We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Baglioni Hotel's The Great Beauty Experience

I rarely, if ever, blog about anything other than my life in Venice. Today is different. I'm writing about our recent weekend in Rome. I've been to Rome before. Several times. I've done all the touristy spots- the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum, the Spanish steps, and more.

This trip was different, a very special experience.  I had been invited along with a small group of bloggers to be the guest of the Baglioni Hotels for a weekend at their hotel in Rome, the Regina Baglioni, to participate in a special 2 day package they offer, The Great Beauty Experience,  in celebration of the recent Oscar winning film, La Grande Bellezza.  How lucky can I be?

La Grande Bellezza, a film by Paolo Sorrention, starring Toni Servillo as Jeb Gambardella, showcases well known locations around Rome, in addition to a few that are off the tourist radar. In many ways, the city has a starring role in the movie. Baglioni's 2 day experience includes a special tour featuring many of the locations featured in the film.

There is so much to say about our weekend Roman holiday, I am going to have to break it up into several posts. Today I'll focus on the tour.

Saturday at 9am we gathered in the lobby of the Regina Baglioni  for a brief meet and greet, then were escorted to a luxury vehicle to begin our day long adventure.

First stop- Piazza Navona.

Beata, our expert guide for the day, shared information about the history of the Piazza, the sculptures and their famous artists.

We made the short walk from Piazza Navona to Campo dei Fiori, then to Palazzo Farnese, the current home of the French Embassy, and on to Palazzo Spada. Inside Palazzo Spada we got to see the corridor, a famous optical illusion designed by Francesco Borromini, up close. Until you see it close up it's almost impossible to believe that what appears to be a life size statue at the end of the corridor is only 60 cm high in reality.

Because no photos are allowed inside the gallery, this photo was taken from behind a glass window, so you cannot see the statue at the end of the corridor well.

Back in the car, our next stop was up on Aventine Hill where we visited the scowling face fountain of Giacomo Della Porta, located near Via di Santa Sabina.  In the movie, Jeb stops here at the fountain to wash off his face after a long night of partying Roman-style.

While we were here, I snapped this photo of a group of nuns who had taken a minute to wash off in the fountain also. Do you think they also been up all night painting the town red?

Just beyond the fountain is the Giardini degli Aranci at Parco Savello. From the garden you have a grand vista over the rooftops and domes of Venice. This view is simply spectacular. I can understand why this garden is a favorite spot of romantics.

A short walk down the street from the Giardini degli Aranci  brings you to the Piazza dei Cavallieri di Malta
(Knights of Malta) and the famous keyhole in the wooden door.  If you peer through this keyhole, you can see St. Peter's Basilica framed by the trees in the garden.  My photo doesn't do this view justice. You just have to come see for yourself. Better yet, take the tour.

The Tempietto San Pietro in Montorio, said to be the site of the martyrdom of St. Peter, is the location of a wonderful scene in the movie. A  mother searches for her lost daughter, who is  hiding on the lower level of the Tempietto, and can be seen through the hole in the mosaic floor (see  photo below.).


Gianicolo hill (Janiculum, in English), said to be Rome's eighth hill, has lots to see and beautiful overlooks of the city from several spots. The Fontana dell'Acqua Paolo, one of Rome's largest fountains, also called il Fontanone- the big fountain- was built in 1612 to mark the end of the Acqua Paolo acqueduct, which was restored by Pope Paul V, after whom the fountain is named.  One of the film's early scenes is shot at this fountain.

A short walk from the fountain is the canon at Gianicolo hill. The canon is the very first scene in La Grande Bellezza. Because the canon is fired daily at noon, we chose to save this location for later in the tour rather than begin here, so we could be there when it was fired off.  If you do the same, remember that the canon is very loud when it goes off!

Just above the canon is the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. There are never enough statues of Garibaldi, and this one is one of Italy's finest.

From Gianicolo hill we returned back to the Regina Baglioni hotel on Via Veneto for a gourmet lunch in the Brunello Restaurant and lounge More on this in my next post. 

Following the gourmet meal prepared for us by the chef, we continued the second portion of our day long excursion. Next stop, Terme di Caravalla, or the Baths of Caravalla.  The baths, built between 212-216 Ad during the reign of Emperor Caravalla are the second largest public baths in Rome. For me, the baths were one of the highlights of the day. I would love to return to explore inside. 

In the movie, Jeb encounters a giraffe at this location. Today the baths are used as a venue for the Rome Opera. Can you imagine enjoying an opera here on a perfect summer evening? 

Clearly the most breathtaking sight for me was our visit to the Roman Acqueduct. Said to be one of the greatest achievements of the ancient world, I was awestruck standing along side it, in absolute amazement at the sheer scope of this massive waterway, and the ingenuity it must have taken to build it. This portion of the acqueducts near the Appian Way was built in 312 BC,and was part of the complex waterway that carried water into the city of Rome.

The tour wouldn't have been complete without a drive-by of the Colosseum. This is the view from the rooftop terrace of the apartment used by Jeb in the film. Who wouldn't want this view while having morning coffee on the terrace?

We had one last stop to cap off our incredible Great Beauty tour, and that was to catch the view from the Penthouse suite of the Regina Baglioni.  In the movie, there is a fantastic party scene on a rooftop deck in Rome just overlooking this famous Martini sign.  See the movie, you'll know just where we were at. 

 The day wouldn't have been possible without the three people you see in the photo below, our charming companions for the day.

Grazie mille to Beata, Stefano and Raffaella.

Beata, our guide, expertly wove Rome's history, art and the film, La Grande Bellezza into an educational, informative and hugely enjoyable adventure. 

Stefano, driver extraordinare, managed to maneuver us in, through, and around Rome's traffic laden streets all day with efficiency and good humor, getting us to exactly where we needed to be, when we needed to be there. 

Raffaella, the Regina Baglioni's Sales Manager, worked tirelessly to put the weekend package together, allowing us to be treated like royalty.

Grazie mille to Baglioni Hotels,and the entire staff of Regina Baglioni for an incredible weekend. 

Could it get any better than this?  Yes, in fact, it does. Check my next blog for more of the Great Beauty Experience. 

1 comment:

Debra Kolkka said...

It was a fabulous experience and fun to meet everyone. I would recommend the tour to anyone.