Goethe’s Italian Journey

Probably my favourite of the museums and locations I’ve visited in Rome on previous trips is the Keats-Shelley Museum by the Spanish Steps. It’s a quiet oasis of 18th century England amidst the crowds of tourists milling around the Piazza di Spagna. It’s a few years since I was there and I didn’t repeat the visit on this recent trip.

K S House

Keats Shelley House, Rome, on Second Floor with Landmark Trust Apartment Above

Spanish Steps in March

Crowds on the Spanish Steps – in early March

Babbingtons

Babington’s English Tea Room by the Spanish Steps

But I did discover the existence of the Casa di Goethe in my LV Guide Bari, Milan, Naples, Rome 2012. So my final port of call in the City of Rome itself (after fortification at Canova) was a visit to the Casa di Goethe on the Via del Corso nearby. I wrote a little bit about Goethe earlier this year. Here is another place of peace and calm and amazingly right on the Via Del Corso.

via del corso

In September 1786, Goethe started out on the longest journey of his life. He was 37 when he achieved his dream of visiting Italy. He later wrote in his journal “Italienische Reise”, that he had spent the happiest period of his life there. On his arrival in Rome he stayed on the Via del Corso with his painter friend Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, scion of a dynasty of renowned artists. This huge apartment, which gives onto the Piazza Del Popolo, is still redolent of Goethe’s time here during his Grand Tour of 18th-century Italy. It has superbly painted coffered ceilings which are set off by the white of the walls. On display are writings, letters, annotations, and drawings, as well as the paintings of his friend Tischbein.

g in roman countryside

The most famous of them, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, was painted on this very spot in 1787, although the version seen here is only a copy, the original being in the Staedelsches Kunstmuseum in Frankfurt. It never fails to impress all the same. This sumptuous collection of artworks and documentary material gives us an idea of what the journey to Italy meant at the time for artists and cultivated travellers. The Casa di Goethe also offers temporary exhibitions that encourage German-Italian cultural relations. By appointment it’s possible to visit the Library which holds a number of first editions of Goethe’s work.” [LV Guide Rome 2012]

welcome

Welcome to the Casa!

This is the only German Museum on foreign soil and it was opened to the public in 1997 with support of the German Government and German cultural associations. Regular events are held here – readings, lectures, conferences, discussions and concerts – followed by gatherings and discussions in the library over a glass of wine. The Museum is also able to offer scholarships (sponsored by DaimlerChrysler) to literary figures, publishers, scientists, translators, and artists, allowing them to spend a few months in Rome collecting ideas and inspiration for their own work or finishing off projects. The work doesn’t have to be related to Goethe.

library

Goethe Library in Rome

The first few rooms are dedicated to the temporary exhibitions; currently Thomas Mann and his Italian novella Mario and the Magician. Displays relate to the historical and political background as it was written during the rise of Nazism and Fascism. The notes were all in German and as time was tight I didn’t spend much time in these rooms but moved on to the rooms occupied by Goethe at the front of the building.

ceiling 1

ceiling 2

ceiling 3

ceiling 4

Painted Coffered Ceilings

The restored painted wooden ceilings, which date back to Goethe’s time, contrast well with the pale walls which show off the displays and pictures. No furniture or furnishings dating back to Goethe’s time here. To me they are reminiscent of Swiss and German chalet decorations.

I was glad that I bought the excellent illustrated guide book. The first section, as in the rooms themselves, tells the story of Goethe’s time in Rome and Italy. There then follow pages of quotations by Goethe himself from his letters and his journal Italian Journey and by his friends and colleagues. Many of these quotations also accompany the room displays.

cast of jupiter

“I could not resist buying the cast of a colossal head of Jupiter . It now stands in a good light facing my bed, so that I can say prayers to him the first thing in the morning.” (Italian journey 25 December 1786

Piranesi print

Piranesi Print of the Caius Cestius Pyramid

“Water pipes, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, the stadium, temples! And then the palaces of the Ceasars , the graves of the great – with these images I have fed and strengthened my mind.” to Carl Ludwig von Knebel 17 November 1786

bust by trippel

1787 bust of J. W. v. Goethe by Alexander Trippel

In goethe's room

Goethe’s Room

G at window

Tischbein ‘s watercolour of Goethe at the window

1991 and 1992 were excellent years for the acquisition of many Goethe related papers, books and artefacts by the Casa including the Andy Warhol iconic contemporary adaptation of Tischbein ‘s portrait. Also some autographs of Goethe’s including a letter card written in his own hand and giving his rome address and the Goethe library of publisher Richard Dorn.

Warhol

Screen Print and Acrylic on Linen 1982

At the very end of the guide book is a list of museums and memorials to Goethe in both Italy and in Germany. Amongst those listed is the grave of his son, August, in the Protestant Cemetery. Interestingly, even though he was an adult at death his father arranged for the following to be inscribed on his gravestone.

GOETHE FILIVS / PATRI / ANTEVERTENS / Obiit / Annor [VM] XL / MDCCCXXX (Goethe’s son / father / above / died / 40 years / 1830)

August Goethe

 

 

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A Roman Road : Walking The Appian Way

AA wall sign

A walk along the Appian Way was something I’d read about in my Quiet Rome book and in other guides so I’d added it to my ‘to-do’ list for when I was next in Rome. I studied various ways to approach the way and in the end booked the excursion ‘Catacombs and Roman Countryside Group’ with Enjoy Rome. I’ve written about the Catacombs and Aqueduct visits already. Now its the turn of The Appian Way. You’ll have noticed already that it was a rainy day but nevertheless we did manage a brief walk for a few hundred metres and now, maybe on a future visit, I feel confident to take public transport and do a further walk like the 90-Minute one described in the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guide.

cecilia metella

Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

We were a small group of 15 and the half-day excursion included travel by minibus from the ER offices near Termini Station and back. From the Catacombs we bumped and jostled (I don’t recommend doing this by car!) along the Way and finally parked opposite the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella on the Third Mile Section.

wet way

A wet Appian Way

From here we took to the wet cobbles of the road which had been built to link Rome with Brindisi in southeast Italy. The road is named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor who began and completed the first section as a military road to the south in 312 BC. It is a Roman standard 4 metres wide surfaced with ancient basalt flagstones and flanked on either side by private villas (many built upon the original Roman foundations), cypress trees and pines. Needless to say the basalt cobbles were rather slippery when wet.

AA Villa

Villa along the Way

AA Cafe

The Bar Caffe del Appia Antica

Refreshment stops along the Way are few and far between but this cafe hires out bikes in summer and is (apparently) near the bus stop for the 660 which would take you to Metro Station San Giovanni – but don’t take my word for it!!

St Nicholas church

St Nicholas Church on The Appian Way

After the excursion I took the Metro to the Piazza del Popolo, crossed it in the rain and took shelter at Canova to eat a five cheese lunch and watch the dripping brollies go by!

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza Del Popolo

Canova lunch

Five Cheeses and What looks like Jelly but tastes like Hot Mustard!

Water, water everywhere: The Caracalla Baths and The Claudio Aqueduct

The trip to The Protestant Cemetery took less time than I had envisaged and I’d booked the Appian Way walk so, as a friend had recommended seeing the Baths of Caracalla and they were just one Metro stop away, I decided to spend a couple of hours there, even though it started to drizzle with rain.

aerial view

Aerial View of the Baths

impression

Artist’s Impression of Caracalla

Now, Colchester may be full of Roman superlatives but, as you probably know, Rome knocks every other place that was part of the Roman Empire, into a cocked hat when it comes to remains. The Caracalla Baths are HUGE. The walls tower over you and the scale of everything was (and still is) vast.

Caracalla 1

caracalla 2

These, the largest and best preserved thermal baths, were entirely built by Emperor Caracalla since AD212. Apparently 9,000 workers were employed daily for approximately five years to create a huge platform 337m x 328m. Water was brought to the bath house by aqueduct and the whole place was abandoned after the siege of Rome when the Goths destroyed the aqueduct and cut of the supply of water to the city.

mosaic

Many of the decorations and works of art were removed from the site over the centuries. There is a particularly fine collection in the Vatican Museum since several popes were involved with excavations. Some mosaics remain roughly in situ but otherwise there are few artefacts remaining. There had been bronze statues in niches, fountains, marble floors and columns and painted frescoes.

mosaic pavement

mosaic close up

Romans enjoyed board games and a tabula lusoria has been preserved here. Many such gaming boards were carved into floors and, as here, round the edges of pools. The game involved getting a walnut (or marble or knucklebone) into the holes.

natatio

The Natatio was a huge Olympic size swimming pool – the board game is alongside – is 50m x 22m and the walls are 20m high. It was not very deep and certainly not suitable for diving.

the natatio

The Pool Today

original baths

Artist’s Impression of the Pool in its Heyday

cypress trees in gardens

The Gardens – Cypress Trees – at Caracalla

Following our visit to the Catacombs and walking along the Appian Way our Enjoy Rome Tour included a visit to the extensive remains of the Claudio Aqueduct. The aqueduct was one of several that supplied Roman Rome with its water.

Claudio Aqueduct

The Claudio Aqueduct

The Parco degli Acquedotti is a public park about 8 kilometres from the city. It is part of the Appian Way Regional Park and is of approximately 15 ha. The park is named after the aqueducts that go through it. My guess is that it’s not easy to reach by public transport but I was glad to have seen it as I had no idea of its existence before.

approaching aqueduct

Approaching the Aqueduct

Next up is a report of my visit to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli where there is even more Roman water!

Death in Rome : The Protestant Cemetery and The Catacombs of San Callisto

One visit I had promised myself on this trip to Rome was pay to a call at the Cimitero Acattolico or, as usually known in English, The Protestant Cemetery at Rome.

pyramid

“The cemetery is an open space among ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think one should be buried in so sweet a place”

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Adonais: an elegy on the death of John Keats (1821)

I checked the website carefully before leaving home and made extra sure that Saturday 14 March was not a holiday and so after taking the train from Tivoli to Rome I made my way to the cemetery. When you emerge from the Pyramide Metro Station you can’t miss the huge Pyramid to Gaius Cestius and the cemetery is right next door: but you risk life and limb when crossing the roads to get to it!

Thomas Hardy wrote a poem entitled

“Rome at the Pyramid of Cestius Near the Graves of Shelley and Keats (1887)”

Who, then, was Cestius,
And what is he to me? –
Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous
One thought alone brings he.

I can recall no word
Of anything he did;
For me he is a man who died and was interred
To leave a pyramid

Whose purpose was exprest
Not with its first design,
Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest
Two countrymen of mine.

Cestius in life, maybe,
Slew, breathed out threatening;
I know not. This I know: in death all silently
He does a kindlier thing,

In beckoning pilgrim feet
With marble finger high
To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street,
Those matchless singers lie . . .

–Say, then, he lived and died
That stones which bear his name
Should mark, through Time, where two immortal Shades abide;
It is an ample fame.

cemetery

I was not disappointed. It’s truly an oasis of peace and tranquility. It’s divided into sections pre- and post- 1821; which is why Shelley’s ashes are not buried near Keats’s grave.

keats and severn

The Graves of Keats and Severn (and Severn’s son)

‘Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water’ [The only words Keats wished to be on his gravestone]

‘This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone’ [Words added by his friends Joseph Severn and Charles Brown]

To Shelley's

shelley's

‘Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange’

From Shakespeare’s The Tempest [Shelley was drowned and only his ashes are buried here]

There is an especially good chapter about the cemetery in Peter Stanford’s “How to read a graveyard“.

shop and info

There’s a small bookshop and information office (above) near the entrance and the English guide helped me to pinpoint the grave of a little-known Australian author whose books I enjoy : Martin Boyd.

MB grave

His best-known book is “Lucinda Brayford” but I’ve enjoyed reading his Langton tetralogy lately :

The Langton tetralogy which, though not published as a series during his lifetime, is now referred to as a collective:
The Cardboard Crown (London, England: Cresset Press, 1952.)
A Difficult Young Man (London, England : Cresset Press, 1955.)
Outbreak of Love (London, England: John Murray, 1957.)
When Blackbirds Sing (London, England: Abelard-Schuman, 1962.)

MB headstone

Martin Boyd’s Headstone

Even though the Protestant Cemetery was high on my list this visit I also hoped to walk some of the famous Appian Way, the Roman road that connects Rome with Brindisi in southeast Italy. I read in my guidebooks how to get there and which were the best parts to see then noticed in small inset box this note : Enjoy Rome offers a 3-hour bus and walking tour of the Appia Antica … Call for tour times.

At Catacomb

At the Catacombs

I discovered that the Enjoy Rome office is very near to Termini Station so I bought a ticket for the Tuesday 10am departure. The first stop of the excursion is at The Catacombs of San Callisto. We were able to descend into a maze of tunnels and see various types of burial chambers with and without mural decorations.

entrance

“Ancient Roman law forbade burials, regardless of religion, inside the city walls. San Callisto is one of the most famous of over 60 catacombs in the city area. There are multiple levels of 1900 year old hand-dug corridors, past a mind-boggling number of tomb niches. Christian-themed inscriptions and frescoes, often endearingly simplistic but carrying strong messages of faith, are everywhere in the catacombs.” [Adapted from Frommer’s Rome Day-By-Day] Several Popes were entombed here.

“The Crypt of St. Cecilia: the popular patron saint of music. Of a noble Roman family, she was martyred in the 3rd c. and entombed where the statue now lies. She was venerated in this crypt for at least five centuries. In 821 her relics were transferred to Trastevere, in the basilica dedicated to her.

St Cecilia pc

The statue of St. Cecilia is a copy of the celebrated work sculptured by Stefano Maderno in 1599.
The crypt was all covered with mosaics and paintings (beginning of the IX Century). On the wall, near the statue, we see an ancient painting of St. Cecilia in an attitude of prayer; lower down, in a small niche, is a fresco representing Christ holding a Gospel. On the right side is the figure of St.Urban. On the wall of the shaft is the painting of three martyrs: Polycamus, Sebastian and Quirinus.” [Source]

No photography is allowed in the catacombs but I snapped a couple of postcards showing what it’s like down in the depths!

what it's like inside

Back at the Cemetery the cats are looked after by volunteers and even have their own website.

i gatti

empty cat basket

Empty Basket – Where can they be?

cat 1

cat 2

cat 3

In a Quiet Corner of Rome – The Aventine

Cemetery sign

We’d both visited Rome before so I decided to book us at a hotel in an area slightly out of the main hustle and bustle of the centre of Rome and in a leafy residential area within walking distance of a certain cemetery that was brought to my attention on my first visit. The highlight of that trip, although we visited The Forum and The Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps and The Pantheon and I had my picture taken at the Bocca della Verita, turned out to be the peaceful and tranquil Keats-Shelley House.

Keats House

John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are both buried at The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio and the more I have read about the place the more I have wanted to visit what sounds like a peaceful rural idyll so close to the centre of Rome.

K and S graves

The Keats and Shelley Graves in the Protestant Cemetery [postcard]

What I had failed to take into account – and I could have done nothing about it anyway – was the fact that a second Italian public holiday was to fall during our week’s visit. The 1st of May is a public holiday in Italy. So, after dropping our bags at our hotel room, we made our way at about 1.30pm to the Campo Cestio a 10 minute walk away only to find that it had closed that day at 1pm.

Pyramid

Very near to the Cemetery is the famous Caius Cestius Pyramid built during the 1st century BC when Roman funerary architecture was influenced by the ancient Egyptians.

Pyramid cats

The Cats in the Area even have their own website!

Quiet Corners Rome

Disappointed, we turned to other entries in my ‘Quiet Corners of Rome’ book by David Downie.

I was first told about The Magic Keyhole by a former work colleague who had lived for some time in Rome. But it is also mentioned in the Quiet Corners of Rome book so we made it our next stop : “Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and Piranesi Monument”. There was about a half hour queue and yes, indeed, when you reach the front there is the dome of St Peter’s framed by the keyhole in Piranesi’s door.

IMG_6617-e1337419469157-682x1024

This is the view that you get [source]

Needless to say my own photo turned out rubbish but with a long queue of people waiting behind you it is all a bit of a rush when you finally get to the front.

Piranesi Square

The Piranesi or Knights of Malta Square

Keyhole queue

The Keyhole Queue

The doors seal off the grounds of the Knights’ [of Malta] headquarters and are opened only to the pious and powerful … The piazza is egalitarian. Flame cypresses and palms rise behind the extravagantly long, L-shaped wall, erected in 1765 and conveniently lined with benches.”

Clivo di Rocca Savella, Parco Savello, Giardino degli Aranci”

Vatican View

Vatican View

orange tree

Orange Tree

Drinking fountain 1

Drinking Fountain

Fountain 2

Parco Savello Fountain

Next to the Knights of Malta HQ are several churches and two parks. One of the parks is the Parco Savello but both of them more or less fitted the book’s description: view of the Vatican, orange trees, drinking fountains.

Clivo sign

The Clivo di Rocca Savello is a narrow car-free lane that slopes down to the Tiber “mossy and picturesquely weed-grown, the clivo is as atmospheric as it is empty”. Well one or two people were walking up and down and also as the book says “stray cats own it”.

Clivo 1

Clivo 2

The Clivo di Rocca Savello

With it being a public holiday none of the places were particularly people-free and the final venue least of all. It seemed that all of Rome wished to visit the Roseto Comunale (Rose Garden) on that sunny May 1st afternoon. 1,100 varieties of rose grow on the northern slope of the Aventine Hill. All types of rose and from all corners of the earth grow here and the park is only open for about one month a year. So this time we struck it lucky !

Rose garden

The Rose Garden with the Forum behind

Charles Darwin rose

Charles Darwin rose still in bud (UK)

We were very happy with our choice of hotel in a Quiet Corner of Rome.

Balcony view

The Villa San Pio

Pio

Padre Pio bids us Farewell as we make our way to the Airport

 

Around the World in Christmas Gifts

Every gift received this Christmas has a special association for me: be it reading, travelling, visiting libraries, drinking tea or communicating via traditional pen and ink or modern internet methods.

ipad mini

I am now the rather nervous owner of an iPad Mini. I’m sure I will get used it and love using it but currently it sits pristine on its box whilst I still tap away at my laptop and snap away with my camera or iPod Touch.

Calendar

I’ll be checking dates and tempted to book Landmark Trust stays every time I look at my Landmark Trust Calendar for 2014. There is Astley Castle on the front (and also on the back) cover.

Cotswolds

Whilst at the Landmark St Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury earlier this year I came across “Cotswold Follies and Fancies”. It’s a guide to the curious, whimsical and romantic buildings around the area. I’m happy to have a copy of my own to take with me next time I visit the Cotswolds.

Rome

In 2014 I have travel plans for another ATG walking holiday this time in Italy. We will be staying just one night in Rome but will be sure to hunt out at least one of its “Quiet Corners”. In 2015 I’m hoping to spend a bit longer in and around The Eternal City.

Fodors Maine

No plans yet to return to New England next year but if we do I have just the up-to-date guide to make planning easy in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Tea and spoons

Paris is one of my favourite destinations and this (academic) year one of my Swiss friends is working there in her Gap Year. She sent me lovely Mariage Freres loose tea in a tin and two pearl spoons from the shop where she’s working : Sabre. It would be lovely to visit her whilst she is there.

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea” – Henri Mariage [Founder]

Candle

On a visit to Paris in 2010 a Parisian friend and I visited The House of Victor Hugo in a quiet corner of the Place Des Vosges. We’re still hoping to make a rendez-vous together at his other former home (owned by the City of Paris) Hauteville House on Guernsey. In the meantime I have this ‘writer’s’ candle whose scent of bergamot-iris-hyacinth is reminiscent of Le Jardin D’Hugo.

phantoms

My friend, fellow blogger and fellow online book group  moderator Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book read and recommended “Phantoms on the Bookshelves” this year. About it he says “Jacques Bonnet is more like the friendly face at your book group who will enthuse about managing to squeeze another bookcase into the corner of the living room.” I’m looking forward to reading Mr Bonnet’s book, translated from the French, very soon.

The Library

I understand that M. Bonnet writes about other libraries beside his own and some may be included in this coffee table book “The Library : a world history” which will find pride of place on Miladys table. I’ll be dipping into it all year and beyond.

Postcards

Since joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box of 100 cards taken from the covers of that magazine over ten decades. When I need to send a card I should find a date or subject suitable for almost every recipient. If I don’t find one in that box then I can turn to a gift box of 20 cards of designs by Frank Lloyd Wright for the American Liberty Magazine.

Lavendar bath

And at the end of the day I can relax in a Lavender Foaming Bath: “A new definition of calm.”

Many thanks to everyone who gave these gifts … and I hope you were at least half as pleased with what I gave you!