Even if you’re not a “church person” this is one church that must NOT be missed and, in my opinion, is among the most magnificent in all Rome with its dazzling mosaics, frescoes and coffered ceiling. Tucked away from the more traditional tourist draws, Santa Maria in Trastevere is considered the first church built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the oldest churches in Rome with its foundation dating back to the mid-300’s A.D.
Nestled among many wonderful shops, bars and restaurants in the charming old neighborhood of Trastevere, it makes for a great afternoon sojourn. The piazza in front of the chiesa can be a lively entertaining scene … Trastevere’s open-air great room, with an ongoing soccer game on the south edge and an ancient Roman fountain in the center where you’ll often find modern-day vagabond minstrels. Step inside and into the coolness and calm and prepare to be mesmerized … proving that all that glitters is not just gold!
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi
La Bella Italia has inspired artists, dreamers and travelers alike for centuries with its iconic cities, rolling vineyard-covered hills, the dramatic coastlines of Amalfi and the Cinque Terre, its charming medieval hill towns, the sun-soaked and history-drenched islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, Elba and Ischia and the spiraling Dolomites in the North. Italy is also “paradise found” for passionate foodies, lovers of art, architecture, history, opera, shopping, and so much more! Italy possesses its own special “alchemy,” that mysterious science of transformation. And indeed, something happens as soon as you arrive … a magical lightness of being fills you with joy and wonder.
Before vacations, one went on “tour”… a multi-month affair restricted to the upper classes. For most, especially well-heeled Brits, Italy was THE cultural pinnacle of the Grand Tour with mandatory stops in Venice, Florence and Rome.
“Grand Tourists” desiring a pictorial souvenir, especially of the enchanting floating city of Venice, purchased large-scale paintings by most famously Canaletto and Guardi. These detailed “view” paintings are aggrandized postcards: lovely, romanticized images that capture the epic beauty and refinement of Venetian architecture and the atmosphere that, to this day, gives La Serenissima its unique sense of place.
The Brits have always had a special love affair with La Bella Italia, and the Queen’s Gallery in London holds the finest and most extensive collection of paintings and drawings by Canaletto thanks to King George lll’ s timely purchase of a library and associated works from Joseph Smith, an art dealer, Canaletto’s agent and the British Consul in Venice who had fallen upon hard times.