Rome was like a big beautiful breathe of fresh air after leaving Naples. At first site I could tell that this was the Italy I had pictured in my daydreams. The buildings were clean and colorful and every square inch of scenery was filled with something to be admired—cafes, flowers, people, architecture, history! I swear the entire city smells like Jasmine and every new building is built over some vital piece of ancient history!
My itinerary for my first day in Rome was to find the Galleria de Borghese. I had read that this was one of the best private art collections in the world and being alone on this journey, I wasn't about to let a great art gallery stroll pass me by!
As my journeys usually go, it took me all day (five hours) to find the gallery. Every time I asked someone for directions they pointed in a different way. I had no wife and the offline maps I was using kept showing me I was close to the location, even though I literally walked all over the city. Even the few street signs inside the Borghese Gardens couldn't make up their mind which direction to point me in! I guess it was all in good fun though, because on my journey to the Borghese Gallery, I saw a huge chunk of Rome!
First, I turned the corner of a long street and lost my breathe at the site of the Colosseum. Much like the first time I fell upon the Sydney Opera House, I was in awe at how huge the historic landmark was. I walked on and on until I was finally right up under it. I gapped at how marvelous it was. Such an old, iconic piece of history and here it was, right before my eyes as if it were built yesterday! My friends in Naples had told me to skip the lines for the fight inside because it wasn't much to see, especially compared to Pompeii, so I walked on past and found more treasures!
I believe what I came upon next was the Roman Forum, which is an area that houses all the ancient parts of Rome. Here I saw the columns and the former city square where so much history took place. Even the place where Caesar was buried!
Continuing on down the road I saw the most beautiful buildings. I didn't know what exactly they were but I recognized their significance and marveled at their beauty.
I walked on and found fountains and stair steps and churches and more ruins. Again, I didn't know what they were but they were all so fascinating I had to stop and stare and read and photograph!
I thought this was the Spanish Steps, but it wasn't.
I thought this might be Trevi Fountain, but it wasn't.
On and on I walked in search of my art gallery but all I found were more interesting alleyways, restaurants, people, flowers and ruins. The whole walk was entirely wonderful to take in. All of my senses were on full alert as I meandered on through the city center.
After hours of searching and wandering and walking, I finally made my way up to somewhere near the Borghese Gardens. Here I found another monument and another famous church but the real beauty was the view of the city below! I stopped and stared in awe for several minutes before trekking on up the path towards what FINALLY revealed itself to be the Borghese Gardens.
Inside the gardens I wandered for a good hour and a half before finally finding the gallery. The gardens were peaceful and serene and full of enchanting music and gorgeous sculptures, but they could not have prepared me for the beautiful artwork I was to encounter inside the gallery.
Previously I had heard of Bernini, but I didn't know or respect any of his work. This gallery made me a diehard fan. His sculptures were moving and I am trying to figure out how to get an original in my front yard without robbing a bank. Gosh they are gorgeous! And the stories behind the sculptures themselves, mostly Greek gods and goddesses, are stupendous!
Each room of the gallery was decorated from floor to ceiling with artwork, sculptures, and frescoes. The floors were covered in marble and mosaics and for the first time in a long time my senses were completely overwhelmed with the exquisite beauty around me.
The story is that Scipione Borghese was the nephew of Pope Paul V. The Pope named Scipione the Cardinal of Rome and encouraged him to collect art. Borghese made it his life mission. Bernini, Raphael and Caravaggio are just a few of the famous artists he devotedly collected. He also designed a large portion of the gallery and even the two secret gardens outside of the gallery. One particular garden even housed exotic birds!
After a good two hour stroll through the gallery I was on top of the world. Yes my feet were numb, my neck was aching from sunburn and my stomach was growling, but the art had made it all worth while. Reloading my maps, I found an easy route back to the hostel. It wasn't long before I found an adorable cafe next to the railway where I stopped for appertivo, which was actually only peanuts. After an Italian Spritzer, which I must look up the recipe for, I ordered ravioli with scampi sauce. It didn't change my life like the Napoli pizza, but it was delicious and went down well with a glass of white wine.