Postcard: Sant’ Ignazio, Rome

Sant’Ignazio, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is a beautiful little church in Piazza Sant’Ignazio, Rome. I passed it about a thousand times before I ever went inside.

Chiesa Sant' Iganzio, Rome, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza Sant’Ignazio was designed to resemble a stage ,with exits on either side. It’s a quiet and pretty piazza, situated between the Pantheon and Via del Corso. Every time I see it, I always feel a little like I’ve entered another time or place. It has a very distinct atmosphere that speaks of something old world and elegant.

The interior ceiling frescoes, painted by Jesuit Andrea Pozzo in 1685, are a masterful optical illusion, creating the effect of a dome – when in fact the ceiling is flat!

The exterior, designed by architect Orazio Grassi in a baroque style, holds no clues to the beauty of the interior, nor do these photographs do it justice. Yet another place I will have to add to my list of things to see and do – again, in Rome.

Ceiling of St. Ignazio by Andrea Pozzo
There are usually notices posted here about upcoming concerts of classical music, so if that’s your thing, keep your eyes open when you are in the area.

Via del Caravita, 8a, 00186 Roma, Italy

All materials ©PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.


How To Make An Italian Neighborhood Your Own

Vicolo del Cedro @PennySadler 2013

Typical street in Trastevere

I first discovered Trastevere in 2009. I rented a room in an old apartment building without air- conditioning. It was here that I learned to do as the Romans do – luxuriate in long lunches, take a nap in the heat of the day, and generally enjoy life more. In Trastevere, I learned about “la dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.

I’ve returned to Trastevere many times since that first stay. I fell in love with the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, the warm terra cotta colors of the buildings, the friendly people, and the fact that it’s a real neighborhood where I can find everything I need within a few blocks.

San Cosimato, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Market at Piazza San Cosimato

@PennySadler 2013 Piazza San Cosimato, Trastevere

Piazza San Cosimato

I always return to the same internet cafe (I don’t travel with a computer in Europe), organic and
gluten-free market, and shop at the open air produce market in Piazza San Cosimato. In this way I get a tiny taste of what life would be like if lived in this neighborhood in Rome. Ocourse if I was living there,  I doubt I’d spend my days walking around with my camera and following those medieval winding streets wherever I fancy, but, non si sa mai, you never know.

I got to know the guy who made my cappuccino in the morning and my spritz in the afternoon, and other people in the neighborhood who recognize me to this day.

cafe in Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Taking an espresso Italian style

@PennySadler 2013 Ponte Sisto Bridge

View of Piazza Trilusa

Trastevere means trans Tiber or across the river. It has always been home to craftsmen, artists, and immigrants. In fact, many of the people I meet who have lived there for decades are expats, and tell me they can’t imagine living anywhere else in Rome.

Today there are, of course, lots of tourists. Trastevere is well known for great restaurants, pubs, and nightlife, and believe me, at night it is packed. The older part of the area around Via della Scala and Piazza Trilusa, can be quite mad with people.

But during the day the streets are relatively quiet, and locals go about their business and their work. It’s not uncommon to find an open doorway to a craftsman shop and they don’t seem to mind if you take a peek inside.

Mohsan Kosarasafir's shop in Trastevere, @PennySadler 2013

Instrument makers shop Vicolo del Cedro

Here are some ideas for things to see and do in Trastevere, whether you stay a day, a week, or longer.

There are several important churches in Trastevere: Santa Cecilia, Santa Maria and San Francesco a Ripa.

@PennySadler 2013

Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

Piazza and Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere is the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and probably the oldest church in Rome. You will recognize it by the distinctive Romaneque bell tower – and beautiful mosaics on the front glimmering in the sun.  The piazza is a central meeting point in Trastevere, and a great people watching spot. Watch out for drunks and beggars in the evening. Generally harmless, but can be annoying.

Santa Cecila is an 18th century remodel of a medieval church. It is named for St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music), who was martyred here in the 3rd century. Inside you will find the tomb of Santa Cecilia sculpted by Stefano Maderno, and some fragments of Pietro Cavallini’s fresco, The Last Judgement. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it’s on my list.

San Francesco a Ripa: this rather nondescript church houses Bernini’s famous sculpture Beata Ludovia Albertoni. Just go see it.

San Francesco a Ripa, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Piazza San Francesco a Ripa

The Museo di Roma in Trastevere. In May, this museum hosts an exhibition of World Press photographs. Other photographs and art in the permanent collection focus on depicting life in Rome from the 1950’s to the present. If you love photography, this is the place for you. I went to an exhibit last year that permanently affected the way I take photographs today.

The Gianicolo or Janiculum Hill is above Trastevere – a bit of a climb, but well worth the effort. Here you have the best views of the city and in my opinion one of the most romantic spots in Rome. Take a date if you can.

Farmacia Santa Maria della Scala – a true 17th century pharmacy now a museum and operated by monks. It’s never been open when I’m there, but I keep trying.

Eat gelato! My favorite place in Trastevere is Bar Checco. Located at Via Benedetta 7.

Relax! at a typical Roman cafe while enjoying an espresso or a drink and watch the world go by.
I’ve got several good choices and there are many more.

@PennySadler 2013

Cafe Maurizio in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere great views of the Piazza and the mosaics on the front of the Basilica.

Cafe San Calisto: Piazza San Calisto, basically adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Traditional Roman style bar and cafe.

Ombre Rose: Piazza Sant Egidio across from the Museo di Roma. A pretty spot with trees and a funky artsy vibe. Always lots of people sitting outside here.

&#64'PennySadler 2013

Bubble maker, Santa Maria di

@PennySadler 2013 Da Lucia Rome, Italy

Da Lucia

Eat! There are loads of good restaurants in Trastevere and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad meal here. A few ideas are:

Ivo’s for pizza. The place is always packed. Call ahead. Via San Francesco a Ripa.

Da Lucia. A traditional Roman restaurant also always packed. After my fifth trip I finally got in there one night without a reservation. Cacio e pepe is a must. I also had a delicious cheese omelet. Weird I know, but it tasted great with the pasta and wine. Vicolo del Mattonato.

Isola Sicilia. I’ve been here numerous times and always like it. Nice size portions of food, very fresh. If you like seafood this place is very reliable. A wee bit pricey but delicious.
Via Garibaldi.

Isole di Sicilia @PennySadler 2013

Isole di Sicilia

Walk! Trastevere is a great place for walking, as auto traffic is restricted in most areas. There are charming little local artisinal shops, and one of kind things you’ll find no where else. I love walking in Trastevere (even though a few times I thought my feet were permanently broken by the cobblestones). It has a feeling of a small village where people know their neighbors and everyone says hello. It feels like home to me.

@PennySadler 2013 Trastevere

“La dolce far niente”

Love Rome? Not sure? Read Roman Holiday.

All materials ©Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013

Postcard: Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona Rome Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza Navona, Rome

Since it’s beginning in the 1st century A.D., Piazza Navona has been a hot spot for culture and entertainment in the historic center of Rome. It is one of the prettiest piazzas in Rome, in part because of the fountains and the beautiful curved front and bell towers of the church of St. Agnes in Agony.

Like so many places in Rome, one place was built on top of another. Piazza Navona was originally the Stadium of Domitian, but was paved over in the 15th century and the Piazza Navona was created. You can now tour the remains of the stadium underground.

Once the place for chariot races and other competitive games, in the 15th century it was filled with water and naval battles and aquatic games were staged there. I find it interesting and maybe even coincidental that there are not one, but three fountains there – water is still an important feature of Piazza Navona.

The most famous fountain is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers built in front of the church, St. Agnes in Agony. On one of my visits there with an Ask a Local guide, I was told that Bernini positioned the figure of a cowering Rio de la Plata in the fountain, as if fearing the facade of the church of Sant’Agnese designed by his rival Borromini, however the fountain was completed several years before Borromini began work on the church. Apparently this is a popular legend told by tour guides.

Piazza Navona is also a great people – watching spot – you can have your portrait sketched, watch jugglers, bubble blowers, and street musicians. It’s also a great place to drop a lot of euros, but you also get a ringside seat at one of the most entertaining shows on earth.

For information on tours to see the underground Stadium of Domitian

All material copyright PennySadler 2013

Postcard: Piazza Farnese

Piazza Farnese @PennySadler 2013

Piazza Farnese, Rome

Piazza Farnese is named for the Farnese family, an important Roman family during the Renaissance period. Alessandro Farnese, who became Pope Paul III in 1534, commissioned the construction of Palazzo Farnese in 1517.

Home to the French Embassy since 1874, it was closed to the public, except for prebooked tours in French and Italian, until last spring. Tours in English are now being offered on Wednesdays, but you must book a week in advance.

Why go to Palazzo Farnese? Here’s one good reason – Palazzo Farnese houses what is considered one of the finest fresco cycles, comparable only to the Sistine Chapel! The frescoes which can be seen in the Carracci Gallery, are described as blending the transition from Mannerism to Baroque. Definitely on my list of things to see next time in Rome, along with Bernini’s angels on the Ponte San’Angelo.

More information on booking a tour can be found here.

Postcard – Altar Candles

Altar candles ©pennysadler 2013

For those of you reading who don’t know, one of the biggest news stories this past week has been the election of a new pope to head the Roman Catholic Church. Yesterday it was announced that the cardinals had elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit from South America, to be Pope Francis. He is the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European pope in 1200 years. He also happens to be the first ever, pope Francis. Though he is from Buenos Aires, his parents were Italian immigrants. I love Rome and I wish I could be there now to experience the energy and excitement of this historical moment in time.

The candles you see in the photograph are traditional altar votives found in Catholic churches. I’m a big fan of real candles and not the electric replacements you see so often now.
Though this is not a religious blog, it just seems like the right time to share this photograph.

All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013

Travel Inspiration – Bernini: Sculpting in Clay

How many times have you walked by a building, a garden, a storefront, even the produce aisle in your favorite market…and never really saw it? I’m willing to bet it happens every day, because I do it too. It’s all too easy, when we are are at home or at work, taking care of the mundane details of life, head down reading the messages on our iPhones, headphones on at the gym, rushing through the grocery store at the end of a long day so you can get what you need and get out of there as quickly as possible.

Earlier this week I went to the exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay at the Kimbell Museum of Art in Ft. Worth, Texas. Though I’ve been to Rome many times and I’ve seen many of Bernini’s real sculptures and fountains in their home environment, I was curious to see the clay models up close, at The Kimbell Museum, a beautiful space filled with natural light.

Bernini is all over Rome. Even if you never stepped inside a church or museum, you can not possibly visit Rome and without seeing at least one fountain by Bernini. The guy was prolific and very successful, working for Popes and the nobility of the day. He’s often credited with Rome becoming known as a “city of fountains.” The most widely know of these fountains is the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, a top tourist spot in Rome.

Born in Naples in 1598 to a father who was also a sculptor, Bernini was a natural. In a biography of Bernini, it is said that he carved a bust of stone when he was only 8 years old that was “the marvel of everyone.” Bernini died in Rome, in 1680, at the age of 81, after becoming one of the most influential artists of all time and transforming the look of seventeenth century Rome.

The exhibition consists of approximately forty small terracotta sculptures (called bozzetti) and thirty artist’s drawings and sketches. On the walls behind the clay models hang huge black and white photographs of the actual marble sculptures, in Rome.

My favorite part of the exhibition was the gallery devoted to the Ponte Sant’Angelo. In 1667, Pope Clement IX, commissioned Bernini to restore the bridge. Bernini’s vision was to sculpt ten larger than life angels carrying a symbol of the passion to adorn the bridge and create a procession leading to Piazza San Pietro, another Bernini masterpiece.

Bernini Sculpting in Clay at the Kimbell Musuem of Art.

Photo from the exhibition

The angels are beautiful – so beautiful that when Pope Clement saw the two angels that Bernini himself had sculpted, he declared they were too beautiful to be outside, and commanded Bernini to sculpt replacements. (the other eight were sculpted by his assistants.) The original angels live at Sant’Andrea della Fratte.

Standing in a museum, in Texas, I was struck by the fact that, as many times as I’ve been to Rome, I’ve never even walked across the Ponte Sant’Angelo or seen the angels up close – and I realized I have missed a very important piece of the history of Rome, and some amazing art.

Who would have thought that an exhibition of small clay models could inspire a trip to Rome, to study the completed sculptures? Knowledge creates understanding and understanding creates interest.

I gained a new appreciation for Bernini and the influence he had on the design of Rome, the home of the Catholic church. St. Peter’s Square is like a mini Bernini museum, and he designed the sweeping colonade that defines Piazza San Pietro. I could have easily missed going to the exhibition and justified that by the fact that I’ve been to Rome, I’ve seen the real thing. Instead, I plan to go back to Rome and this time, I will consciously seek Bernini with my head up and my eyes open.

Read more about the exhibition at the Kimbell Museum of Art.

Totally History has a nice bio on Bernini.

A biography: Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture.

Visit Bernini at Santa Maria Maggiore.

All material ©pennysadler 2013.

How Far Would You Travel for Coffee

via della Murata rome Italy ©pennysadler2013

taking an espresso

I know there are a lot of caffeine addicts reading this post – “caffeinated blogger, writer, mother, father,” etc., I read the descriptions in the profiles of blogs and social media pages. So tell the truth, how far are you willing to go for a great cup of coffee?

While I’m not a habitual coffee drinker, I’ve been known to drive six miles or more for a good cup of java.

In the U.S., Starbucks has become synonymous with coffee. You’ll often hear someone say, “I need a Starbucks.”
Personally, I do not understand how anyone who has ever had an Italian coffee could enjoy Starbucks.

I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve already told you I’m not even a habitual coffee drinker. What I know is a good coffee should be smooth and not biting on your tongue. It should be the correct temperature not too hot, not too cold, and it should smell good.

I know of one place in the Dallas area that has real Italian coffee. They use only Segafredo Zanetti coffee from Italy. It’s twenty miles from my house, but I swear it’s worth it. I’ll even set up business meetings there just so I can get a great cappuccino.

I took this photograph outside one of my favorite bars in Rome. It’s not really near where I stayed when I was there, but they consistently make a nice frothy cappuccino – totally worth a twenty minute walk. Besides, walking in Rome is one of lifes great pleasures. Can you imagine how early I had to wake up to take this photograph?

Admittedly, I’m crazy for anything Italian, but I’ve also had delicious coffee in Spain, Mexico, and probably some places I can not recall at the moment.

So tell me, how far will you go, literally or figuratively, for a good cup of coffee?

All materials ©pennysadler 2012 – 2013