Sunday, 18 July 2010

Rome Celebrates Caravaggio

July 18, 2010 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). To honour the Baroque artist, the Borghese Gallery offered free admission starting Saturday July 17th at 7:00 p.m. and through the night until 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The current Borghese Gallery collection includes five Caravaggio Masterpieces: Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593), David with the Head of Goliath (1610), Madonna dei Palafrenieri (1605), Saint John the Baptist (1610), Saint Jerome (1605), and Self Portrait as Bacchus (1594). Another four works will be on display for the event, including Narcissus (1597), Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598), Saint John the Baptist (1603) and Saint John the Baptist (1602).

Three churches that house Caravaggio paintings were also open all night, including the Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo, the Basilica Di Sant’Agostino and the San Luigi dei Francesi church.

I went to see the exhibit at the Borghese Gallery at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. There were hundreds of people in line and at least a three hour wait. To avoid the long wait, I left and went back at 3:30 a.m. I still ended up waiting in line for over an hour but it was well worth the wait.

In addition to the viewing the spectacular Caravaggio paintings on display, visitors were able to walk around the first floor of the Gallery and enjoy a number of other works by famous artists like Canova, Bernini and Raphael, among others.

In Rome, there seems to be an infinite number of things to see and do. The Borghese Gallery should definitely not be missed. Remember to book ahead (see below).

Further information about Caravaggio

Further information about the Borghese Gallery

Borghese Gallery Ticket Information

Monday, 12 July 2010

Keep Cool with Grattachecca!

Italian ices, known as granite (plural), are a popular cold Italian specialty among tourists and Italians alike. A granita (singular) is similar to a slushee, consisting of a partially frozen mix of fruity syrup and water. You can also find coffee granita, which is often served with fresh whipped cream on top.

Granite, like Italian ice cream (gelato), can be found almost anywhere throughout Italy, but there is another drink that should not be overlooked when visiting Rome: grattachecca.

Grattachecca was created by the Romans before refrigeration, when ice blocks were used to keep food cold. During the heat of summer, the Romans would grate ice into a glass, add fruit syrup, and top it off with fresh fruit.

With the increasing popularity of granita and gelato, there has been a decline in the number of grattachecca stands in Rome, however, you can still enjoy this refreshing summer treat at several kiosks around the city. My favourite grattachecca kiosk can be found in front of the Ara Pacis Museum, at Lungotevere in Agusta and Via Porto di Ripetta. The owners have been at this location for decades and, what sets them apart, is that they make their own syrup from fresh fruit rather than buying pre-made, more sugary syrups in bottles. Another popular kiosk, particularly at night, is in Trastevere, beside Tiber Island.

Grattachecca typically costs between 2 and 4 euros, depending on the size and how many fruit flavours you want.