Italy has drawn peaple in search of culture and romance for many centuries. Few countries can compete with its Classical origins, its art, architecture, musical and literary traditions, its scenery or food and wine. The ambiguity of its modern image is also fascinating:since World War II Italy has climbed into the top ten world economies, yet at its heart it retains many of the customs, traditions and regional allegiances of its agricultural heritage.
ROME, CENTRE OF THE WORLD AND OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, Italy’s capital, rises on the banks of the Tevere river about 25 kilometers from its main outlet in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is situated at the center of an undulating plain, the Campagna Romana, which is confined one side by the hills of Monte Mario, Gianicolo and Monteverde and on the other side by smaller hills of volcanic origin – the so-called “Seven Hills.” Almost three thousand years of history have made the artistic and architectural patrimony of Rome so rich that the tourist feels overwhelmed. Starting from the Roman monuments, famous worldwide, like the Coliseum or the Roman Forum, through the medieval masterpieces, up to the Baroque magnificent churches and palaces… it has been estimated that 50% of the world art is located in Rome! Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this magnificent city and to feel the flavor of “la dolce vita”.
ROME HISTORY AND ART
The legendary Romulus, in founding the future world capital in 753 BC, led his flock of shepherds and farmers up the Palatine Hill to protect them from the flooding Tiber river below as well as from the rival Etruscans across the Tiber (literally Trastevere) and Sabines on the Quirinal Hill.
From the beginning, Roman life was a fight, against nature and enemy tribes. Soon they spread over to the Capitoline Hill and Etruscan engineers drained the marsh in-between to create the Roman Forum. Here and in the adjoining areas they established the Republic with its Senate and rule of law, and later the Emperors built their Colosseum and staged their military Triumphs.
This, then, was the center of civilization from the early days of Western European history until the fall of the Roman Empire in the 4C AD.
The Space-and-Time concept called Ancient Rome stretches for about a Millennium from the banks of the Tiber to the Colosseum, passing through the Forums and the Palaces, with rays stretching to the Imperial Mausoleums to the NorthWest and along the Appian Way to the South East.
The key to understanding Rome, and its layers of human endeavor, is to separate its 4 historic epochs into the 4 corresponding areas of the city.
Christianity came to Rome with St. Peter, who was crucified on Vatican hill in 64 AD.
It was declared the State Religion of the Roman Empire in 379 AD by Emperor Theodosius. And for 1,000 years the two centers of Roman Catholicism were the Vatican hill and St. John of Lateran hill (Rome’s Cathedral).
We define Christian Rome as centered in the Vatican area, with St. Peter’s Basilica and its fortress of Castel Sant’ Angelo, to which we add the adjacent Medieval quarter of Trastevere and the places of Catholic pilgrimage: basilicas, catacombs and leading Churches.
We date Christian Rome from the 5 C to the 14 C, roughly from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the eruption of the Renaissance: the Popes ruled the city and the hearts of all the faithful.
Christian Rome and its religious establishments throughout Europe preserved Western Civilization during the Dark Ages virtually and all representational art was religious. Where the Medieval candles burned the brightest was CHRISTIAN ROME.
RENAISSANCE & BAROQUE ROME
From 1450 to 1600. Renaissance is literally the rebirth of the classical styles of ancient Rome and Greece in all the arts: literature, music, architecture, sculpture and painting. The advent of the Renaissance meant mankind was emerging from the Middle Ages.
The Papacy had returned to Rome after three quarters of a century in Avignon; artists and patrons were in a celebratory mood. In architecture, Romanesque with its heavy rounded shapes, as well as Gothic with its pointed windows and doors had lost their charm. Suddenly, the ancient Roman edifices, that had been pillaged or neglected for a millennium, seemed perfect prototypes for the buildings of this exuberant age.
Many historians say this movement started in Florence with the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Latin poetry, and soon spread to encompass the visual arts. Pope Martin V (1417-31) is credited with launching the Renaissance in Rome with his vast program of reconstructing Rome including its ancient buildings as well as restoring the early churches.
This movement culminated in the High Renaissance (1500 to 1520) when the three giants, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael were spreading their enlightenment in Rome.
From 1530-1600. Mannerism is the name given by art critics to the last phase of the Renaissance which started the transition to the Baroque, roughly 1530-1600.
Michelangelo, in the second half of his life, was principally responsible for spawning this style, typified by the distorted figures in some sculptures and portraits, with long thin necks and heads. The poses are “mannered” in the sense that they are exaggeratedly dramatic rather than natural.
This esoteric movement led to the irrational treatment of space and a sense of psychological unease, such as we see in “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel and even some of Michelangelo’s architecture such as the Laurentian Library in Florence.
From 1600 to 1750. Baroque art, and especially architecture, emphasizes decoration and movement, using classical elements but in an exaggerated manner meant to inspire religious spirituality.
It reached its apogee right here in Rome with the palaces, fountains, and sculptural tableaux of Bernini, as well as his churches, and those of the apprentice who surpassed him in architecture, Borromini.
This style, too, erupted at a period of enthusiasm and optimism, the Counter Reformation, when the Catholic Church had emerged from the ugly skirmishes with Protestant antagonists and the Popes were eagerly spending the Holy See’s riches to enhance their families and their fame.
Grim and cheerless unadorned buildings were so repugnant to the Italian temperament that this new, dynamic style, which at first was greeted with derision, was then accepted enthusiastically by the Romans.
This was the last part of the city to be developed, from the 18C till today.
Before that, there were gardens and orchards with few houses. There was a large monastery just inside Porta del Popolo, which was the grand entrance to Rome before the age of trains and planes.
The first TOURISTS gave this part of Rome an impetus; when they arrived from the north in their carriages (Via delle Carrozze – “carriages” – is here), hotels and shops sprang up to welcome them. These travelers were “Culture Vultures”. It was for Ancient Rome that they came, unlike the pilgrims who had come for Christian Rome.