I have been spending a lot of time on the sleepy Aventine hill these days. It's not my usual neighborhood so it has been fun exploring. There are the not so secret spots like the Knights of Malta keyhole and the Giardini d'Aranci, the place to live out your Grande Bellezza dreams, and the lesser known monastery shop tucked into the grounds of Sant' Anselmo where you can buy soaps, liqueurs and chocolate all made by Benedictine monks and nuns.
Last week I strolled down towards Testaccio, past construction cranes and what remains of the 3rd century BC Servian wall to Tram Depot which sits at the boundary between the two neighborhoods.
Rome has been a place for artists for centuries. It is easy to see why. The light is like a movie set, the architecture ranges from ancient to baroque to modern. Beauty is easy to find. A few sunny Sundays ago I spent the afternoon watching micro mosaicist Megan Mahan work.
Megan, a New England native who has lived in Rome long enough to be a local, creates beautiful jewelry and art out of impossibly tiny pieces of glass. She learned her techniques from a master mosaicist at the Vatican Mosaic Studio and in addition to micro mosaic jewelry she has also done restoration work and created large scale original works for interiors. But I was here for the jewelry.
Did you know that there is an island in Rome. Right there in the center of the city, at a bend in the river is the Isola Tiberina. Measuring less than 300 meters long it is mainly known as the home to Rome's most central hospital, Fatebenefratelli, and as a spot to sunbathe on a warm spring day. I often make my way to my yoga studio in Trastevere this way, passing the 10th century Basilica di San Bartolomeo all'Isola and crossing the Ponte Fabrico, which is Rome's oldest intact bridge (built in 62 BC!) but I never think to stop. The newish Tiberino was transformed from an old fashioned bar to a chic bistro last summer and I had been meaning to try it but kind of kept forgetting about it. Saskia heading back to Amsterdam after a few weeks in Rome was the impetus I needed.
I have been a fan of South African artist William Kentridge for a long time. His complicated works, so full of movement are both whimsical and provocative. Luckily for me Kentridge has a close relationship with Rome. His most recent project, which has been getting a lot of attention is an astonishing 550 meter long frieze that unfolds along the flood blanks of the Tevere river called Triumphs and Laments.