The Art of Rome

The Art of Rome

Adventure, history, and sunshine is what usually springs to mind when I plan to visit Rome. I have been a number of times, and every time I go, I see something completely new. It is a wonderful city, the people are friendly and the architecture is simply some of the best in the world. I experience high levels of excitement whenever I think about visiting.

The Colosseum
The Colosseum-A must when visiting Rome


The city is mysterious too, images of Roman Gladiators fighting to the death in the Colosseum, the secret vaults of The Vatican that you and I are unlikely to ever see, and the art collections gathered in this amazing city are simply stunning.

Everywhere you look, be it the architecture, or the many statues, this city really does have it all. I could literally pack up a bag and visit whenever. But Rome is also a city that has a dark history.

So today’s post takes an in-depth look at some of its amazing history and if you are planning a trip to Rome anytime soon, you might want to visit some of its museums and galleries.

Before we begin on the journey through the Roman Empire, news has finally arrived that there will be a new Harry Potter book. J.K. Rowling has confirmed that an eighth Potter book will arrive this summer and will contain the script for a new stage play that tells the boy-wizards story.

The hardback edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Part I & II will be released on the 31st July 2016, just one day after the play has debuted on stage.

The play sees Harry as a father and an employee who is overworked at the Ministry of Magic. The story will pick up some 19-years after Harry was last seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and waving his two eldest children off to Hogwarts.

Previews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begin in May at London's Palace Theatre, with both plays set to open on 30 July. The hardback and eBook will go on sale at 00:01 on 31 July.


September 476 AD, and the last Roman Emperor of the west, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Germanic Prince Odovacar. Winning control of the remnants of the Roman Army of Italy, Odovacar sent the western imperial regalia to Constantinople.

The Roman Empire in western Europe was a centralised super-state that had existed for 500-years and had ceased to exist, a single ruling Emperor was replaced by more than a dozen kings and princes.

Old Town Rome
Old Town Rome


The fall of Rome marked the death knell of education and literacy, and the end of complex and sophisticated architecture, advanced economic interaction, and lastly and more importantly, the rule of written law.

The subsequent “Dark Ages” that followed were dark not only because written sources were few, but because life changed and became volatile, brutish, and life expectancy lowered significantly.

Some suggest that the fall of Rome was necessary to end large-scale slavery and the entrenched social hierarchy’s and make way for a world that valued human beings more equally.

Today Rome is very different, today the streets are filled with fun, and pizza sellers. One of the biggest surprises I have ever had was when I purchased a large pizza as a stop-gap snack, together with two coffees, and two bottles of Coca-Cola. When the bill arrived, my love for Rome dipped, €53 was the total. Now I had been warned to stay away from the more popular areas to eat in, but hadn’t quite realised just how expensive the main tourist drag could be until that moment. On every subsequent visit, I have gone one or two streets behind the main area around The Vatican, and St. Peter’s, and on my last visit, just 100-yards behind the previous café, we had a full meal for three people and drinks for a reasonable €29. Be warned, if you want to sit on a pavement with a view of St. Peter’s, you will pay heavily, move to the streets behind and you will eat like a king for half the price.

Eat anywhere apart from the main areas



Rome seems to be the epicentre of art, and you can see so much for free. Art is literally everywhere you look, and you don’t have to look too far. Many places of worship have a vast historical art collection that you can see free of charge, Caravaggio paintings at Santa Maria del Popolo, and Bernini’s statue of St. Teresa in Ecstasy at Santa Maria Della Vittoria are just two examples.

If you get your timing right, the Vatican Museums are usually closed on a Sunday, unless you arrive on the last Sunday of the month when free admission between 9am and 12:30pm is offered, a significant saving. If you are visiting at any time, be prepared for lots of people. I mean lots of people. Formulate a plan for what you want to see, you won’t be able to see everything but having a plan will certainly give you a chance to experience major areas of interest. Did I say that there were lots of people?

St. Peter's
St. Peter's- Prepare for lots more people than this

Having a plan is not just a good idea for the Vatican Museums, you’ll need to plan for everything. Before your trip try to book online to reserve tickets for the most popular attractions. Often the price of admission is cheaper, and when you arrive the queues are much shorter. I have never experienced queues like those in Rome, other than when Disney World unveils a new ride. You can also purchase passes that allow entry in to multiple attractions, and often at a cheaper price.


Although water is usually around €2.50, take a water bottle with you. If you can get one of the collapsible bottles that neatly fold into a back pack, all the better. There are many public water fountains around the city, but you will need to watch out for signs that say “acqua non-potable”, or non-potable water. Do not drink this. It is probably laced with the remains of past Gladiators.

Each time I have visited Rome, the sun has been brutally hot. Take a hat or umbrella to provide shade, and make sure to take sun creams with you as they can be very expensive. Taking an umbrella will also provide a means of discouraging the many lace umbrella sellers that persistently try to sell you one. There are a lot of street vendors, although Roman Gladiators offering a €10 Kodak moment are now in decline following a recent ban by the city. Eyes down and keep repeating the word NO, and you’ll be fine.

Inner city hotels are expensive. The closer to a local attraction you are, the higher the price. The Rome Metro is very easy to navigate, and just four stops away from the Colosseum will bear much lower rates. You can find some bargain breaks, especially at the late booking websites, but you will find much more affordable and often higher quality rooms in the suburbs.

If you are arriving at Rome’s airport, factor in that it is a 25-mile cab ride, or hop on the Metro. The Metro offers a much cheaper alternative to cabs, although many hotels also offer airport transfers.


Now you have a place to stay, you need to figure out where the best art is. Roman art is a broad topic spanning almost 1,000-years. The first Roman art dates back to 509 B.C.E with the founding of the legendary Roam Republic, and lasted until 330 C.E (not including Byzantine Art). Roman art is also much, much more than paintings. Expect to experience many examples of marble, mosaics, gems, silver, and bronze work. Remember also that the city of Rome was really a melting pot, so expect influences from the other Mediterranean countries, and from Africa and Asia too.


It is tempting to think of a vast range of rooms that are full of Papally collected or commissioned art that you have to go through to get to the headline act of the Sistine Chapel. In fact there is so much to enjoy along the route to the Sistine Chapel, you will find this part of the journey inspiring, and a great warmer to the main event.

On this part of your journey you will experience some stunning examples of classical statues such as the Laocoon, to Pinturicchio’s delightful Borgia Room frescoes, from magnificent decorations by Raphael to an Egyptian museum complete with mummies.

Michelangelo’s masterpiece “Vibrant” is worth a visit alone, especially now it has been carefully restored. I may have mentioned the amount of people that you will encounter before. Arriving at 9am will give you a few seconds head start to get through to the Sistine Chapel, but literally only a few seconds. Make sure you have plenty of time to experience it in full. The earlier the better, you are going to be exhausted pretty much by the time you come out. I once witnessed a man who had tears in his eyes, I asked if he was OK, he replied yes, I am not emotional about the experience, I have just realised I had no concept of what so many people looked like, and I am exhausted.

Also worthy of note, no short shorts, bare shoulder, midriff, or short skirts are to be worn. You will be refused entry, and you also need to cover your shoulders. Last entry is usually two-hours prior to closing and the Museums close on Vatican Holidays. Bear also in mind that the Vatican is a Country in its own right, so those holidays do not always fall on Italian holidays.


Many people express their dislike for this piece of contemporary architecture. Located in the hip Northern Flaminio district, and designed by none other than Pritzker prize-winning architect, Zaha Hadid, the museum of 21st Century arts is a stunning architectural design.

The exhibits don’t always live quite up to expectations, but what MAXXI do very well is stage some of the most exciting exhibitions and retrospectives. Locals are also starting to visit, the museum has plenty of space so it will be a welcome relief from days spent in the cities other attractions.

There is a secret that you will need to know before you visit, around the corner from MAXXI you will find a place you may just fall in love with, Neve di Latte, one of Rome's truly great new-generation ice-cream shops.


A recent renovation and all round make-over have turned what was at one time a place best described as a creepy crypt beneath the Capuchin Church is now a complete Franciscan monk 'experience'.

The crypt is the main experience here over and above the art. The bones of generations of monks are buried in soil brought from Jerusalem then dug up to make more room for newcomers. Arranged in patterns on walls and ceilings and macabre chandeliers.

There is also a sign on the entrance, “You will be what we now are”. Inviting.


Originally the Etruscan people ruled central Italy until the Romans vanquished them, working hard to expunge their memory. This mysterious culture comes to life with glorious artefacts accommodated in a 16th Century villa.

A life-sized husband and wife from Cerveteri recline on the lids of their sarcophagus, and to be fair, they look like a pair of people who would have been fun to hang out with. It is also remarkable at just how life-like the statues of Gods from the temple at Portonaccio look.

The 16th Century villa was originally built for Pope Julius III, has a pleasant bar, given that it is a distance from any other means of sustenance is a useful addition to this remarkable place.


The United States Capitol is draped in oil paintings of the lawmakers who have walked through the corridors of power since the beginnings of the country. Over many generations, artists have painted portraits of members of Congress, and selected officials. All paid for of course by US taxpayers dollars.

For a number of years, there have been issues around who pays for the oil portraits, and whilst photographs of the Congressional Portrait Collection are online, many of the actual portraits are hidden from view of the public. In 2013, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has argued the point that if politicians want their portraits painted, then they should pay for them out of their own pockets.

The cost per year is reckoned to be around $500,000 per year, given that the federal budget raises around $4 trillion, it seems a modest expense. An expense though that many think is not appropriate given that many hard working families in the US struggle with household costs. President Jimmy Carter also expressed his opinion that the public purse should not meet these costs back in 1977, arguing that photographs were much cheaper.

Although the cost is $500,000, the actual cost could in fact be much more. It is widely known that independent donors and interest groups also contribute to the costs, particularly for favoured politicians.

Many modern pieces serve to commemorate important figures like Joseph Hayne Rainey (R-SC), the first black man elected to the U.S. House of Representatives or Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana), the first woman to join its ranks, but it appears until now, the portrait sessions were available to all.

Do you think that congressional portraits preserve history in a unique way, or would you prefer a photograph to preserve history, leaving money to be used for other purposes?

So that’s all for today, but remember you can catch up with what is happening in the world of art and technology every day on my Facebook page.


If you haven’t as yet joined my Facebook group the Artists Exchange, then please do join us. We have over 1,000 members and the art that is being found and shared is remarkable. The group is free to join, and the community are really engaging. You can join The Artists Exchange here:

Mark Taylor Fine Art
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