So many of Rome's treasures are accessible. I walk past the Coliseum and the Forum at least three or four times a day. You can see dramatic Caravaggio paintings in several churches dotted about town. Byzantine mosaics, church relics, grand baroque fountains and vine covered alleys are all yours for the proverbial taking.
But Rome is a city of secrets too. She hides away many of her charms behind closed doors and complicated bureaucracy. These capricious treasures are available to you often only through sheer good fortune.
Last week I was invited to peek behind one of these closed doors by the team behind the beautiful website Italian Ways. A group of Italian and American bloggers, historians and Instagrammers spent a sunny Saturday morning learning about the elegant via Guilia and the Palazzo Sacchetti designed by Antonio da Sangallo in the mid-500's. If you have watched Paolo Sorrentino's sumptuous award winning film, La Grande Bellezza, you have seen glimpses of this extraordinary place.
Elena Cagiano de Azevedo of the Storica dell’Arte e Archeologa guided us through the history and art of this refined palazzo and the powerful family who have resided there since 1600. We got to explore an ornate private chapel, peek at family photos with popes and world leaders, gaze at frescoes by Francesco Salviati and Pietro da Cortona, and frolic (like the nuns and children in the film) in the orange flower scented garden that is looked over by fearsome masks. It was a splendid way to spend a Saturday morning.
Reluctantly we left the gated calm of the Palazzo and spilled back out on the via Giulia. Lingering outside, discussing the how the film, like life in Rome, is a journey of beauty and complications. La Grande Bellezza indeed.