Rome – no other city in Europe looks back on such an incredibly rich culture and history of art. For those interested in Western art Rome is a must-visit. Taking a single walk of 40 minutes starting from the railway station Termini to the Coloseum, along the Forum Romanum and up to the Capitoline Hill you will pass centuries of architectural history. Five years ago I was visiting Rome for intensive art history studies for ten days. Being back after five years I must sayRome isnot in a good shape: most of the buildings and treasures are under reconstruction. Impossible to keep that amount of ancient buildings and sculptures from falling apart. So naturally slowly, slowly the Rome we know today will disappear – of course. But in 21st century the process just gets speed up because the cars emission reacts with the stone and basically turns it into sand. And the eruptions of the thousands of cars going by do the rest.
The ancient Rome understood itself as caput mundi - the head of the world - namesake for the Capitoline Hill, where the visitor will find one of the most beautiful places of Rome – designed by Michelangelo. Standing here and enjoying the beauty of this place, every doubt about Rome being the „head of the world“ might disappear. Those who come to Rome and want to know it, need time and good shoes... and some of them should be prepared for one of the biggest contradictions of the religious West: the stunning beauty and the splendor of artfully shaped baroque church houses. On one side you might be overwhelmed by the breathtaking art of baroque churches, artistically painted ceilings, marble floor with amazing mosaic works and ancient columns set in gold. Creation of artistic geniuses as Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Borromini and many others. The skeptics among us will be asking: What for? What does this splendor have to do with the blood and the sweat of the pale Christ on the cross and what‘s the function of this splendid praise of „God“ in connection with the poor beggars on the street? You better don‘t check because you will end up being disappointed. If you like give a coin to beggar and maybe ask yourself: how can this be? All the wealth here and the church can not take care of those poor people... in the capital of the Catholic Church?
Welcome to Rome! That's just it. Italian girls and ladies in elegant clothing, perfume, high heels and Gucci bags going to the same Holy Mass as the poor beggar being bare foot or in Jesus sandals. Chatting voices and endless camera-clicks overlay the quiet prayers of some faithful praying in the side-chapels. Rome is and always was a city of power and wealth and Rome's churches are just demonstrations of this. The Popes of the Baroque Rome were often quite immodest and the public-relation slogan "Do good and talk about it!" was not created in our time and age. The evidence for this is painted on the walls of Rome‘s Baroque churches and also artfully carved in marble. If you visit Rome, then next to the famous highlights such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon there are some things not to be missed: go to the Vatican Museum (pre-order tickets online!). Look at the ceiling and wall paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, be amazed by the paintings of Raphael in the Vatican Palace, bow before the unknown master of the antique Laokoon sculpture in the the world's largest collection of antiquities in the Vatican. Reserve some time to visit the Galleria Borghese, which holds some of the most stunning marble sculptures (many made by Bernini) that had been carved by human hands.
Also visit the church Il Gesù and take care of your neck while starring at the ceiling – better use the mirror on the ground. Give a visit to the small churches with sculptures by Michelangelo, paintings by Caravaggio. Maunder along the Piazza Navona and sit at the Fountain of the Four Rivers made by Bernini, while you look at the towers of the church Sant Agnese made by Borromini, Berninis lifelong rival. Be amazed by the genius of Borromini when you visit San Giovanni in Laterano and, my personal Rome jewel, the incredibly beautiful, small church San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by the great Borrimini.
And while doing all this, please don‘t forget one thing: Enjoy every espresso in the bars on the cornersof Rome as it would be your last. At home it will never taste as good as in Rome.