A Short Guide to Rome
By Lars Kaaber

To anyone going to Rome;

In general:
As you will quickly learn, most of Rome is yellow ochre; the oldest buildings have been washed in this particular colour, and more recent ones have followed suit. The two kinds of trees dominating Rome are stone pines and cypresses. The cypresses are the pointy ones and the stone pines are the flat ones – Hans Christian Andersen called them ‘open and shut umbrellas,’ which is very apposite.
Those three aspects: the yellowish colour, the cypresses and the stone pines are in themselves sufficient to identify Rome in a couple of seconds – should you be in doubt where you are (for instance, on a two-week European bus trip). No other city is quite like it.

You need to get an overall view of the city, and in this connection some useful advice is in its place.
The part of town known as “Rome” (if one is a tourist) is not a alarmingly large area, and everything is within walking distance. The northernmost part is the Borghese Park, the westernmost is the Vatican and St. Peter’s, the southernmost is the Aventine Hill (where you will – and must – find the ‘keyhole’.)

Busses: No no. You can’t buy tickets on the bus, but must purchase them at some tobacconist who closes his shop around 5.30 pm or whenever he feels like it. You will be fined for riding the bus without a ticket. You can also trust your luck – I’ve never been caught, but then again, I rarely ride the bus. In Rome, I prefer to walk.

Trains: Not on your life. And at any rate not during rush hours, and you are likely to be accosted by some unauthorised ticket collectors, in which case the fare is everything in your purse or wallet (including purse and wallet and all – if you get my drift.

Walking, then – the Roman traffic can be an awe-inspiring and forbidding sight, especially with the knowledge that there are Italians behind the wheels. What’s more, you will find that very often absurdly narrow and deserted streets are equipped with pedestrian crossings and traffic lights whereas many main roads, though broad as the Bosphorus, leave pedestrians entirely to their own devices. But be without fear. Keep your cool and signal clearly to the drivers that you intend to cross – and then cross. Never run – but walk with slow, but determined steps into the mayhem. You may raise a hand against the traffic, but chances are that they will see you anyway. Italians love their cars and hate to get their bumpers dented.

Taxis – they’re cheap! My guess is that a taxi from Termini – the central station – to, say, Galleria Borghese (whither you must go!) will be no more than $10.

While we are at the traffic – beware of darling little gypsy kids approaching you with either a newspaper or a cut-up cardboard box. They speak very fast in accents of some unknown tongue, all the while wrapping their paraphernalia around you as if to see how garbage will suit you. However, while you are thinking: “Whatever do those cute little kids want from me?” they empty your pockets and bag for all that you carry.
Far be it for me to advise against subsidizing the less fortunate, but the story that these gypsies are picked up by their fathers or husbands in limos each afternoon at Piazza del Popolo is no urban legend. It is the truth. If you don’t believe me, stroll around on the piazza at sundown.
What you need to do is to look the little darlings straight in their eyes and say: “Vada via!” (scram!) and do sound as if you mean it. Don’t smile! If you practise your vada via, they may even take you for a Roman.

Language: speak English and use your hands. The Romans are not as good at English as they think, but - unlike the French - they are endowed with imagination and benevolence.

Restaurants: Go where you like, but check the menu outside. If it’s not outside, don’t go in. The place is likely to be way beyond any budget.
At the top of the menu – sometimes at the bottom – there is an item called ‘pane e coperta’ – meaning bread and the use of tablecloth, napkins, cutlery, glasses. It may also say ‘servizio’ – service. At cheap restaurants, the ‘pane e coperta’ will be around $4.
If you want to be adventurous and try something authentically Italian, go for the menu turistico – the tourist menu. It sounds confusing, but that’s how the Italians try to get tourists to eat real Italian dinners.
We in the civilised world are apt to think that Italian cuisine is, say, minestrone and spaghetti, but this is what the Italians eat before the main course, secondo, which is very often only a steak or fish with a little salad on the side. If you want more – such as potatoes - you have to order contorno.
After this, you have to make room for the dessert (dolce), usually ice cream, cake or a fruit salad (macedonia).
As for pizza, this has never been a main course in Italy – it ranges alongside hot dogs or sandwiches in the rest of the world. Pizzas were not originally round, either, and in the Roman streets you will find that pizza is sold in square pieces cut out of a huge roasting pan. The customer decides the size of the slice. You order it ‘to go’ (per la via) and munch it down while admiring what you came for - the sights of the city. But do get some of these slices – you have never really tasted true pizza until you do. My favourite is funghi con mozzarella (mushrooms with cheese), if it’s of any interest.

Don’t miss out on the tiramisu! The best dessert in the world, but not on any diet, though. The name means ‘pull-me-up’, but tiramisu is more likely to weigh you seriously down: savoiardi (‘lady fingers’) drenched in marsala wine and strong espresso, smothered in mascarpone and powdered with cocoa. To die for. Or of.

Recommended restaurants:
My first recommendation is an absolute must, not-to-miss, even if you have to cross the Tiber to get there, but a taxi will take you from Termini to Trastevere for about 10 Euro and you can take a stroll along the Tiber after dinner:
Ristorante Alle Fratte di Trastevere
Via delle Fratte di Trastevere 49
Tel.: 0615835775
Prices: inexpensive/medium
Alle Fratte di Trastevere has the courtesy to keep open all week.
The proprietors are Felice and Maria Massimo, but in the evenings, the place is run by their son, Ricardo. The family has had a restaurant in Long Island, and their English is impeccable. I can recommend their Filet Mignon with pepper sauce – the meat is so tender that you can cut it with a teaspoon.

Two streets from Termini (the central station) you’ll find ”Elettra”, which is also inexpensive and excellent.


For lunch, just buy something off the street. Find a trattoria, but be warned: at most places you are charged one price for eating at the bar (same price for take-away), and another for sitting down at the tables. Another disadvantage about Roman trattorias is that you have to pay at the till before you get the food, which means you have to go look at the exhibition first, remember what you want and how you think it should be pronounced, then pay the cashier, receive your receipt and then go back to the food and tell the guy there what you ordered. That’s how the Italians like to do business, and it has probably never occurred to them that purchases are thus limited by the customer’s memory – but, conversely, it limits your risk of an eating binge as well.
At one place, however, you order and pay simultaneously – at my favourite place, Il Delfino. Nor do prices go up if you sit down. Il Delfino is on Vittorio Emmanuele II just across from Largo Argentina, with Piazza Navona around the corner.
Do sample their supplis! A special Roman treat: red risotto lovingly enfolding a slice of mozzarella, rolled into a ball and deep-fried with breadcrumbs. At first, you may not be all that charmed, but supplis grow on you (quite literally, especially around the waist.) They cost only around $1,50, and two of them will make up a lunch.

The Sights:

There are four things you must do in rapid succession, all of them musts in Rome. They are about five minutes apart by foot, and they are The Trevi Fountain, Ignazio di Loyola, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.


 The Trevi Fountain is the last blast from the Baroque period, which is to say from the latter part of the 1600s. When reaching the fountain by way of the narrow streets leading to it, you cannot fail to be impressed: even though it is built into a house, it towers up before you in a wealth of white marble. It depicts Neptune, the sea god, and his tritons. In Rome you will see a lot of fountains depicting tritons, and they all celebrate water as essential to the city. Without the waters of Rome, led there by the famed Roman viaducts, Rome would have been situated somewhere else.
In the 1960s the fame of the Trevi Fountain was renewed by Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita, in which Anita Ekberg – in a huge gala dress – and Marcello Mastroianni go bathing in the fountain.
One thing one has to do at the Trevi Fountain is to stand with one’s back to the fountain, hold a coin in one’s right hand and hurl it over one’s left shoulder into the water. The saying goes that this manoeuvre will secure your return to Rome.
I happen to know that it works, and even that it works this way: the more coins you throw in, the sooner you’ll return. I was backpacking through Europe in 1982 and was leaving Rome for Athens. While standing with my back to the Trevi, with one coin that I meant to donate in my right hand and the rest of my coins in my left hand, I was distracted in the crucial moment, so I threw in my wallet. That same evening, we boarded a train to Brindisi, but the carriage I entered was disconnected and returned to Rome while I slept. That’s why I know for certain that the coin in the fountain trick works.

In order to get from the Trevi Fontain to Ignazio di Loyola, the Jesuit church, you have to cross the Corso, the great street that is Rome’s equivalent to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. In Via Caravita you find san Ignazio di Loyola, famous for its trompe l’oeuil, its optical illusion in the celing. The longer you peruse the ceiling, the less you believe that it’s all painted on a flat surface – everything seems to stick out or cave in. And the painting seems to suck you in – the longer you gaze at it, the more you get that ‘beam-me-up-scotty-feeling’ which of course is intendedby Andrea Pozzo, the main artist behind the frescos.


 Only five minutes away, the Pantheon awaits you. ‘Pan’ mean ‘all’ and theos, of course, is ‘gods’, so this edifice was intended as a get-together for all the gods of Rome. Even the gods of other peoples were welcome, but, as it turned out, the God of Christianity could brook no roommates, so out went everybody else, and now it’s a Christian church.
The Pantheon became a Christian church in 608 AD, and on the occasion, Pope Bonifacius IV commissioned 28 truckloads of the earthly remains of Christian martyrs from the catacombs to be immured in the interior church walls in order to sanctify the building. This launched the very first ‘All Saints’ Day’ or Halloween.
The dome is the second-largest in the world, surpassed only by the dome spanning British Museum’s library in London. When Michelangelo, who was duly impressed by this antique dome, designed his own dome of St. Peter’s, he made it somewhat smaller, as an act of reverence. He did not want to surpass the old masters. An uncommonly modest gesture for Michelangelo.
It remains a mystery how the ancient builders managed to make the dome at all, 79 b.C. One theory is that they simply moulded a massive dome in sand before constructing the building proper. The skylight – a circular hole – measures 9 meter in diameter. I know that for certain, for once on a visit to the Pantheon during a silent rain I paced the wet spot on the floor.
The famous renaissance painter Raphael is buried in the Pantheon. In 1833, when he was reinterred (after his corpse had been inspected to ensure that it really was Raphael), Hans Christian Andersen was on a visit to Rome, and the Danish poet went to witness the event. The great double doors now seen in the Pantheon were being restored, which left only a narrow passage to the church, and they had to tip Raphael’s coffin to get it through. Andersen reports that he heard a distasteful ‘rattling of dry bones.’

When you have enjoyed the Pantheon, go the 200 feet around the church to Piazza Minerva. For any Bernini devotee (such as myself), there’s something to see: a little grumpy elephant carrying an obelisk. The obelisk is original – from Egypt - and Bernini sought to illustrate the point that ‘it takes great strength (the elephant) to carry great wisdom (the obelisk). Why the elephant looks so disgruntled, I don’t know. I take it that great wisdom doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Given the fact that an obelisk is always a petrified ray of sun (worshipped by the ancient Egyptians), the elephant might have been expected to have a sunnier dispostion.

Pasted Graphic

 In Santa Minerva – behind the elephant – you can see Michelangelo’s famous Jesus statue. A nude statue, since – as we all know – Michelangelo had a special interest in male genitalia. A later and more prudish age has added a golden loincloth. Beside the statue – to the left – you will find a slot machine ready to receive your coins, but don’t believe for a minute that your donation will make the loincloth disappear. It merely turns on a spotlight.
Go back to the Pantheon. Place yourself with your back to the main entrance, cross the piazza to ”MacDonald’s” – that Scottish restaurant that seems to have branched out all over – and go down Via Giustiniani. Pass along that street and cross over to streets – no more than three minutes later you will be on Piazza Navona. It is an oblong square and you enter on the long side. In the 18
th century it was fashion among the young, rich Romans to have the piazza flooded and race around in open carriages, water spouting to all sides.

And now for the sights of Piazza Navona. Take a look at Bernini’s fountain in the middle.
The four characters are four rivers – the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Platte. The story goes that Bernini had hoped to get the commission of building the church on the piazza, but, due to a change of Pope, his rival Boromini got to build the church, whereas our friend Bernini only got the crumby fountain. To add insult to injury, Boromini turned out not to have sufficient skill to build the church. Any fool would have placed the church at the end of the square, but Boromini – determined to be no fool – placed his church on the long side. “The church will be too tall,” Bernini objected, “it will appear to be tumbling down at the spectator!” Boromini believed that this could be adjusted by a concave facade, but, as anybody will see, the church does in fact appear to be falling on us. And Bernini’s revenge? Well, take a look at the Rio della Platte – the river closest to the church: he is holding his hand up, as if to ward off the blow from the falling stones.
Look at the other rivers, too: the Nile has a rag around his head because the source of the Nile was unknown to the Renaissance; the Ganges is punting along with a pole (the accustomed means of transportation on the Ganges) and the Danube is straddling the monument and waving his limbs in all direction, to signify the many tributaries of that Mid-European river.
When looking at the fountain, take note of the characteristics of the Baroque period, and how the placidity and harmony of the Renaissance have been replaced by baroque vivacity and turmoil. As you will observe in Bernini’s other masterpieces, they all appear to be snapshots of wildly energetic events.

That was something for the mind; your physical cravings are steps away from the utmost satisfaction. Cross the square to Tre Scalini - maning ‘the three little steps’ although there are no steps – where you will purchase the unsurpassed Tartuffo ice cream, the specialty of the place. It will cost you around $8, and take it ‘per la via’ – take-away. It is a special Renaissance flavour – violent, exhuberant and filling – of chocolate and mocca, with a maraschino berry entombed in the middle (a cherry drowned in maraschino liquoeur), and whipped cream on the side. But beware! Tartuffo is addictive! You taste it and think, ”well, that was nice,” but after a short while you discover that it was the taste of a lifetime. I have once left Piazza Navona on my way to St. Peter’s only to discover, halfway across the Tiber, that I had to return for seconds.

After the Tartuffo, walk away from Tre Scalini past Bernini’s fountain in the centre of the piazza and continue straight out of the Navona Square, down to Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II.
When you stand here – with your back to Piazza Navona – you will see the church Andrea della Valle across the street on your left. This church is the location of the first act of Puccini’s opera Tosca, in which Tosca’s jealousy is aroused at Mario’s painting of a blue-eyed Madonna (Tosca’s eyes are black). If you then turn left, down Vittorio Emmanuele II and walk down two blocks in this direction (towards the town centre), you will have "Il Delfino" (the place with the good supplis) on a corner on your left.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want to eat any more (what with the Tartuffos), you may wish to see Campo dei Fiori (meaning ’the field of flowers’). In that case, cross Vittorio Emmanuele II and continue past the church. Here is a market with vegetables in the morning (until noon), but at all hours it is a very cosy piazza. Except of course for that day in 1600 when they burned Giordano Bruno for heresy at this very spot. However, the city of Rome has atoned for this by erecting a statue of the supposed heretic on the square. He was executed for stating that the universe is infinite, that the earth is not its centre and that God and nature are one and the same. Galileo Galilei later claimed something similar and was incarcerated in Castel San’Angelo, across the Tiber. On being shown the instruments of torture, Galilei prudently recanted and so escaped Bruno’s fate. As legend will have it, when he signed the recantation, he whispered under his breath: E pur si muove! – ‘it moves, nonetheless’ – meaning the earth, and it moves around the sun. Later times have agreed with Galilei, but unlike Bruno, he was not in a mind to sacrifice his life for the truth.

You may choose to take a cab out to see the Protestant Cemetery and the famed keyhole on the Aventine Hill. I can recommend the cemetery on a pleasant day, for it is a very poetic place, and appropriately so since both Shelley and Keats are interred there. I shall return to these. The famous German poet, Goethe, has a son buried there, under a disheartening headstone that simply reads: Goethe filius – son of Goethe. Taking the fame of the father a bit too far, if you ask me.
The cemetery is small, but nice, with a neatly trimmed lawn at the end where Keats lies buried in the corner farthest away from the Cestius Pyramid. His headstone is modest – though not ludicrously so, as in the case of Goethe’s son – and reads: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” Keats himself requested this epithet, but he was certainly wrong. His friend Joseph Severn promptly erected a tablet that puts matters in the proper perspective.
After seeing Keats’ grave, you cross the lawn and make your way through the heavy traffic of cats and kittens that always haunt the graveyard, and climb uphill. Just before you reach the top of the hill, Shelley lies on your left, against the outer wall of the cemetery close to the Cestius Pyramid. His headstone reads: Cor cordium – ‘heart of hearts’, which is cruelly poignant. When he drowned during a boating trip in the Bay of Spezia, Byron and a few friends were asked to identify his remains and dispose of the body. They burned it on the beach, but for some reason, the heart wouldn’t burn, so in the end, Byron brought gave to Mary Shelley.

Then the keyhole of the Aventine: when you leave the cemetery you must turn right and walk to Via Marmorata, which you then cross. Turn right after the post office and take the second street on your right (not the big, trafficked one, Via Pollione, but the next). Then you turn left again up the steep Via Lavernale, which you follow until it ends smack on Piazza di Cavaliere di Malta, The Square of the Maltese Knights. You then cross the small and peaceful piazza and proceed to the huge gate in front of you. You can’t enter, but that’s the beauty of it: you have to look through the keyhole which isn’t a keyhole, really, but a small, round hole put there exclusively for the view. You look down a long garden path and in the centre you get a view of St. Peter’s dome, on the other side of the Tiber. You may chance to see some young Romans, loving couples, visiting the gate on their vespas (scooters, aptly named for the sound they make, for ‘vespa’ means wasp.)

If you have taken a taxi out to the cemetery, you may want to walk home. You saunter down Via Sabina, a very lovely street taking you down the Aventine Hill, at the bottom of which you run into the busy and heavily trafficked Via del Circo Massimo, which you cross. On your left, in front of the ruins of the Palatine looming on the horizon, you will see Circus Maximus after which the street is named. It looks like a location for Ben Hur, but isn’t, since the famous horse race scene in that oscar film took place in Africa. As you turn left on the other side of Via del Circo Massimo – away from the Circus Maximus – you follow the street toward the town centre. Look out for a church on your left, just as you reach an open space. In a small passage outside this church you will find Bocca della Verita – the Mouth of Truth. Lovers go there, too, and demand that their one and only puts a hand into the horrid mouth of the stone face and claim fidelity (or whatever), for legend has it that Bocca della Verita will bite off hands of liars. In Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck scares Audrey Hepburn to pieces with a demonstration of this.

Continue along the street by which you arrived here – now renamed Via del Teatro di Marcello – and follow this to the big Piazza Venezia, the actual and official town centre. As you get there, you will see a huge, very, very white building, which most Romans call la macchina da scrivere – the typewriter. It was built in 1911 as a monument to the unknown soldier, and it is generally detested by Romans for being ‘too white teeth in an old man’s mouth’ – the ‘old man’ being Rome. And yet, there is something that has always fascinated me about the monument. Perhaps it is just that this is ancient Rome as we always imagined it, and as the Hollywood movies depicted it and, unlike the palaces of the Forum and the Palatine Hill, it is still standing. If you get the chance, do climb the huge monument – it is sometimes open to public. You get a splendid view of the town from up there, among the shining white colonnades. The Square in front of the monument – Piazza Venezia - is lovely too, especially now that Mussolini can no longer make his hysterical speeches from the balcony on your right (when you have your back to the monument).

The heavily trafficked street at the end of Piazza Venezia is Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II and if you turn left, it will take you to “Il Delfino” and, eventually, to Piazza Navona, via a right turn at the right moment.
Right across from the white monument, taking off from Vittorio Emmanuele II is the Corso – Rome’s main shopping street. It goes without saying that shopping here is dangerous for the less affluent, for it is, as mentioned, Rome’s 5
th Av.

Now, if you have diligently followed all of my instructions, you will already have visited Piazza Navona, but I think I will take you there again. Not for another Tartuffo, but to get you across the Tiber and to St. Peter’s. It’s a bit of a walk, so you may fancy a taxi instead, but for now, let me assume that you are walking.

Go to Piazza Navona (down Vittorio Emmanuele II, past Il Delfino and make a right for Piazza Navona). This time you cross Piazza Navona directly, and when you leave the square at the other end, a few meandering streets will take you to the Tiber at the Bridge of the Angel – Ponte San’Angelo. Across the river you will now see Castel San’Angelo – the angel fortress.
But don’t forget to look at the angels on the bridge! They are made by Bernini, my favourite sculptor. Bernini’s sculptures always contain some element of fun, and you never look for it in vain.
The angels hold religious attributes, but they treat them quite irreverently! One angel holds Jesus’ thorny crown as if it were a tambourine, and another holds the cross as if it were a cello. The angel carrying Veronica’s sudarium – the cloth with which Veronica wiped the face of Jesus – looks as if he wanted to sell it to gullible tourists. You can virtually see the heavenly messenger saying: “5 Euro – shop around, you won’t find it cheaper!”

Cross the bridge to Castel San Angelo. This is Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, and it is much bigger than it is beautiful. One version of the story goes that Hadrian built his mausoleum and then thought that it would be a touching gesture if his young lover, Antinous, would commit suicide by jumping into the Tiber after the death of Hadrian. However, in order to ensure this event, Hadrian had Antinous pushed off the mausoleum before Hadrian’s own demise. Sober historians, however, claim that Antinous was drowned far away from Rome and that Hadrian mourned for his death sincerely.
Hadrian’s mausoleum received its modern name in 590, when the archangel Michael appeared at the top of the edifice sheathing his sword to let the Romans know that the dreaded plague would end.
Castel Sant’Angelo is also where Puccini’s opera Tosca ends. As you may recall, Tosca flew into a jealous rage in the church of San Andrea delle Valle (at the other end of Piazza Navona), and her temper prompted her to reveal Mario’s relations with the Italian resistance movement during the Napoleonic wars. Mario is apprehended by the evil Scarpia, head of the secret police, and subjected to torture. He is sentenced to death, but Scarpia puts it to Tosca that if she sleeps with him, he will arrange a mock execution for Mario. Tosca makes Scarpia sign the papers first and then, instead of kissing him, she plunges a dagger into his dark heart and makes off with the pardon.
However, Scarpia has fooled Tosca, and when she finds that the execution squad has not used blanks, she hurls herself over the edge of Castel Sant’Angelo and plummets to her death.
When Sarah Bernhardt, the legendary French actress of la belle epoque, played this scene in Paris, she had so charmed the young stagehand in charge of putting the mattress out for her to fall on behind the set piece of castel Sant’Angelo that he forgot. Sarah broke her leg, gangrene ensued and the leg had to go. ”I had never thought that I would go piecemeal to my grave!” she excaimed.
Turn left when you have crossed the Tiber and continue in this direction. You can see St. Peter’s now, and you may think that it is not far. But you would be deluded. You will learn that the walk to St. Peter’s resembles a nightmare: you never seem to get any closer, but the church keeps growing before your eyes. At a certain point you catch sight of people in front of the church, and you realize how infinitesimal they are, like little bugs around that huge wedding cake that is St. Peter’s.

When at long last you reach St. Peter’s Square, the pleasure-loving Bernini has once again contrived to divert you. Find one of the two colonnade stones on either side of the fountain in the middle of the round square – if you imagine the square as the face of a clock with the church at 12, the colonnade stones will be at 3 and 9. Place yourself right on one colonnade stone and take a look at the four rows of columns embracing the square – the huge pillars of the colonnade has been designed and erected with such precision that from this angle, the four rows melt together as one, giving you a perfect view to the world beyond the square.

The obelisk in the centre of the fountain allegedly contains a splinter of the true Cross in the small monstrance at the top (although in the middle ages, it was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar), but of even greater interest is the raising of the obelisk in 1586. Pope Sixtus V had ordered perfect silence from the crowd that gathered to watch the event – on pain of death! - since the elevation of such a tall obelisk was risky business back then. However, when the ropes of the hoist began to show signs of fatigue, a Ligurian sailor allowed his professional skill to outweigh the Papal decree and cried: “Throw water on the ropes!” thus saving the whole enterprise from disaster. The sailor was not executed, but received exclusive rights for himself and his family throughout eternity to sell palm branches for the festivities on Palm Sunday. He made a bundle and deserved it, too.


 Now it is time to enter St. Peter’s. Please remember that one has to wear suitable clothes in order to pass the guards. Shoulders and knees must be covered, although practically the first sight that greets you inside the church is that of an all but naked Jesus, in the arms of his mother Mary in Michelangelo’s Pietà. But of course, allowances must be made for the Saviour. Pietà is on your right when you enter the church. It is one of Michelangelo’s early works, and one of the few he ever signed; the artist’s name is engraved on the ribbon running across Mary’s breast – Michelangelo Buonarotti. Mary looks very young – certainly not a day beyond twenty – but when criticised by the Pope who remarked that Jesus died at 33 and that his mother consequently must have been pushing 50 at the time of his death, Michelangelo merely replied: “The mother of God has no age.” All the same, this goes to show one of the differences between the high Renaissance and Bernini’s subsequent Baroque period that always strove to present mankind as it really is, warts and all.

Orientate yourself from a position where you face the baldachin – the 98 feet high canopy covering the high altar, designed by Bernini with twisted pillars, copies of those in Solomon’s temple. On the floor in front of you there are markings showing the size of other famous churches in the world – how far they would stretch if crammed into St. Peter’s which, of course, dwarfs them all.
Peter is supposedly buried in the crypt below the baldachin, along with every pope since him.

Halfway up the centre aisle you must take another right turn to get to the famed statue of St. Peter sticking his foot out for the Catholics to kiss. The statue as such is tarnished and dark bronze, but the toe shines from wear and tear, the signs of centuries of devout kissing.
This was the toe that had such fatal consequences for Lady Flora in Isak Dinesen’s The Cardinal’s Third Tale (she contracted syphilis and, with this in mind, do as many of the Catholics do: kiss your own fingers and then place them on the toe!). Blixen remarks that the statue looks exceptionally bad-tempered for St. Peter who by all accounts was a mild-mannered if slightly dim-witted apostle, and it may be that the statue was originally one of Zeus (Jove), with Jove’s attribute, the bolt of lightning, replaced by Peter’s attribute, the keys.

But why two keys? I wonder. The front and backdoor to Paradise?
The attribute is connected to the place in the Gospel of St. Matthew where Jesus says to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (...) And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
These lines – inscribed within the dome - are the foundation of so many things, first and foremost of papal power, for all the popes are successors of St. Peter. The Latin text has ‘claves’ for keys, plural form, so the minimum number of keys must be two, for which sculptors and painters have settled ever since.

It is significant, too, that Peter of all was given the keys. Not only was his faith not the strongest, but he does not strike us as the sharpest tool in the shed. We recall how he plunged right into Lake Genezareth when he tried to walk upon the surface like Jesus, he thrice denied having known Christ after the arrest in Gethsemane and he attempted to flee Rome under Nero – but was stopped on Via Appia and persuaded to return for his own execution. One may also question the wisdom of his remark to his executioners that to die on the cross like Christ was too great an honour – for it prompted the Romans to have him crucified upside down.
But perhaps a moral emerges from Peter’s story: his own wavering faith and slight intelligence provides a license for mankind. We don’t have to be martyrs or geniuses; we can still enter the Kingdom of Heaven with all our shortcomings. Had, say, St. Paul been the doorman, I doubt that many would have made it. His attribute is a sword.
We may as well go though the attributes of the other four evangelists as well, since they are depicted in the dome. Matthew has an angel or a child, Mark has a lion, Luke has an ox and John has an eagle. That’s how you can know them when you meet them.

Directly across the centre aisle from St. Peter’s disgruntled statue – that may be an antique portrayal of Zeus, mind you – now on the left side of the church, I invite you to find Bernini’s Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. We need a laugh at this time. The monument is in one of the niches. A gilded death is flying right in our face, waving an hour glass to signify that “time’s up” – as the British publicans will have it – for Alexander. However, the grim reaper seems to have been delayed because someone has thrown a marble cloth across him, and he is struggling to get free.
Alexander sits praying, his eyes toward heaven, and seems in no way bothered. As a Pope his admittance is guaranteed. Nevertheless, he seems to be slightly annoyed by a women on his right, carrying a huge, fat baby. She is supposed to represent motherhood, but in Bernini’s version of this symbol, she holds up her baby with an air of accusation – is she putting the paternity over on Alexander? The girl on Alexander’s left is resting her foot on the world, a globe. Her heel is planted defiantly on England who had recently left the Church of Rome and gone Protestant.

Having seen this, you may want to go to the top of the church. It’s a rough climb and claustrophobic, and you have almost to exit the church to get to the stairs or the lift (that does not go all the way up, mind you), but the view from up there is magnificent and gives you a very good impression of the seven hills of Rome. “If I don’t do it now, I may never get to do it” is a good incentive that should be applied whenever fatigue strikes you on foreign trips. We never know if we shall pass this way again. So do go.

The Vatican collections are reached in this manner: exit the church, go to Bernini’s colonnade on your left, and follow the pavement around the high walls of the Vatican. It’s a ten minutes walk.
The Vatican collections are vast. In her book on Rome, Karen Jacobsen writes that if you spend one minute on each of the items in here, you will have to stay for 34 years, around the clock and with no breaks for lunch. I believe it.


So you need to limit yourself, and I suggest that you look up the Laocoon, the antique statue which inspired the Renaissance artists (as you know, renaissance means ‘rebirth’, and this statue was indeed the father of the trend that came into fashion in the Renaissance. The statue is in a courtyard and the guides will assist you in finding it. Especially if you pronounce the statue in Italian (La-o-kon-te).
Laocoon was a Trojan priest of Poseidon who defied the deity by marrying and having two sons. During the Trojan wars and the ten-year siege of the city, he foresaw the Greek plan of the Trojan horse and tried to warn the Trojans (in Vergil’s phrasing: “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!”), but before he could reveal it, Apollo had sent some giant snakes to strangle both Laocoon and his two sons. Notice the poetic license of the ancient sculptor: both sons are fully grown, but to show they are Laocoon’s sons, they are half his size.
Another antique gem is the Discus Thrower, along with several statues of Hadrian’s young lover, Antinous. For early Renaissance, don’t miss Raphael’s Parnassus.

You may want to end up in the Sistine Chapel and visit Michelangelo’s piece de resistance. The place is usually crowded and you can’t speak very loudly down there – they insist on silence – but this was where Michelangelo spent 4 years, from 1508 to 1512, painting the ceiling. He was lying on his back on the scaffolding, sometimes for days on end. Fresco painting is always an excruciating undertaking. The transparent paint is applied to the wet plaster, so you have to work fast before the surface congeals, but one wrong stroke of the brush may mean that you have to redo a whole section since frescoes behave like water colours rather than oils, where you can always make amends by applying more paint. On top of a botched job.
The Sistine Chapel was the result of endless fights between the artist and Pope Julius II, each as belligerent and cantankerous as the other. Michelangelo never wanted to do the ceiling in the first place – he considered himself a sculptor and, once he was persuaded, Julius constantly felt that the job wasn’t done as soon as he wanted it. He turned out to be right – poor Pope Julius died before he could behold the finished masterpiece. At one point, he actually struck Michelangelo furiously with his walking stick. The artist avenged himself by depicting the incident among the Biblical stories in the frescos: when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, we see God waving a stick at them.
Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel in 1535 to paint the Last Judgment on the end wall. Once again, Michelangelo’s paintings were inspired by real events, in this case the Sack of Rome (Sacco di Roma) in 1527 when the Holy Roman Empire had sent its not-so-holy mercenary forces to loot and destroy the city. Michelangelo, devastated at the Sack of Rome, has endowed a flayed human skin with his own facial features.
While the work was in progress, the Pope’s Master of Ceremony, Cesena, complained that the Sistine Chapel should not portray all those nudes, and as Michelangelo refused to cover anything, Cesena ordered another painter, Volterra, to paint breeches and loincloths on all the figures in the Last Judgment. Yet again, Michelangelo’s vengeance was swift as he painted Cesena’s face on Minos, the Judge of Hell. Cesena complained to the Pope who replied that his jurisdiction did not extend as far as to hell. The painting stayed as it was. And poor Volterra was ever after referred to as ‘Il Braghettone’ – the painter of breeches.

If you have managed St. Peter and the Vatican in one day – as you should – you need a rest and something to eat.

Ancient Rome is littered all over the city – bits and bobs of ancient relics are built into 20
th century houses if found on the building site – but the greatest concentration of antiquity is around the Forum Romanum.
I usually recommend a visit to the Forum that ends by the exit/entrance leading out to the Coliseum.
You can enter from the entrance nearest Via Cavour (that runs from the Termini and ends at the Coliseum). As soon as you enter Forum Romanum, you are on Via Sacra – Fifth Avenue in ancient Rome. You are walking on the very stones on which Caesar stepped on his way to his assassination in 44 b.C.! Turn right first and visit the Curia – partly resurrected, but without the marble, through. This is where the Senate convened in ancient Rome. However, the Curia was being restored on that fateful day, March 15 in 44 b.C. and Caesar had to walk all the way to the Marcellus Theatre, outside the Forum.
He had been warned repeatedly that dirty work was afoot, but he brushed aside all concerns with imprudent stoicism. The problem was, of course, that prominent political figures wished to see Rome return to the republic, and Caesar had just crowned himself emperor, which was considered less than democratic.
Among the conspirators was Brutus, Caesar’s adopted son, always portrayed as an idealist, but the facts of the matter may be that he felt upstaged by Mark Antony, another adopted son of Caesar’s who was now the old man’s favourite.
Whatever the true motive, 23 conspirators assembled at the Marcellus Theatre. Caesar’s last warning was – according to Shakespeare and Suetonius on whose chronicles Shakespeare based his play – an old soothsayer who had warned Caesar on the previous day: “Beware of the Ides of March!”. On seeing the old soothsayer, Caesar rather arrogantly said: “The Ides of March are come!” (meaning: and I’m still alive), to which the old man replied: “Ay, great Caesar, but not gone!”.
When Caesar entered the Theatre that served as a makeshift Senate house, he was immediately surrounded by the conspirators who diverted his attention with petitions, and then struck the first blow. One blow for each conspirator, 23 stab wounds in all. According to Suetonius, Caesar bravely fended for himself until he saw Brutus come at him. “Et tu, Brute?” - you too, Brutus? - and then pulled his toga over his head and gave it up.
Imagine the confusion which ensued when the fleeing senators made their report in Rome! If the conspirators had behaved as would later become custom, they would have a long list of proscriptions, names of people who had to go because of their loyalty to the deposed ruler. They didn’t – they believed that Rome would see reason and applaud the deed. The conspirators’ most grievous mistake was that they permitted Mark Antony to speak at Caesar’s corpse, in full view of the crowd. After Brutus’ lofty rhetoric about the political necessity of the murder, Mark Antony mounted the Rostra – the pulpit right in front of the Senate Building – and made a speech that everyone understood, about Caesar as his friend and a friend of the people. In the course of a short speech, and without directly reproaching Brutus and his co-conspirators, Mark Antony managed so to incense the Romans that they stormed the Senate, pulled out the benches and burnt them. They attacked and killed whoever they thought was an accomplice to the assassination.
And so, the whole power balance of the civilized world rotated on a few crucial events on that day. Brutus was beaten in the ensuing civil war and took his own life. Mark Antony entered a triumvirate with Pompey and Augustus. Pompey was murdered and Mark Antony fell for Cleopatra, so Augustus has smooth sailing to absolute power.
Go back along the Via Sacra toward the Arch of Titus at the far end of the Forum. If you opt for a relaxed afternoon on the Palatine, just turn right at the arch and spend an hour or so in the shades of the tall cypresses and stone pines on the hill where all he Roman emperors had their villas.
Otherwise, check out the Arch of Titus – on the frieze inside you see an illustration of the sacking of Jerusalem in 79 AD. Notice that the soldiers carry not only a menorah, but also the trumpets of Jericho and – presumably – the Ark of the Covenant, all looted from Solomon’s temple.

Now Coliseum rises before you at the far end of the Forum. I seem to recall that they have installed an intricate ticket system – at least for groups – so you may have to wait a while at the Coliseum, but it’s definitely worth a visit. 50,000 people could be seated in that place, and it was all part of the Roman policy of panem et circenses – provide the people with bread and entertainment, and they will never rebel. Coliseum was begun by Emperor Vespasian and finished by his son Titus in 72 AD. In spite of insistent claims to the contrary, Emperor Nero was never in the Coliseum to burn Christians as we see in Qvo Vadis, for instance. He had planned the site to house his giant palace instead, Domus Aureus, and Vespasian’s plan to make it into public area was vastly popular with everyone.
By the time the Coliseum was erected, the Christians were already gaining ground and would soon take over the whole city (although their faith did suffer a severe relapse during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, just before Constantine christened the city).


When you have done with the Coliseum and if it’s still early days, or not too close to 2 in the afternoon, you may want to go walk to Scala Santa, only half an hour’s walk away. You can get there by Via Giovanni in Laterano that starts right behind the Coliseum. When you have the huge Lateran Church on your right, the building holding the Holy Steps – Scala Santa – is right in front of you, across a big square. It was Helena, the mother of Constantine (the Emperor who christened Rome around 300 AD) who had the steps shipped in from Jerusalem. According to tradition, these 28 white marble steps had led to Pontius Pilates palace in Jerusalem, and hence these were the stairs that Christ had to climb. Consequently, none of us are allowed to step on them, but we are permitted to climb them on our knees if we say a Hail Mary or the Lord’s Prayer or some other prayer for each step.

Let’s stay in the area around Termini. In the Santa Maria della Vittoria church (on Largo di Susanna, close by Termini) you’ll find the not-to-be-missed "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. It is Bernini on his all-time humorous high. Teresa was a Spanish virgin who renounced all earthly pleasures. At the slightest inclination she would flog herself. She was rewarded by a visit from an angel who conveyed God’s order that she found the Carmelite order of nuns, a sisterhood of world-forsaking flagellants like herself.


 Teresa’s story must have sounded hysterically far-fetched to the ears of renaissance man Bernini. It has been said of the renaissance people that they built as though they would live for a thousand years and lived as though they were to die tomorrow. Determined to give Teresa what she herself so foolishly rejected, Bernini took a cue from the word ‘ecstasy’. He then depicted Teresa partly supine, legs apart and with the most dubious leer on her lips. A halfnaked, male angel rises from between her legs – well, that’s what it looks like, since Bernini has taken pains to conceal Teresa’s right foot in a maelstrom of baroque folds in her garments – and the angel aims his gilded spear right at her, well, at her ... let’s just say, that if you stand to the far right of the statue and view it from this angle, it could be her heart. Notice the gallery of elderly gentlemen on either side of Teresa and her angel; they look disturbed and whisper to each other: what are we looking at? What’s going on?’. It’s a peep show.
That’s Bernini at his best. I always imagine him chipping away at the marble blocks, laughing all the while.
Some people claim that Bernini only set out to portray Teresa’s deeply religious experience, but one look at the statue removes all doubt. In fact, a Dutch merchant who witnessed the unveiling of the in 1652, esclaimed: “If that’s the heavenly ecstasy, I know it, too!”

Let me dwell for a short while on the many folds in Teresa’s dress: this is one of the obvious differences between Renaissance and Baroque: the earlier artists always sought to depict harmony, and the dresses of their statues – if they wore clothes at all – always fell hung down neatly from the bodies. The Baroque artists, however, let the clothes move wildly to express the jubilant or anguished mind of the wearers.

From St. Teresa you go out on Via XX Settembre and proceed to Via Quintino Sella on your right. Cross Via Boncompagnia – the street of the good society – straight across, pass down Via Romagna, straight ans still straight ahead, until you reach the Borghese Park and the galleria Borghese.

Beware! You need a booking to get into the gallery. You can choose to visit the park a few days in advance, or you can visit this website:
http://www.ticketeria.it/ticketeria/borghese-ita.asp# You can also go there, get your booking and rest in the lovely, big park for a couple of hours until you’re due at the museum – but whatever you do: don’t miss the gallery!

The Galleria Borghese contains a superfluity of Bernini’s works. When you have been there, you know all you need to know about the Baroque period. You are free to roam the museum in whatever order, so I just list the unmissable works:


 My favourite 5 square inches in Rome is in Bernini’s "Pluto and Proserpina". Pluto, (whom the Greeks called Hades) god of the underworld, abducts Proserpina (or Persefone) although she is loath to go, and frightened by Cerberos, his three-headed dog. Ceres, mother of the girl, pleaded with Pluto to let her daughter go, and it ended in a bargain: she would remain with Pluto for half a year, and could return to earth the other six months. To ensure that Pluto held up his end of the bargain, Ceres, godess of fertility, let the earth be barren for as long as her daughter was absent, to bring it to fruition only when she got the girl back.
But now for my favourite square inches: look at Pluto’s fingers pressing down on teh girl’s plump thigh! You can hardly believe it’s marble! It looks so soft and lifelike.

“Aeneas” carrying leading his son and carrying his old afther out of the burning city of Troy. As you may recall, the Trojan Wars started when Prince Paris made off with Helen, the wife of Greek Menelaos. The war lasted for 10 years and ended with the fall of Troy. Aeneas rescued his son and father and became grandfather to the Roman people, according to Vergil.
In Bernini’s rendition, Aeneas also rescues a small figurine of his ancestors, so the group as such symbolizes the generations, or ancestral values. And what has interested Bernini is the different appearance of the male in three ages. Aeneas is a muscular hunk in his prime, as seen in many other statues, and the son is a small putti, a male angel, plump and pink, one can imagine. The old, decrepit father is the stroke of genius: his old, loose skin sagging around his brittle bones is expertly done.

The “David” (in a room of its own) is a youthful self-portrait of Bernini. He looks pretty muscular, but rather than to suppose that Bernini beautified himself we should consider that cutting marble is pretty good exercise. Notice the difference between Michelangelo’s David and Bernini’s: the High Renaissance artist depicted a calm, relaxed man, and it is impossible to tell whether he has just thrown the stone that killed Goliath, or is about to, or whether this shows David about to take a shower ten years after he event.
Then look at the Bernini version: one split second of concentration, every muscle tightened, everything focused on the target just before propelling the stone into Goliath’s brain.

Everyone’s favourite is "Apollo and Daphne, also in a separate room. The story goes that Apollo had fallen madly in love wth the pretty nymph Daphne and was, indeed, ‘aspiring to her bed,’ as Ovid will have it in his Metamorphosis. Quite unimpressed by the slender youthful god, Daphne fled from what she considered a fate worse than death. As Apollo gains on the girl, she pleads with the Olympian powers to help her, even if means destroying her beauty. Here’s Ovid again, relating her plea:

Gape Earth, and this unhappy wretch intomb; Or change my form, whence all my sorrows come.

And the Olympian powers concur:

Scarce had she finish'd, when her feet she found Benumb'd with cold, and fasten'd to the ground: A filmy rind about her body grows; Her hair to leaves, her arms extend to boughs:
The nymph is all into a laurel gone; The smoothness of her skin remains alone.

 The nymph is metamorphized into a laurel tree, the first in the world, in fact. But see how Bernini has captured the dynamics of Ovid’s verses – it’s almost a magic Disney moment, you’ll agree. Poor Daphne is so concentrated on her flight that she is oblivious to the fact that the transformation is taking place, even in a split second: her stretched fingers shoot leaves (look at them! So thinly chiselled that they seem almost transparent!), the bark has covered prudishly covered her abdomen, and small roots shoot out of her toes. It’s a snapshot of mythology.
Even Apollo seems baffled at the transformation; his face exhibits surprise and quite a modicum of disappointment.
Notice also how Bernini has varied his treatment of the marble: the bark is crudely cut, the leaves are velvety and only the bodies of the two youngsters are polished suggesting sweat issuing during the pursuit.

Apollo never got over Daphne, by the way. Ovid has him say:

Because thou canst not be My mistress, I espouse thee for my tree: Be thou the prize of honour, and renown; The deathless poet, and the poem, crown. Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn, And, after poets, be by victors worn.

While in the Apollo and Daphne room, do not fail to observe the ceiling, a marvellous piece of "trompe l'æuil" (French for ‘fools-the-eye’) which is to say: optical illusion. The decorations, buntings and the like, are all painted on a flat ceiling, but the effect is so well achieved that people usually have to gaze at the ceiling for several minutes before they finally believe that there are no protrusions there at all. It is indeed flat, and all done with masterful painting.

You may want to cheat on Bernini for a while and take a look at Canova’s statue of Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister, on a couch in the middle of another room. She is stark naked. Her friends were appalled that she, a noble lady, had taken off all her clothes for a sculptor, even if he was Canova. “Why shouldn’t I?” she replied, “the room was well heated.” She has an apple in her hand, the classic symbol of temptation, and Pauline believed herself to be a grat temptress, even in her older years and advanced senility. The English poet Keats used to doge her when he strolled in the Borghese Park. He was a small fellow, only 5 feet 2, and Pauline could be rather intimidating in her interest in the opposite sex.

On the top floor of Galleria Borghese you must find two of Bernini’s three self-portraits. On the first he is 26 (the age at which he made Apollo and Daphne), and in the other he is 42. Both portraits are excellent, and not without his accustomed irony. In the first portrait he looks liked a hunted animal – he is busy, isn’t he? And there is an air of ‘out of my way – here I come!” in this portrait. In the second, he is more settled – he had married by this time (he didn’t find time to marry until he was 40) and his home was already teeming with children. This Bernini has arrived – but he is still too busy to shave or comb his hair! He looks as though he has posed for a hasty snapshot, whereas, in fact, he has been sitting for his own portrait for hours.

On either side of the portraits you find two busts of Cardinal Scipio Borghese – they are identical, but still, if you look at the bust to the left, you may witness the sculptor’s worst nightmare: a hidden crack concealed in the marble, revealed only when the work is almost done! In Borghese’s bust, the crack runs across the Cardinal’s forehead. That wouldn’t do, so Bernini had to make another. Which he did, in only two weeks.

On the first floor of the galleria, you must also see Titian’s ”The celestial and the terrestrial Venus” – the clothed and the naked Venus sitting by a well with a cupid.

You can also see five or six paintings of the nutty but brilliant Caravaggio, among which ’The Prodigal Son’. The pictures do say “Michelangelo”, but it’s Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio, not Buonarotti. There are no Michelangelos in Villa Borghese.

When you leave Borghese, go though the park, not out on the street. Walk toward Porte Pinciana (check your map), stay in the eastern end of the park and make for the Spanish Steps. You arrive at the steps at Trinita dei Monti, the church, and proceed down the steps on the left side. You will pass a terrace – and this is where John Keats lived just before he died, 26 years of age. As you descend the stairs, Babington’s Tea Rooms is on your right. It’s not the cheapest place to have your tea, but do spoil yourselves. The founder of the place was related to the Babington that attempted to free Mary Queen of Scots, but eventually provided the conclusive evidence that had her beheaded.
If you are interested in English poetry, you should visit Keats’ apartment as well, for a small fee. The custodians are enlightened people and like to talk. The apartment is where Keats died, and it has been turned into memorial rooms for the younger school of romantics: Byron, Shelley and Keats. They all died in exile. As mentioned, Shelley was drowned in the Gulf of Spezia at the age of 30, and Keats succumbed to tuberculosis at 26. He had been a student of medicine and diagnosed his own illness when he found a spot of bright red blood on his pillow one morning: "I cannot be deceived by that colour" he wrote to his brother, "I must die". Coughing up dark blood is bad enough, but bright red indicates a haemorrhage straight from the lungs, and that is fatal.
As for Byron, he worried that he hadn’t died yet although he was over 30, and then he went to Greece to die a glorious death on the battlefield in the Greek liberation war, but he came down with a fever and was bled to death by his two doctors.

If I have succeeded in arousing your interest in bernini, you may want to see his own little church, a far cry from the exhuberant splendour and grandiosity of St. Peter’s. It is called Andrea Al' Quirinale and is located on the Quirinale, close to Termini. It is small indeed, very rosy in hue and slightly oval. The sight to behold in this church is the ceiling: hundreds of little putti – happy baby angels on the fat side – are flying effortlessly into the sky (the dome of a church always represents the heaven awaiting us in the afterlife), and they want us to come, they are beckoning us to follow them, as if they have failed to observe that we have no wings. The host of plump angels is swirling high above us, and when looking at the dome, you get the feeling that Bernini’s inspiration has been water running out of a sink. It seems as if someone pulled the plug of heaven and that the angels are being sucked up there, in defiance of the law of gravitation. And oh, the mirth of it! Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of Bernini, no one could be further away from the gloom that so many artists and so many churches force down on Christianity. Bernini seems to challenge us: “Who says we can’t have good time? Where is it written that we mustn’t pull a joke? If heaven is eternal bliss, let’s practise a bit while we wait.”
The inspiration of Bernini’s dome is evident: he was three times a father when he designed it, five more would follow, so soon his own house must have looked like like the ceiling of the Andrea Al' Quirinale. Filled with the fruits of the fun he himself had.

At the other end of the scale, you may peruse the Cappucine Crypt, a gruesome spectacle. Find Piazza Barberini and proceed some 35 yards up Via Vittorio Veneto, the broadest street leading from Piazza Barberini. A big stone staircase take you up to the entrance. Entrance is free, but I’ll be surprised if the Cappucine monk guarding the door does not touch you for alms.
The crypt seems to be a celebration of death. Hundreds of deceased mbrethren, along with noble supporters of the order, have had their bones exhibited in ornate patterns. When I was young and backpacking through Europe with a friend of mine, we had to spend two hours in the small crypt because my companion was a medical student and he had a field day identifying all the various bones. “Oh, here’s a wall completely decorated with fibulas! And there are femoral bones in this section!” and so on.
The skeleton of a small girl who died eight years of age is the centre piece in the last niche of the crypt. She is arranged as the Angel of Death, and I believed my old pal identified her schythe as a scapula, or shoulder blade.
On an unassuming piece of cardboard in the last niche you will find the memento mori, spoken by the dead artefacts in the crypt to the still living visitors: Quello che siete, eraviamo, quello che siamo, sarebbe – “What you are now, we once were.What we are, you will be.”

Check-off List:
The keyhole on the Aventine
Bocca della verita
"Il Delfino" (suppli)
Ignazio di Loyola
Piazza Navona (tartuffo!)
Ponte S. Angelo
St. Peter’s!
St. Peter’s toe!
Alexander VII – his tomb.
The Vatican
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
Galleria Borghese
The Spanish Steps
The Trevi Fountain.
Andrea Al' Quirinale.
The Cappucine Crypt
Scala Santa