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Secret Rome

Secret Rome

by Ginevra Lovatelli

A church where animals are blessed, a magic door, sublime but little known places, cloisters and hidden gardens, astonishing optical illusions, bizarre miracles and legends, a barber for children, a 17th century pharmacy, surprising private collections, a Catholic mass said in ancient Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ...

Beyond the traditional tourist sites, Rome has managed to preserve many secret spots to the continuing surprise and delight of both residents and visitors. The 150 entries detailed in this guide provide an alternative insight to the charm of this magical city.
Extracts From The Book
Secret Rome: A Little Known Marvel Secret Rome: A children's HairdresserSecret Rome: Little Known WondersSecret Rome: A Unique Facadeview extracts

A Little Known Marvel

Secret Rome: A Little Known Marvel This small, 16th-century oratory, hidden at the end of one of the many intersections of Via Giulia, once belonged to the important Archon fraternity of the Gonfalone. The oratory, which was restored between 1998 and 2002, remains almost unknown even though it is used today as a concert hall. It is however an extraordinary example of Roman mannerism.

The picturesque decoration that completely covers the walls of the large hall, was described as being a prime example of a style of painting that refers to the ideals of the Counter Reformation and which then influenced all of Italy and part of Europe.

The buildings small façade, by Domenico Castelli, does not particularly impress passers – by. Once inside though, the hall surprises, with its walls completely decorated by an extraordinary cycle of frescoes featuring the passion of Christ in twelve parts. They were done in 1573 by Federico Zuccari, Livio Agresti, Cesare Nebbia, Bertoja, Raffaellino Da Reggio and Macro Pino. Wooden Choir benches encircle the room.
A children's Hairdresser

Secret Rome: A children's Hairdresser In Via Metastasio a keen observer will notice on the right hand side, in the direction of the Pantheon, an almost invisible sign outside a small shop; Parrucchiere dei Bambini. It seems that little or nothing has changed since 1939 when it first opened. The lights, the decor, everything has a slightly retro feel, but the most striking thing is the fantastic seats where children sit while having their hair cut.

A car, a giraffe, an elephant, a bear, all in wood with special iron bases to regulate the height and turn them, these seats have been there since the very beginning. They have not changed since they were bought at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, except that they are a bit worn out by the thousands of children who have been to the shop to have their hair cut.
Little Known Wonders

Secret Rome: Little Known WondersThe gallery of Palazzo Colonna is certainly one of the most precious of Italy's artistic treasures and only the most informed know that since 1946 it has been opened to visitors once a week. On Saturday mornings, by going through a small entrance hidden in the beautiful Via dello Pilotta, one can enjoy the extraordinary beauty.

Nor do many people know that while on private visits to the gallery, you can gain access to the rest of the palace. By contacting the palace administration and booking a private visit, it is possible to admire, alone and undisturbed, parts of the palace that are closed to the public: the gallery, a series of adjacent rooms and the apartment of Princess Isabelle Sursock Colonna, who lived here until the end of the 1980s.

This last visit is a unique experience: In the rooms of the apartment facing the interior garden some extraordinary art is to be found, such as the frescoes by the famous painter Bernardino di Betto, known as il Pinturicchio, refined works of Flemish masters, including engravings by Jan Brueqhel the Elder,
the rich collection of views by Gaspard Van Wittel known in Italy as di Vanvitelli, and the decorations
of Gaspard Dughet, Crescenzio Onofri, Cavalier Tempesta, Giocinto Gimignani and Carlo Cesi.
A Unique Facade

Secret Rome: A Unique Facade Palazzo Zuccari occupies an area comprising the last part of Via Sistina and that of Via Gregoriana and its facade is probably the most curious and unusual in the city. The cornices of the main door and of the windows are all formed by big gaping monsters' mouths.

Unfortunately, the palazzo is currently covered by scaffolding for long and complex restoration work, but the lower port of the facade is quite visible. Federico Zuccari, the famous baroque artist, bought the land in 1590, struck by its wonderful location, and he built the house and the studio for himself and his children, drawing inspiration for the palace's facade from the "monstrous" style of the famous monsters of Bomarzo, close to Viterbo.

This architectural whimsy was both criticised and admired, but in any case soon became the ideal house for artists in the area. Through the Accademia di San Luca, Zuccori left the dwelling to foreign artists, but his wishes were not respected and when the artist died, the building was passed
on to another owner. The Queen of Poland lived there from 1702 and for decades the house
was the centre of high society in the city.


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