Galleria Doria Pamphilj

Entry to the gallery

Courtyard in the entry to the gallery

I made a deal with myself in November: I would visit at least one museum each week. Except for the Christmas holiday weeks, I’ve done well. So far I have two favorites—the Museo di Roma (Museum of Rome, on Piazza Navona) and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj (pronounced pom FEE lee) on the south end of Via del Corso. I wouldn’t recommend the Museo di Roma to the casual visitor to Rome unless that person has a deep interest in the pictorial history of the city. For people who have lived in Rome or who know the city well, the collection of paintings, etchings, photos, and models of Rome from the 16th through the 19th centuries is fascinating! A special treat in November was an exhibit of photos of World War II in Italy by war photographer Robert Capa. Stunning and heartbreaking, especially his photos of Troiana.

Poussin Room - he first room you enter; tfull of landscapes

Poussin Room – the first room you enter (full of landscapes)

I recommend the Galleria Doria Pamphilj to anyone. Although the collection of paintings and sculptures at the Galleria Borghese is more impressive, valuable, and famous, you usually need advance reservations (you can buy tickets online). Not only do you need reservations, you must reserve a specific time, and you can remain in the museum for only the two hours following your entry time and then you must leave (they actually kick you out).

You can buy a ticket to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj at any time, walk right in, and stay as long as you want. I’ve visited the museum twice, and I’ve had it almost to myself both times (although both times have been in the winter, so that may make a difference). In addition to a collection of 650 paintings and sculptures (one of the largest private collections in Rome), the gallery is part of a 16th-century, privately-owned villa that occupies an entire city block, and before you enter the gallery, you walk through or can look into 12 of the 1,000 rooms. The remaining Doria Pamphilj family members, a brother and sister, occupy separate apartments in the villa, and some of the rooms are leased for shops, offices, and apartments. A friend of mine recently sent me a fascinating Vanity Fair article about the Doria Pamphilj generation today (thanks, Nikki).

But of Pamphilio Pamphilj, by Algardi - HOW did he sculpt that ruffle!

Bust of Pamphilio Pamphilj, by Algardi – HOW did he sculpt that ruffle!

The Doria, Pamphilj, Aldobrandini, and Landi families, which were eventually united by marriage, began collecting paintings and statues in the 16th century. Hung from floor to ceiling (making the paintings at the top difficult to see), the resulting collection includes copies of three paintings by Caravaggio (one is a copy, but be still my heart!) as well as works by Titian, Memling, Lippi, Bernini, Raphael, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and other famous painters and sculptors. Visitors are not allowed to photograph the most famous and valuable painting in the gallery, the Portrait of Innocent X Pamphilj, by Velásquez (click on the title of the painting to see it). Innocent X became pope in 1644, and Velásquez completed this masterpiece around 1650. See photos of some of my favorite pieces below.

Gallery of Mirrors

Gallery of Mirrors

Even if you ignore the paintings and sculptures (I defy you to do that!), the wall coverings, the elaborate frescoes on the ceilings and around the windows, the floors, and the furniture make the gallery a fascinating place to visit. It even has a room called the Gallery of Mirrors, which resembles the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles (but on a much smaller scale).

The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is a glorious, peaceful place, and you can find it just a block or two north of the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument. If you love art or old homes, don’t miss it, and don’t forget to buy a photo permission at the gift shop so you can take photos. You’ll thank me!

Ciao!

Frescoes by Miani (1730) in the Gallery of Mirrors

Frescoes by Miani (1730) in the Gallery of Mirrors

Ceiling in the Aldobrandini Gallery

Ceiling in the Aldobrandini Gallery

Doria Gallery - floor to ceiling paintings

Doria Gallery – floor to ceiling paintings

Doria Gallery - ceiling frescoes

Doria Gallery – ceiling frescoes

Ballroom, with gorgeous painted fabric walls

Ballroom, with gorgeous painted fabric walls

Close-up of the fabric on the walls of the ballroom

Close-up of the fabric on the walls of the ballroom

Chapel - floor leading to the altar

Chapel – floor leading to the altar

Family chapel - one of the gorgeous stations of the cross

Family chapel – one of the gorgeous stations of the cross

One of the bathrooms (the Venus Boudoir) - I want this one!

One of the bathrooms (the Venus Boudoir) – I want this one!

"Rest in the Flight from Egypt," by Caravaggio (one of my favorite of his paintings)

“Rest in the Flight from Egypt,” by Caravaggio (Aldobrandini Hall) – one of my favorite of his paintings; note the donkey behind Joseph

"Penitent Magdalena," by Caravaggio (the model was a courtesan)

“Penitent Magdalena,” by Caravaggio (Aldobrandini Hall) – the model was a courtesan

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“John the Baptist,” by Caravaggio (Aldobrandini Hall)

Bust of Olimpia Aldobrandini Pamphilj, by Giovanni Lazoni da Carrara (Aldobrandini Gallery) - doesn't she look like a toy doll?

Bust of Olimpia Aldobrandini Pamphilj, by Giovanni Lazoni da Carrara (Aldobrandini Gallery) – doesn’t she look like a toy doll? And I love her sleeves!

"Boy Holding a Bat," by Maestro Jacomo (Pamphilj Gallery) - I'd never heard of this painter, but I love his light and shadows)

“Boy Holding a Bat,” by Maestro Jacomo (Pamphilj Gallery) – I’d never heard of this painter, but I love his light and shadows

"Woman Catching Fleas," by Maestro Jacomo (Aldobrandini Gallery)

“Woman Catching Fleas,” by Maestro Jacomo (Aldobrandini Gallery)

"Salomè," by Titian (Aldobrandini Hall)

“Salomè,” by Titian (Aldobrandini Hall)

"Lamentation of Christ with a Donor," by Hans Memling (Primitives Room)

“Lamentation of Christ with a Donor,” by Hans Memling (Primitives Room)

"Annunciation," by Filippo Lippi - I wish you could see these brilliant colors!

“Annunciation,” by Filippo Lippi (Primitives Room) – I wish you could see these brilliant colors!

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Paradise in Tuscany: Villa Bordoni

Photo by Charlie

Photo by Charlie

I’ve been hungry for chicken fricassee (fricassee di pollo) for the past couple of days. When I think of chicken fricassee, I remember the four magical days that Michael, his brother (Charlie), and I spent last September at Villa Bordoni on a hill just west of Greve-in-Chianti. I feel the warm sun. I hear . . . absolutely nothing. I see the restful garden and the vineyards and olive trees on the nearby mountains. I taste the local wine and the delicious meals prepared in the villa’s restaurant. And I long to return for a few days or a week or a month. Ahhhhhh!

P1130275To get to Villa Bordoni, you must drive for about four miles or so up a narrow gravel road lined with vineyards loaded with grapes for Chianti wine. At some of the hairpin turns, you pray that another car is not bounding recklessly down the mountain, and when you succeed in making those turns, you breathe a sigh of relief (silently, of course, so you don’t disturb the driver). In the distance you can see a nearby medieval hill town (Montefioralle), which you want to explore without delay. Then you arrive at Villa Bordoni, and you never want to leave again.

A Scottish couple, the Gardners, spent three years converting a crumbling 16th-century villa into a hotel, which they opened in 2006. They are great hosts, and their staff, all of whom seem to have been there since the day the hotel opened, are charming and helpful.

Individual eggplant tart

Individual eggplant tart

As for the chicken fricassee, we helped make this dish when we took a cooking class at the villa. Six of us joined one of the hotel’s chefs to drink wine and make focaccia, eggplant tart with bufala mozzarella and tomato sauce (fabulous!), spaghetti all’amatriciana (lighter than the Roman version), chicken fricassee, and tiramisu (which Charlie constructed by himself). The class ended around 6 p.m. The chefs shooed us out of the kitchen so they could finish our handiwork, and we retired to that glorious garden to sip Aperol Spritzes until “our” dinner was served. I’ve since made that superb chicken fricassee, and I may be making it again soon, since I can’t get it out of my head!

But pictures speak louder than words, so below you will see glimpses of the lovely, peaceful, relaxing Villa Bordoni.

Ciao!

The villa from the garden - the door leads to the breakfast room

The villa from the garden – the door leads to the breakfast room

Our room on the back of the villa overlooking the garden

Our room on the back of the villa overlooking the garden

View south from the garden

View south from the garden

Charlie waiting for breakfast

Charlie waiting for breakfast

View from our bathroom

View from our bathroom

View of the garden from our room

View of the garden from our room

The garden (photo by Charlie)

The garden (photo by Charlie)

At the restaurant, Bistecca alla Fiorentina

At the restaurant, Bistecca alla Fiorentina for three

Dessert at the restaurant: millefoglia with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries

Dessert at the restaurant: millefoglia with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries

"Our" (Charlie's) tiramisu

“Our” (Charlie’s) tiramisu

View of Montefioralle on the road to the villa

View of Montefioralle on the road to the villa

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Christmas Eve 2013: A Feast at La Pergola

010Italians eat fish on Christmas Eve and meat on Christmas day, so we decided to celebrate one of these traditions by eating at Rome’s only three-Michelin-star restaurant, La Pergola, on Christmas Eve. The restaurant sits atop the Rome Cavalieri Hotel, one of the hotels in the Waldorf Astoria chain, on Monte Mario, a hill north of St. Peter’s, and has a spectacular view of St. Peter’s and Rome’s skyline. The setting, the prix fixe menu and the service were perfect. We must return sometime when it’s warmer so we can eat on the terrace and enjoy that view.

One of my three favorite things, aside from the food, of course, happened when we sat down at our large table decorated with several Christmas trees, some of which were candles. Beautiful! Anyway, our server brought us the water menu. You read that right—the WATER menu—with 25 or 30 choices of water! Each entry described the water and its source. We chose one from Alto Adige that was mildly frizzante, and our water glasses were constantly resupplied throughout the evening.

We love fish, and we found Chef Heinz Beck’s food inventive and delicious:

  • Amberjack marinated in ginger on guacamole with soya meringue.
  • Thin slices of lobster on mango purée with basil puff.
  • A dish called simply “mare,” which means “sea.” The menu didn’t include the ingredients because the chef didn’t know until the last minute what might be available that day. The dish on Christmas Eve included the delicacy percebes (gooseneck barnacles), which we first enjoyed at Glass Hosteria in October. The dish was magnificent and smelled and tasted of the sea. Collecting percebes is a dangerous job—one fierce tide and a fisherman could be toast! How lucky we were to taste this exquisite treat once again.
  • Tangerine risotto with scampi carpaccio and mint – we waited for about a half hour for this dish and were excited to do so because to prepare genuine risotto means stirring the rice for 20 to 25 minutes. This risotto was worth the wait!
  • Spaghetti cooked in acqua di pomodoro with Venus clams, basil, and parsley sauce.
  • Scallop ravioli with asparagus and black truffle.
  • Fillet of John Dory in licorice crust on almond cream with lemon shrimps – the licorice was so subtle, and the dish was divine!
  • Lamponi 1.1, which featured 11 different preparations of raspberries.

With our dinner we drank unlimited supplies of these perfectly paired wines:

  • Andrea Felici Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2011
  • Polz Sauvignon Therese 2010
  • Terralbe Derthona 2007
  • Zeni Moscato Rosa 2011

013And then came my second favorite surprise—a silver box about 10 inches high with three drawers on each of the four sides. All 12 drawers held two scrumptious bite-sized cookies! I love cookies almost as much as I love gelato (but not quite and NEVER oatmeal). I was in heaven, and although I was full to the brim, I tasted every single one!  They also fed us scrumptious chocolates (but give me cookies any day). Yum!

As we left, the hostess gave us a large white box, saying that it was for breakfast on Christmas morning. Inside was a loaf of panettone, the sweet Italian bread that is usually enjoyed during the Christmas season. How lovely to have this traditional treat on Christmas morning!

What a wonderful feast! I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Ciao!

Panettone

Panettone

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Happy Holidays 2013

Five-level presepio at Parrochia Santa Dorotea in Trastevere. The manger is on the bottom level.

Five-level presepio at Parrochia Santa Dorotea in Trastevere. The manger is on the bottom level.

In almost every Italian home at Christmas you will find a presepio—a Nativity scene or a Christmas crib. Some presepi are enormous with life-size figures; some are so tiny that they fit into an egg shell. Some are elaborate with several floors over the manger, picnics in the adjacent yard, pots and pans, and food galore; some are simple with only Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. You really must have a presepio if you live in Italy, and we do.

We bought our presepio at the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona in 2011. Our original presepio was quite simple with Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, an angel, the three wisemen, a camel, a cow, and a donkey.

Last year I decided to add a pig and a sheep. Because I didn’t take the cow, donkey, or camel with me, I brought home a pig and a sheep that look as if they are on steroids! They are as big as the cow, and they dwarf the poor donkey, but they are such nice figurines! I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so last year they stood guard over the presepio. This Christmas they are guarding our one-foot Christmas tree. Don’t mess with it!

Our presepio today. Note the empty crib.

Our presepio today. Note the empty crib.

This year we’ve gone whole hog, so to speak. I took one of the figurines with me to the Christmas market and got a perfect new pig and three perfect new sheep. I also got two bunnies—an adult and a baby—a rooster, and a bird. They all look very cool. But we had sheep with no shepherds, so we had to add one, right? Of course. We added a shepherd and his son. The shepherd has balance issues (I can relate), probably from carrying a sheep over his shoulder. If I pick the dad shepherd up, I have to hold him lightly for a couple of seconds after I set him down or he topples to the right. I’m sure he’s hoping for a miracle. I know I am.

Other trips to Piazza Navona added a lantern over the Baby Jesus and lights throughout the manger. Three wine barrels perch in the rafters. The barrels don’t have labels, but I’m hoping for a Brunello or some outstanding Super Tuscan. They do age those expensive wines in plastic, don’t they?

P1140659We’ve learned other things about the Italian presepi. The Baby Jesus doesn’t go into the manger until Christmas Eve, because he wasn’t born until then. Our Baby Jesus is waiting in his plastic bag in our silverware drawer until this evening. The magi don’t arrive until Christmas Eve either, and the son of one of my friends marches the magi from their front door on December 8 to the manger on Christmas Eve. He makes sure that the magi arrive exactly on time!

We wish you happy, happy holidays full of lovely traditions, and may all of your pigs and sheep be the right size!

Auguri!

P.S., This post is for our niece Suzie, who asked for presepio photos in 2011. Here they are, Suzie, with lots of love.

Our presepio last year with the pig that ate Manhattan

Our presepio last year with the pig and sheep that ate Manhattan

The old and the new pigs

The old and the new pigs

The life-size presepio In St. Peter's Square in 2011

The life-size presepio In St. Peter’s Square in 2011

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Addicted to Spreadable Salami

P1140643Last week Michael received a wondrous and enormous food basket overflowing with pasta, cheeses, polenta, salumi, candy, and other tasty treats. So far, everything has been delicious, but my favorite is something I had never heard of: a large casing of spreadable salami (salami dal spalmare). Salami dal spalmare is just what it sounds like: soft salami that you spread on bread or toast, fry with eggs, or melt on pizza or in pasta. In a New York Times article from December 22, 2009, a fan describes salami dal spalmare as “the spreadable Italian love child of pepperoni and French rillettes.” Another called salami dal spalmare “the red Nutella.” Ha ha!

We stayed in Sancerre, France, for a couple of weeks a few summers ago, and when we shopped for food, we often found ourselves at the meat market buying rillettes. Wiki says: “Rillettes are a preparation of meat similar to pâté. Originally made with pork, the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. They are normally used as spread on bread or toast and served at room temperature.” When rillettes are on a menu, I always order a serving. I like pâté, too, but give me rillettes any day.

The dark red areas are the melted nduja.

The dark red areas are the melted nduja.

So imagine my joy when I discovered that Italy has its own version of rillettes, and imagine my joy when I took my first bite of salami dal spalmare and swooned! Salami dal spalmare is made by combining meat scraps and pork fat in a casing, which is then smoked. The most popular version of salami dal spalmare is nduja, which comes from Calabria and which is one of the most fiery foods of Italy because lots of red chilies are added to the meat mixture. After our lunch of salami dal spalmare on Saturday, I was determined to find some nduja. We stopped at one of my old favorite restaurants, Obikà Mozzarella Bar, in Campo de’ Fiori for lunch Sunday, and guess what was on the menu. Pizza with nduja! Hot, hot, hot, and simply divine!

To those of you who introduced us to salami dal spalmare, grazie mille! I’m hooked, and I’m grateful!

Auguri!

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Christmas Lights on Via del Corso Celebrate Gays, Then Mandela

P1140596AdDuring the holiday season, streets in Italian villages and cities sport Christmas lights, a different color and style for each street. Via del Corso, a main street in the downtown shopping area in Rome, has strings of lights that run for almost a mile, from Piazza del Popolo to the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument. In 2011 the lights were green, white, and red, the colors of the Italian flag, and in 2012 all of the lights were white. To take a stand against homophobia after a gay teenager committed suicide in Rome, this year members of the local council hoisted a rainbow above Via del Corso.

This gesture was not universally popular, and some demanded that the rainbow be replaced. When Nelson Mandela died last week, the Christmas lights on Via del Corso were dedicated to him as a way to defuse the tension. The woman who designed the lights said, “This way the message of love, tolerance, unity, and sharing will become stronger.”

Nelson Mandela would have supported the rainbow for gays, because he supported freedom and tolerance for everyone. Certainly honoring Mandela isn’t a bad thing, but then neither was honoring gays.

To my many gay friends and former co-workers, I will look at that rainbow and think of you and feel grateful for your friendship through the years. I wish you a happy, rainbow-colored holiday season.

Auguri!

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The Feast of the Immaculate Conception 2013

The pope's wreath (I took this photo today)

The pope’s wreath (I took this photo today)

On Sunday, December 8, Catholics around the world celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Like many non-Catholics, I thought the Immaculate Conception meant that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born; instead it means that she, like only Adam and Eve, was born without original sin.

According to tradition in Rome, Papa Francesco drove to Piazza Mignanelli near the Spanish Steps to lay a wreath at the feet of the Virgin Mary on the Colonna dell’Immaculata (the Column of the Immaculate Conception). Throngs of people gathered in the small piazza for the ceremony—some to celebrate the holy day but most to see the popular pope, who just today was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. But Papa Francesco is not your ordinary pope. After the ceremony, he walked down Via dei Condotti, one of the most expensive streets in the downtown shopping area (probably driving his security staff mad!), before heading to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four Catholic churches in Rome that are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the church that Papa Franceso visited the day after his election.

My view of the pope--he was there, honest!

My view of the pope–he was there, honest!

We like to watch Italy’s celebrations whenever we can, and although we started walking toward the Spanish Steps a bit late on Sunday, we and 100,000 of our closest friends arrived near Piazza Mignanelli just before the celebration began at 4 p.m. All I could see in front of me were the Colonna dell’Immaculata and the heads of the nearest 100 or so people. We kept pushing forward. The view did not change. We pushed forward some more. The view did not change. The pope arrived, but we only knew that because of the roar from the crowd when they saw him. The pope spoke and prayed, and a choir sang, but my view did not change. The pope left, and so did all of the people jamming the piazza and hanging out of the windows overlooking the column. And so did we. The streets around the Spanish Steps sported their holiday lights and finery, and happy people celebrated the Immaculate Conception and the first day of the Christmas season in Rome.

What a ball!

Ciao!

The column (the pope doesn't put the wreath way up at the top--someone on a hoist does that after the pope leaves)

The column (the pope doesn’t put the wreath way up at the top–someone on a hoist does that after the pope leaves)

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