Mondays in Rome
Most of Rome's museums and sites with the exception of churches and the Vatican are closed to the public on Mondays, but here are a few ideas:
- Basilica of San Clemente with its 3 layers stacked one on top of the other is like a journey through time, from the 12th century church to the oldest level which is made up of an ancient Roman house, a place of worship dedicated to Mithras and an industrial building.
- The Keats and Shelley Museum at Piazza di Spagna is a tiny museum dedicated to the Romantic poets in the house where the young poet Keats died in 1821. Letters, relics and paintings amid walnut bookshelves give this place a unique atmosphere. Complete the experience by going to the nearby Caffe Greco for a Cappuccino for a feel of what life was like for a 19th century Grand Tourist.
- The Jewish Museum located along the river banks under the synagogue is a must for anyone with an interest in Rome's Jewish community, the oldest in Europe dating back to 161 BC. The ticket includes a guided visit to the modern synagogue and the old Spanish synagogue.
- The Doria Pamphili Gallery has charm and tranquility and is a great opportunity to see some fine paintings in a fine setting. Velasquez's Pope Innocent is probably the most haunting image but paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian all make this an important collection.
- Villa Farnesina in Trastevere is open in the mornings up to 1230, a beautiful interior decorated for one of Europe's wealthiest men 500 years ago, complete with a trompe l’oeil set of tapestries depicting scenes from the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, within a framework of garlands showing exotic fruits from the New World.
- 4 of Rome's 5 sets of Catacombs are open to the public on Mondays, check the website www.catacombe.roma.it for openings hours and details.
Here are a few books to help you get a feeling for the city and the area around Rome:
- Rome - The biography of a city by Christopher Hibbert
Hibbert takes the reader through the different phases of this city's complex development with a straight forward and seemingly simple style. The chapters are short and the illustrations help to put a face to some of the names or conjure up a view of the city at a given moment in time. An appendix gives a quick reference to the main monuments, each briefly described and in chronological order as they appear in the text. A bit large as a guide book but a superb introduction.
- Michelin - The Green Guide Rome
A good balance between details, background and photos, this classic guide book breaks the city down into walks through different areas, with monuments not to be missed given a star rating and a number of chapters dedicated to specific themes of general interest like the families who made Rome, Ancient Roman Art and Architecture etc. Clear floor plans, crisp layout and a practical index and info section make this a portable but pleasing choice.
- Blue Guide Central Italy with Rome and Florence
This guidebook takes all the places mentioned in these itineraries. In depth, with a factual almost list-like approach, covering every region, city, town and hamlet. Good maps of Florence, Arezzo, Orvieto and Rome. Particularly recommended for anyone who knows that they will be making more than one trip to Italy in the next 10 years.
- A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester
For an understanding of the transition from the medieval world to the modern world this book touches on many of the discoveries, characters and circumstances which allowed that change take place. Detailed, vivacious and a good read.
- Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King
A well researched book which retells the story of Michelangelo's incredible painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, details which bring out the political climate and artistic rivalries present in Rome at the time.
- The Pope's Daughter by Caroline Murphy
A recent publication with many of the same characters as the volume by Ross King set at the time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling but this time events are seen from a woman's perspective, complete with papal intrigues and the difficulties of marrying into one of Rome's oldest families.
- Bernini by Howard Hibbard
An excellent biography which puts Baroque art in context. Bernini was a great exponent of triumphant Catholicism, serving 8 popes, several monarchs and uncounted cardinals in the period which followed the Catholic Counter Reformation. A slender book illustrated throughout with black and white photographs.
- The Rough Guide History of Italy by Jonathan Keates
Literally a pocket-sized overview picking out the key events year by year from pre-Roman times to the present-day, with inserts, maps and quotes to give extra depth. For anyone who likes to have a quick reference book on them at all times.
- The Insider's Guide to Rome by Nick Wyke
For a taste of Rome beyond the obvious highlights this guide covers some of the city's more recent places of interest like Villa Torlonia, Cinecittà, flea-markets, wine bars and where to pick up a slice of "pizza al taglio".