It’s Back! Rome’s Cultural Week returns this Friday for ten full days of free visits to museums, galleries, archaeological sites and palazzi. Time for you to plan your attack. Peruse Nile Guide for a replete listing of cultural locales, and create the perfect plan. Where will I go? Well, I usually get thematic and plan packed days of running around the city for paintings and sculptures. Here’s a toast to Fresco Friday with my favorite archaeologist Darius Arya:
1. Palazzo Massimo: the third floor has rooms of frescoes from “Villa under the Farnesina” discovered during the construction of the flood walls of Tiber. The rooms are reconstructed environs from the actual site. Look for the winter dining room (it’s black background was to absorb sun’s rays )and the three cubicula (bedrooms) with vaulted, figurative white stucco ceilings.
2. The Palatine Hill: You can probably spend all morning on the Palatine hill in search of beautiful frescoes. Hot spots include:
- House of Augustus: a conglomeration houses purchased by Augustus, with multiple storied structures totaling almost 10,000 sq meters. The visit consists of 4 rooms, preserved due to the fact that they were buried under foundations of later, imperial structures. The 2nd story room might have been his private study.
- Aula Isiaca: beautifully displayed ancient frescoes with Egyptian motif decorationfound underneath “basilica” hall in Domitian’s palace is Augsutan/ Gaius -dated. Now located in a room to the south of the Palatine Antiquarium museum this room is occasionally open to the public.
- House of the Griffins: 2nd century BC frescoes in a house 20 feet below ground level in area surrounding Domitian’s Palace, again open on special occasions.
- Palatine Antiquarium: Room of Augustus has some frescoes and the adjacent room has exquisite examples from the Domus Transitorium (built by Nero, destroyed by fire of 64) with scenes from Trojan war cycle
4. Castel Sant’Angelo: a medieval papal stronghold built on the cylindrical Mausoleum of Hadrian, 2nd century AD. The popes decorated the upper chambers with lavish frescoes. Head to the 4th floor room of Amor and Psyche, circa mid-16th century.
5. Pyramid of Gaius Cestius - refined well preserved 3rd style frescoes line the robbed out funerary chamber. Technically, this visit wouldn’t be part of Fresco Friday, but Saturday when “theatrical” visits to the Pyramid at 10, 11 and 12 pm. And then hop a local train (1 euro) across the station across the street to Ostia Antica for 2-3rd century AD wall paintings preserved in situ. Most are in the Garden Houses including the House of the Painted Vaults, House of the Muses, House of the Yellow Walls, and House of the Ierodule. These are of exceptional value and our best examples of wall paintings from the 2nd-3rd century ad– a continuation of decoration beyond Pompeii.
Bonus points: Catacombs of Santa Priscilla- Though not part of Cultural Week, a visit to Santa Priscilla is well worth its ticket price. These catacombs are not disneyfied like some of the others, and more importantly they contain beautiful and historically important frescoes like the 2nd century fresco of the Virgin Mary, perhaps the oldest image and the Greek Chapel, 2nd-4th century with scenes of Madonna and Child, Banquet scene, Daniel and lions, Resurrection of Lazarus, Sacrifice of Abraham, and Noah.
Settimana della Cultura Ministry of Culture’s Culture Week break-down
Musei in Comune, City of Rome’s multi-lingual listing of Rome-run museums
Want to visit rarely open to the public palace’s, take look at New York Time’s In Transit