One thing you learn quickly in Rome is that there is not a lot of contemporary architecture in the historic center. Newer high profile works tend to be clumped at the edges, like Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica and Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI Museum. So it’s notable when a bold new work, like the Ara Pacis Museum, muscles its way into the historic core.
The Ara Pacis, or “altar of peace” is a remarkable artifact. Lost for over a thousand years, it was discovered piece by piece, over centuries, and involved everyone from archaeologists to members of nobility and even Mussolini himself. (more…)
Of all the places you might find the Capuchin crypt, the Via Veneto in Rome seems to be the unlikeliest location. But amid this district of four star hotels, expensive restaurants and swanky habitués, there resides a strange ossuary that has survived the centuries. Here, five successive chambers are decorated in carefully wrought patterns and vignettes constructed entirely of human bones and mummified corpses. (more…)
Originally named E42, EUR stands for Esposizione Universale Roma, a worlds fair that Benito Mussolini and his administration planned for 1942, to celebrate 20 years of Fascist rule in Italy. The exposition, of course, never happened, due to the intervening of World War II. This district, located on the edge of Rome’s historical center, was intended to showcase the new Italy and its leadership, and was built according to a master plan by architect Marcello Piacentini. (more…)
The idea of re-purposing outmoded structures for cultural purposes is not a new one, but the marriage of industrial architecture and classical archaeology of the Centrale Montemartini Museum in Rome achieves a particular alchemy that is worth seeking out. Visiting the museum provides, as the curators so eloquently put it, an “Olympian calm,” a state of mind that is woefully missing at more well-known sites in the Eternal City. Here, classical sculptures co-exist beautifully with the vestiges of a thermoelectric plant, each stronger for the pairing, their artistry heightened by the visual dichotomy. (more…)
In the northern section of the Lazio region, lies the village of Bomarzo and its wondrous Parco dei Monstri. Accessible chiefly by car, the park is 60 miles north of Rome.
Parco dei Monstri was built between 1572-74 by Pier Francesco Orsini, known as Vicino Orsini. Orsini called the park his “boschetto” or little wood. It was most likely created by Pirro Ligorio, a prominent architect and garden designer who also designed the Villa D’Este in Tivoli, near Rome. Very little is known, however, about the sculptors themselves. The figures are carved from tufo, the volcanic rock that blankets this section of Lazio. A soft stone, tufo is easy to sculpt and rough-hewn in appearance. The scale is, well, monstrous and the figures loom in mute poses of victory, agony or imperious reverie. Now mossy and softened with age, many still bear traces of their original paint. Dragons snarl, Neptune reclines and nymphs beckon in this garden of unearthly sites. (more…)