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Jun 30, 2013

Tripadvisor awards Park of the Aqueducts: 6th most popular park in Italy for travellers from around the world!

(from the photo-gallery)
TripAdvisor, the largest travel site in the world, just in time for Summer, announced its first ever Travelers’ Choice Attractions awards, honoring over 1,200 of the world’s top landmarks, parks, museums.   This first edition has recognized 1,263 attractions divided into historic sites, museums, parks and amusement parks.
Winners of the 2013 Travelers Choice Attractions are distributed in 39 countries around the world.

If in the top ten of the Italian sights St.Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum and Pantheon are not really a surprise (http://www.tripadvisor.it/TravelersChoice-Attractions-cLandmarks) what it’s very interesting is that Rome also won two positions in the top 10 of the most popular Italian parks for travelers from around the world. Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest park in the capital, is ranked 5th in the top ten, closely followed by the Park of the Aqueducts, which gained a sixth position!

Like no other place, it has preserved the charm and the atmosphere envisioned by travelers of the Grand Tour.  Crossed by six of the eleven major aqueducts built by the Romans plus a Renaissance one (the Aqua Felix, built in 1585 under Felice Peretti: pope Sixtus V, using the arches of the Aqua Marcia).

The most ancient acqueduct in the Park is the Anio Vetus (3rd century B.C.), almost entirely underground, the most conspicuous is the Aqua Claudia whose imposing arches still survive
above ground in the peaceful contryside where you can still see sheep grazing.  The aqueducts are supplied from natural springs in the upper valley of the Aniene beyond Tivoli, in the Alban Hills.

11 acqueducts in the Ancient Rome brought more than 200 million gallons of water into the city every day!

This wonderful park is also easy to reach: best approach from Via Lemonia.
Buy a metro ticket (€1,50), get on the metro line A, direction Anagnina and get off the at Subaugusta station. Exit toward via Tito Labieno and walk down via Tito Labieno a few blocks (about 600 m) to the park. 
When you cross via Quintilo Varo, you will know you are headed in the right direction.
Cross via Lemonia and you are there!

Jun 29, 2013

Correggio's Danae: a soft porn or Virgin Mary's prefiguration?

Danae by Correggio (1531) - Borghese Gallery - Rome.

In Greek mythology Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos was imprisoned in a tower after an oracle predicted the king  that her son would kill him.  But men cannot fight Fate and Zeus visited her in the form of a golden shower.   Perseus, born from this divine union, will accidentally kill the king as the prophecy had foreseen. 
Interpretations of Danae have been ambivalent and often contradictory. 
For misogynist Roman poets she was interpreted as a venal woman whose love can be bought for money. 
The myth was Christianized during  the 14th century and she became a sort of 'Virgin Mary', giving birth, impregnated by the Holy Spirit. 
Artists like Correggio and Titian in the Renaissance underlined the sensuality of the scene.
Coreggio’s Danae was mistakenly interpreted as a Venus by Vasari. 
A 'soft porn', part of a cycle of Jupiter’s Loves which Correggio painted towards the end of his life.  Commissioned by Federico Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, who continued the glorious patronage of arts started by his mother Isabella d’Este. 
Correggio's style reinterprets freely Raphael and Leonardo's suggestions.  This is one of my favourite paintings at the Borghese for its fascinating ambiguity:  how shall we interpret Cupid's gesture?  Is he trying to prevent  or to favour the 'union'?  Is he covering or uncovering Danae?

Jun 28, 2013

A Day at Ostia: 5 good reasons not to miss it!

Ostia Antica is an underestimated attraction:  it should be a must, especially if you can't make it to Pompei.

1) After Pompei and Herculaneum it's Italy's best preserved Roman town.  Ostia was the port of Rome and a prosperous city with a theater, temples, baths, condominiums and patrician villas. It provides a vivid picture of Rome's everyday life!

2) It's located at about 25 km from the city and can be easily reached by train (metro B from Stazione Termini to Piramide stop and from there take a Lido train to Ostia Antica).
3) In summer classics are staged inside the ancient  Roman theater (http://www.ostianticateatro.it/).

4) If you are travelling with kids it's a perfect destination:  they will just love the combination nature & ruins.  Don't forget swim-suits and sunblock:  you can easily reach the beaches by train (just a few minutes). The water is not exactly crystal clear but the coast is lively, there are nice beach clubs (stabilimenti)  and the dark sand accelerates tanning!

5) No matter where you go you'll find bars serving delicious caprese salad, panini or pasta and also good fish restaurants.