Tuesday, November 3, 2009

See Caravaggio for Free in Rome

There is something about Caravaggio that fascinates people. Even those who would normally prefer to cross a street of hot coals than spend time looking at paintings seem happy to make an exception for this rebel of Counter-Renaissance Art. To celebrate the Rome exhibition that has just opened at the Villa Borghese to celebrate his work along with Francis Bacon, it seemed timely look at this bad boy of the paintbrush and send you around Rome to see some of his masterpieces for free!

So just who was Caravaggio?
Whilst most artists of the Middle Ages were more soft ruffles than tough scuffles, Caravggio was not afraid of a fight, a drink and the odd murder to boot. Commission happy, the taste of luxury did not bring out his lighter side. As well as pushing the Catholic church to the edge with his dark religious paintings, he eventually lost his temper once too often. After killing a young man who beat him in a tennis match in the Campo Dei Fiori, he fled Rome with a price on his head. He finally died in exile, never learning that he had been given a Papal Pardon.

Where can I see Caravaggio for free?

Sant’ Agostino Church, Via Sant’ Agostino
The Madonna di Loreto (1605) is hung in the first chapel on the left. The church is close to Piazza Navona, and also includes a Raphael fresco. Currently under restoration but don’t be fooled. Under the scaffolding, it is still open so you can see the paintings. For those who pregnant or wish to be, touch the statue of the Madonna del Parto near the door as you leave for luck.

San Luigi dei Francesa, Via Giustiniani
In this church you get three for your non-existent entrance fee with the Matthew trilogy, including The Calling of Saint Matthew, St Matthew and the Angels and The Matrydom of Saint Matthew. This church is close to the centre, a short walk from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, and next to the French institute with its wonderful bookshop.

Santa Maria Del Popolo, Piazza Del Popolo
This church is around a 20 min walk from the historic centre, or you take the Metro Linea A to Flaminio. Here you can find two paintings, the Conversion of St Paul and The Crucifixion of St Peter, so well worth the journey.

And if I want to pay?
Well if you are at the Santa Maria del Popolo, it is just a short walk up the hill to the Galleria Borghese, and its wonderful park. Here you can see three Caravaggio works, Sick Bacchus, Boy with Bag of Fruit and Madonna dei Palafrenieri. Entrance will cost you 8.50 but you also get to see the amazing Bernini sculpture of Daphne and Apollo amongst many other treasures. At the moment, you can also access the Caravaggio and Bacon exhibition on until January. Lastly, you can see Gypsy Fortune Teller at the Capitoline Museums, entrance fee 6.50. Don’t forget that both of these museums are included in the Rome Pass Scheme (see last blog).

What else do I need to know
Please note that many churches are closed during the afternoons between 1-4, but usually stay open in the evening until around 7pm.

For the Galleria Borghese, you need to book in advance as only a limited number are allowed in at any one time. Details here http://www.galleriaborghese.it/nuove/emostre.htm

The Roma Pass is a 3 day pass that gives you free access to two museums, free travel on Rome’s public transport, and discounts to other museums and attractions. Cost 23 euros. http://www.romapass.it/p.aspx?l=en&tid=2


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  2. Thats a great review.. Carravaggio is one of my fav painters.. And to get to see his artwork for free must be very nice..
    You have a good travel blog here..

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  3. I just returned from Rome and was reviewing my trip and stumbled across your blog. I was able to see the Caravaggio in Sant'Agostino, but I missed the others you review. I'm sorry I didn't see your blog entry before I left, but I hope others see this before they travel if they want to see the Caravaggios in their "natural" setting.

    Your blog also offers some great advice for my next trip. Keep up the good work.

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