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This fountain is in front of the Palazzo Farnese, presently home to the French Embassy (but there are tours).  The palace facade, a product of the minds of Sangallo and Michelangelo working for Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese, 1468 - 1534 - 1549 (81)) is as close to perfection as makes no difference, as is much of the rest of the architecture.  The palace was the setting for Act II of Puccini's opera Tosca.







Paul III had a drop dead gorgeous sister called Giulia (Farnese), who was the mistress of the notorious Spanish Pope Alessandro VI (aka Roderigo de Borgia).  Sadly no portrait of her survives, and  one of the few memories of her name is the road named after her which runs down the back of the Palazzo Farnese.  The Palazzo itself ended up  in the hands of the French Bourbon family through various marriages.  It was purchased by the French Government in 1911, but the Italian Government insisted on a 25 year buyback option, which they exercised !  The building was then leased to the French for 100 years for use as their embassy - it will be interesting to see what happens in 2036 !



In the next door buzzing market piazza called Campo dei Fiori is the statue of Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600 (52)) who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in the Campo on 17 February 1600 after 7 years of trials.  Bruno, who in his youth had been a Dominican friar, was world class bright and world class prickly.  He could not understand why everyone could not see that the Greeks were right about the earth circling the sun, and the existence of an infinite number of other suns, planet and moon systems, and he went around saying this and other "truths" much too often and loudly.  However, it was his frequently expressed contempt for the church and its mainstream scholastic and other philosophies which eventually sealed his fate .... an observant Protestant said of him that he was "a man of great capacity, with infinite knowledge, but not a trace of religion."




Over recent years the square has become an increasingly popular afternoon gathering point for unwashed ferals with canine friends - usually unwashed Alsatian dogs.






Many of Rome's Galleries are housed in Palaces




Villa Borghese      Palazzo Barberini




Galleria Doria Pamphilj




Vatican Galleries      Art in Rome's Churches



Next door to the Palazzo Farnese is the Palazzo Spada, whose courtyard contains the "Borromini Perspective".   The "corridor" you are looking at is only 9M deep, but looks many times that.




The Castel Sant'Angelo, built by the late medieval Popes on the drum of the mausoleum of the builder Emperor Hadrian, became home to several Popes when they needed a feeling of greater temporal security than that afforded by the Vatican Palace (a secret passage linked the two).  It is also the setting for Act III of Puccini's Opera Tosca.




"E lucevan le stelle ed olezzava ..... "  "And the stars shone and the earth was perfumed ..." writes Cavaradossi in what he thinks (correctly as it turns out) is his last letter to Tosca before being shot by a firing squad at dawn on the platform of the Castel Sant'Angelo.


In 1992 there was a magnificent production of Tosca, which was broadcast live from Sant'Andrea della Valle (Act I), the Palazzo Farnese (Act II) and the Castel Sant'Angelo (Act III) over a period of 24 hours.  We have it on VHS tape (remember them?) and it is absolutely worth making a special effort to find. 


Also shown on the right is the remastered 1953 Callas / di Stefano / Gobbi / de Sabata recording at La Scala, Milan, which is special not just because it captured Callas at the top of her career singing the part that was "hers", but because there is a rarely found acoustic magic in the recording - we have the earlier mono version and feel that it is simply the best.












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