The Eternal City is filled with some of the most extraordinary works of ancient art; one the most beautiful is surprisingly one of the least visited. It’s the summer dining room from the Villa of Livia, who was the wife of Emperor Augustus. Life-size frescoes of trees, flowers, fruit and birds decorate four walls to create a continuous 360° view. The luxuriant paradise was unearthed in 1863 and dates back to 39 B.C., now housed in Palazzo Massimo, Rome’s Archaeological Museum (located near the train station and Santa Maria Maggiore).
Allow yourself to be completely immersed as Livia’s garden casts its enchanting spell. A lush Eden grows improbably beyond an illusionistic fence where birds take flight in sky whose color variations create a mesmerizing atmospheric effect. You can almost detect the rustling of wind through the leaves. Scholars have recognized a plethora of vegetation including umbrella pine, oak, red fir, quince, pomegranate, orange, myrtle, oleander, date palm, strawberry, laurel, cypress, ivy, acanthus, rose, poppy, iris, violet, chamomile, chrysanthemum, fern and more! Livia lived to 83, extraordinary for the time, and was the only woman to be deified for her service to the Empire.
Palazzo Massimo also has an extensive collection of statuary, mosaics, frescoes and coins. Be sure and visit the next time you are in Roma!
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.