thorasbook

The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reading my way through Rome

October is a wonderful month to be in Rome. But is one ever prepared for one's first trip to this magnificent city? I found I was overwhelmed by the history, the art, the museums, the campos, and the churches. We had booked our trip some months in advance and our very comfortable apartment was on the tiny Calle Orbitelli just off Via Guilla, a street laid out in the 16th century. We were within walking distance of the Pantheon, Piazza Navona with it's magnificent Bernini fountains, Campo Dei'Firoi and its energetic outdoor market, St Peters and the hip Trastevere.

It took a day or two to find our way around the neighbourhood, locating a supermarket and vegetable stand, a wine bar and a pasticceria.

Before we left, I had assembled a sizeable bibliography of fiction and non-fiction set in Rome. It wasn't easy to choose 'THE' books for the trip. Heavy suitcases are responsible for havoc on vacations. I decided to focus on Caravaggio's paintings. Jonathan Harr's wonderful THE LOST PAINTING, and Sally Vicker's THE OTHER SIDE OF YOU, piqued my curiosity. I chose to bring Francine Prose'
CARAVAGGIO PAINTER OF MIRACLES. In 146 pages, she succinctly discusses his life which was chaotic, and guides the reader through his paintings giving us insights into why many people think he is the first modern painter. She highly recommends a long work, CARAVAGGIO A LIFE, by Helen Langdon, which I will read on my return.

My first stop to see a Caravaggio was the Palazzio Corsini, only to discover that they had shipped it off to Dusseldorf for a big show. I did enjoy this lovely palazzio built in 1510 and displaying paintings by among others, Rubens, Murillo and Reni. Reni painted at the same time as Caravaggio and Caravaggio disliked his work, but I loved it.

Not all the Caravaggio's in Rome had been shipped to Dusseldorf and I found some in the Borghese Gallery, The Palazzo Barbarini and the Vatican Museum. It was an education for me that I thoroughly enjoyed.

GENIUS IN THE DESIGNS, BERNINI, BORROMINI AND THE RIVALRY THAT TRANSFORMED ROME by Jake Morrissey was my next book. It was, if I say so myself, a brilliant choice.
Talented and ambitious, these two larger than life architects could not have been more different. While Borromini was difficult and prickly, Bernini had the skills of a diplomat. They met in the building yard of St. Peters and soon became bitter enemies. As the greatest architects of their era, they designed some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Morrissey interweaves the lives of each with the politics of the time so dependent on the currrent pope's priorities.
This book proved to be a wonderful guide through St. Peters and the great Piazza.
Much of Bernini's work including The Baldacchino, the stained glass window, the sculpture of Alexander VII, was explained by Morrissey.

In Piazza Navona, home of the great Four Rivers fountain designed by Bernini we found, Sant'Agnese in Agone, the facade of which was designed by Borromini, using concave and convex shapes. Close by is a miniature masterpiece of Baroque, St. >Ivos designed by Borromini. In fact everywhere we went we found the brilliant creations of these two men.

MICHELANGELO AND THE POPE'S CEILING by Ross King brings alive the four years in Michelangelo's life as he created the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Visiting the Sistine Chapel was not the great experience I expected. The crowd and guards trying to keep everyone quiet took away from the experience. That aside, King in his book,
writes of the politics of the church, the pressure on Michelangelo, Michelangelo's own ill health and financial difficulties, and his differences with the young Raphael
I made the world of Michelangelo come alive.

More later on the guide books and maps we used as well as some fiction.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Thora--I'm so excited that you are visiting Rome, my most favourite city, and that you seemed to love my most favourite place--Piazza Navona. I'm a great Bernini fan and will definitely be reading your book choices about him. So far, I'd approached it from my "history of art" background and from just walking, observing and absorbing, but, as usual, you have book recommendations that I know will enhance my next journey to "the eternal city." Leslie H.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Thora--I'm so excited that you are visiting Rome, my most favourite city, and that you seemed to love my most favourite place--Piazza Navona. I'm a great Bernini fan and will definitely be reading your book choices about him. So far, I'd approached it from my "history of art" background and from just walking, observing and absorbing, but, as usual, you have book recommendations that I know will enhance my next journey to "the eternal city." Leslie H.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Thora, I loved your discriptions of the places you are living and the way you oriented yourselves. I saw the Sistene Chapel in 1975 and I had the same experience- crowds and guards.
Have a great trip.
Marjorey Hope

12:26 PM  
Anonymous raincoaster said...

What a great road post. Glad you solved the intrcacies of the European keyboard--nary a typo. Sorry about switching the username--I didn't mean to, it just happened and I can't figure out how to get it back. You seem to be managing with it anyway. Now I guess you're in Venice--probably harer to find an affordable computer there, but please send us just a wee post for the sheer romance of it. Are you reading Wings of Dove?

9:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home