigh and her hair. Hard to remember this is solid marble!

Bernini at the Borghese

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